The Name Game – United States Style

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How Did These

States Get

Their Names?

The study of place names and their origins, known as toponymy, can reveal a lot about human society as a whole. Did you know that almost every country in the world can place the origin of its name in one of only four categories? These are either a directional description of the country, a feature of the land, a tribe or ethnic group that lived there, or after an important person. Now, let’s see if the same thing applies to some of the United States.

10. Arizona

There’s a bit of a mystery surrounding the name of Arizona, with two versions of the story circulating out there. One says that Arizona comes from the Basque aritz onak, which translates to ‘good oak’. The name is said to have been given due to the many oak trees in the area, which reminded the Basque settlers of their home country. The other version says that the word actually comes from the Spanish, who called the region Arizonac, which itself was a corruption from a word in the native Tohono O’odham language, spoken in the area.  Ali-shonak loosely translates to ‘small spring’ and is in reference to the 1736 discovery of some rich silver veins located near some clear springs in the area. That silver didn’t last for long, but it made people aware of the existence of a place called Arizona.

After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, when the boundary between the US and Mexico was drawn at the Rio Grande and the Gila River, Arizona was part of New Mexico. But soon after its annexation, people living in what is now Arizona wanted a separate status from New Mexico. Several names were suggested for the new state, among which was also “Gadsonia.” It was proposed as a means to honor James Gadsden, the man who negotiated the purchase of land south of the Gila River. Nevertheless, in 1863, the name Arizona won out, and the rest is history.

9. Maine

Did you know that Maine is the sole state whose name contains just one syllable, and it’s the only one in the lower 48 to border only one other (New Hampshire)? Anyway, people aren’t entirely sure where its name comes from. The first time it appeared in writing was in 1622 when it was mentioned in a charter of the Council of New England as a province. The region was to be given to two English Royal Navy veterans, Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Captain John Mason. Captain Mason called his portion of the province New Hampshire, while Gorges proposed New Somerset for his. New Somerset was strongly disliked by King Charles I, who in 1639 issued another charter saying that it “shall forever hereafter be called and named the Province or County of Mayne and not by any other name or names whatsoever.” Nevertheless, some other names were being proposed in 1819, such as Yorkshire, Lygonia and Columbus, which were to be some other potential candidates for when the province became a proper state one year later as part of the Missouri Compromise.

As of 2001, the state legislature officially adopted the version in which the state draws its name from the no-longer-existing French province of Maine. Up until 1845, historians believed that the connection between the American and French regions was through King Charles’ wife, Queen Henrietta Maria. It was believed that the queen had once owned the French province, but subsequently discovered evidence shows that there was no connection. Furthermore, the king and queen married three years after the name Maineappeared in that previously mentioned charter. Another possible origin story says that Gorges proposed the name himself as a means to honor the village where his ancestors once lived in England. That village is now called Broadmayne, but in a 1086 manuscript, it appears under the name Maine – which in primitive Welsh or Brythonic meant ‘rock’. The most generally accepted version, however, is that the state name was based on a practical nautical term. As its coast is littered with many islands, sailors call the mainland simply “the main” or sometimes “Meyne” – so as to easily distinguish between it and the islands. This practice is still in use today within the Navy.

8. Oregon

Of all the states, Oregon’s name may be the most hotly debated in regard to its origins. There are several theories out there, each of which has its own share of plausible arguments. The most probable among them, however, is that it originated with the Spanish. In fact, the first mention of the term orejón in relation with the region comes from a historical chronicle dated in 1598, written by Spanish explorers who made their way into the area at the time. The term translates to “big-eared” and may be in reference to the natives they encountered there. Another possible Spanish root is that the name comes from oregano, which grows in the southern regions of the state.

Others believe that it comes from oolighan – the Chinook word for the eulachon, a smelt fish found on the Pacific coast and a valuable food source for the native tribes that lived there. Another possible Native American connection would be with the Sioux tribe, who referred to the Columbia River as the “River of the West.” The Sioux may have borrowed some words from the Shoshone, another tribe living in what is now Nevada, among other places, and whose words for river and west are Ogwa and Pe-On respectively.

A different theory talks about the French and their word for hurricane – which is ouragan. It’s believed that French explorers in the area called the Columbia River ‘le fleuve aux ouragans’ or “Hurricane River” because of the strong winds blowing through its gorges. The first use of the word Ouragon appeared in a 1765 petition by Major Robert Rogers to the Kingdom of Great Britain where heasked for an overland expedition as part of the search for the so-called Northern Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Back then, people believed that the Columbia River began somewhere in Minnesota and flowed all the way to the Pacific. In an 18th century French map, the Ouisiconsink(Wisconsin) River was misspelled as “Ouaricon-sint” and broken into two lines, with the “-sint” written below. This incomplete map gave the impression that a river called Ouaricon was flowing westward – and could have possibly been the “River of the West” that spilled into the Pacific.

7. Pennsylvania

If you’ve ever felt that there’s a connection between Pennsylvania and Transylvania, then you’d be right. But the connection has nothing to do with vampires or the two lands themselves, but through the way they were named in the first place. The word Transylvania can be broken down into three parts as follows: trans (which is Latin for over or beyond), sylva (Latin for woods), and nia (which is a common suffix used for nouns and countries). In other words, Transylvania translates to ‘Lands beyond the forest’. Now, when it comes to Pennsylvania, the difference is with the word Penn. Pennsylvania was named in honor of British Admiral William Penn, father to William Penn, the founder of the state. William Penn (senior) actually loaned some money to King Charles II of England, and in return, the king gave his son a tract of land for him to found a Quaker settlement in America.

The younger Penn proposed the name Sylvania, but King Charles II wanted Penn’s name to be included – thus the name Pennsylvania (which translates to Penn’s Woodland). The story goes that William Penn felt embarrassed about it, fearing that people would think that he named it after himself, and petitioned the name be changed to New Wales. But the King’s secretary, who was a devout Christian from Wales, was completely against it – not wanting any connection between his homeland and the Quakers whatsoever.

6. Texas

Texas also goes by the name of The Lone Star State. This is as a way to represent and signify its former status as an independent republic, as well as its struggle for independence from Mexico. That lone star can still be found on the state flag, as well as its seal. But when it comes to its actual name of Texas, its origins can still be linked to the Spanish and by extension, Mexico. The name actually comes from the Caddo – a sedentary tribe of Native Americans who lived in the area around the time when the Spanish made it there.

The Caddo, as well as other tribes that lived in the region, all had the same word, or a similar variation of it, to refer to “friends” and “allies.” That word was teysha, which the Caddo also used as a greeting in the form of “hello, friend.” This greeting was similarly used on the Spanish, who later named the Natives after it. Over the years, that word went through several changes including Tejas, finally settling on Texas. Interestingly enough, Texas’ official motto is “Friendship.”

5. Rhode Island

Back in 1524, an Italian explorer by the name of Giovanni da Verrazzano, working in service for the French crown, was heading towards Florida as part of an expedition to find a way to the Pacific Ocean and establish a trade route with Asia. On his way there, he had to make a stop in North Carolina for some ship repairs. But once he was back on the move, he no longer stuck to the original plan and began heading north instead of south. He went past the Hudson River and Long Island, ending up in Narragansett Bay, which opens up in what is now the Rhode Island Sound. As he was exploring the many islands within and around the bay, he kept a record of his discoveries. In a letter he wrote back to France in July of that same year, he said that he “discovered an Ilande in the form of a triangle, distant from the maine lande 3 leagues, about the bignesse of the Ilande of the Rodes.” Now, Verrazzano originally named that particular island Luisa, in honor of the Queen Mother of France, but in his letter he described the island as being reminiscent of the Island of Rhodes in Greece.

For almost 100 years, his letter was the only description people had about that part of the New World. Over the following decades, his letter was translated and printed into Italian and English, further distributing the idea of a Greek-looking island in North America. Now, there has been some debate about which of the many islands Verrazzano was actually referring to in his letter, and for a time it was believed that it was Aquidneck Island – the largest in Narragansett Bay. Modern-day scholars believe that there’s a better chance that he was actually talking about Block Island, which is also part of the state of Rhode Island today, and better fits Verrazzano’s description. In 1637, Roger Williams, a political and religious leader who also founded the state of Rhode Island, established a settlement on Aquidneck Island. The name was officially given to the island in a 1644 declaration saying: “Aquethneck shall be henceforth called the Isle of Rodes or Rhode-Island.”

4. Idaho

When it comes to state names, Idaho does seem like the kind that sounds Native American, doesn’t it? That’s the main reason why the name was chosen in the first place. Now, Idaho was originally given to the Colorado Territory at the suggestion of George M. Willing, an eccentric lobbyist and industrialist. He claimed that the word comes from the Shoshone language and meant something along the lines of “gem of the mountains” or “light on the line of the mountains.” And it seemed appropriate, given the fact that the name was to be chosen for a new territory around the Pikes Peak region, close to present-day Colorado Springs – a mountainous area. During the debate in the Senate, several other names were proposed, among which were Colorado, as well as Jefferson. But most senators seemed to favor Idaho instead. Luckily, Sen. Joseph Lane, from Oregon, brought to light the fact that no Indian tribe in the area has that word, or something resembling it. As it turned out, and what Willing himself reportedly confirmed some years later, is that he actually invented the word, as well as the meaning he gave for it. The name Colorado was then given instead.

This could have simply been the end of that story, but as it turns out, the word Idaho didn’t fade into obscurity. In fact, it gathered great momentum and vitality among the people living in those parts of North America. In 1861, the same year the Colorado Territory was created, Idaho County was also being established in the Washington Territory. It was christened after a steamship with the same name, which was launched on the Columbia River one year prior. With the whole affair seemingly forgotten, Idaho Territory was nevertheless created in 1863, which also included the previously mentioned Idaho County and other parts of the Washington Territory. Funnily enough, even well into the 20th century, many school books gave Willing’s version for the word Idaho as fact. In any case, there’s another theory circulating out there in regards with the name. Some people attribute it to the Plains Apache whose word for enemy is “ídaahe.”

3. Florida

Juan Ponce de León is a name that should sound at least somewhat familiar, even if you don’t really know what he was famous for – it just has that ring to it, right? Anyway, Ponce de León was a possible crew member in Christopher Columbus’ 1493 voyage to the New Word – though nobody is really sure. A decade later, he served as governor of the eastern part of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (present-day Dominican Republic). During his time as governor in Hispaniola, he also explored the nearby island of Puerto Rico and became governor of that too. Following some rumors of other possible islands to the northwest of Hispaniola, Ponce de León received exclusive rights from the King of Spain to become governor for life on whatever lands he might discover in that region. In return, he was expected to finance the voyage and future settlements himself. On April 2, 1513, the three ships part of the expedition came across an island, or what they thought to be an island, and named it La Florida.

The name was chosen because of the incredibly verdant and flowering landscape, and because it was the Easter season, which the Spanish called Pascua Florida or Festival of Flowers. Nobody is really certain where they made their first landing in La Florida, but they stayed there for five days before they left. A second voyage took place in 1521 with the intention of colonizing the newly discovered lands. But before the colonists could establish the settlement, they were attacked by the native Calusa warriors. Ponce de León was severely wounded in the skirmish and the colonizing attempt was abandoned. Historians believe that he was hit by a poison-tipped arrow, and died in Cuba. Now, legends have it that he was actually looking for a rumored Fountain of Youth when he discovered Florida, and this is probably why his name is so familiar. Unfortunately, however, there was no mention of any such fountain in any documents at the time, and the story was only attached to him after his death. Furthermore, it’s also believed that he wasn’t the first European to set foot in Florida either. Spanish slavers looking for new prisoners may have made it there in the years prior.

2. Delaware

The state of Delaware is named after the Delaware River. That’s it – that’s the whole story! Well fine, we’ll expand on this a little further. The river itself was first discovered by the Dutch in their attempt to find an alternative route to China in 1609. The leader of that expedition was Henry Hudson, an English navigator under the service of the Dutch East India Company. His discoveries along the East Coast ignited instead the Dutch colonization of North America, and not a new trade route to China. Both Dutch and Swedish settlers established themselves on the lower sections of the river.

Prior to the English expelling the Dutch from their New Netherland colony in 1664, the Delaware and Hudson Rivers were generally known as the South and North Rivers, respectively. After this, however, the North River was officially named after its discoverer, Henry Hudson, while the South River was named after the first governor of Virginia, Sir Thomas West 3rd Baron De La Warr. The South River may have been known to the locals as Delaware prior to the Dutch expulsion, though.

Nevertheless, this De La Warr title is pronounced the same as Delaware, but with a different spelling. Located in Sussex, England, the barony’s name has an Anglo-Norman origin. Now, there are several possibilities as to where this title actually draws it roots from. One possible connection would be with the French La Guerre, which translates to The War. It could also come from the Latin word ager which means field or land. Or from the Breton Gwern – which was a figure in Welsh tradition. The most plausible of these, however, is the French La Guerre – which would make the state of Delaware mean something along the lines of “Of the war.”

1. California

Did you know that some people are naming their kids after popular Game of Thrones characters? Well, naming people and places after fiction isn’t something new. In fact, California was named in the exact same manner. Its name was given by two Spanish sailors, Diego de Becerra and Fortun Ximenez, who landed on the southernmost tip of Baja California in 1533. The two were sent there by Hernán Cortés to claim that land on his behalf. The name was chosen based on a fictional island called California that appeared in a romantic novel at the time, written by Spanish author Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo in the early 16th century. Known as Las Sergas de Esplandián (The Adventures of Esplandián), the novel mentions a mythical island located east of Asia and “very close to the side of the Terrestrial Paradise; and it is peopled by black women, without any man among them, for they live in the manner of Amazons.

In the book, this island was ruled over by Calafia, a warrior queen who once led an army of women and a flock of mythical griffins from the island of California to aid a Muslim army battle against the Christians, who were defending Constantinople. Her name, and by extension the name of the fictional island, are based on the Arabic word Khalifa which is a religious state leader, and known as Caliph in English. The two Spanish navigators named the place California, thinking that the Baja California peninsula they landed on was an island. To be fair, we should also mention that some people believe that California actually comes from an indigenous phrase, kali forno, which means ‘high mountains.’ But equally as important is the fact that many other places and settlements around the world, including in South America, Europe, Australia, and the Philippines, are named California – something which makes the indigenous phrase being the actual origin seem highly unlikely.


The Name Game

– United States Style

China 5*Star Tours – WIF Travel

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Must-See

Tourist Attractions

in China

The most populous nation on Earth, the world’s second largest country in terms of land area, and a land of incredible cultural, historical and archaeological riches, China is one of the world’s leading tourism destinations. With diverse geography and the legacies of historic civilization coupled with modern innovation, China’s must-see sites should be on any outdoor travel, archaeology, or ancient architecture enthusiast’s list.

In this account, we discover sites ranging from the ancient Terracotta Warriors unearthed in Xi’an Province to the unbelievable feat of modern innovation that is the glass walkway clinging to the side of Tianmen Mountain, take a closer look at the Great Wall, and the Tomb of a leading female emperor.

10. The Terracotta Warriors

Standing in rank with an assortment of weapons and horses, the Terracotta Warriors form a spectacular mausoleum of international renown that attracts over 1 million visitors each year. Named the 8th Wonder of the World by French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac in 1978, the artifact site was discovered buried under a field in Linton District, Xi’an, in the centrally located Shaanxi province in 1974 by a farmer and his workers who were in the process of digging a water well.

Created late in the third century BCE at the order of the first emperor of China, Emperor Qin Shi Huang, to guard him in the afterlife, the Terracotta Warriors consist of a magnificent array of earthen likenesses of men, chariots and horses, complete with weapons and detailed uniforms standing below the surface of the surrounding land. The sculptures are a little larger than life-sized and, incredibly, are individualized, showing different soldiers with distinct expressions, postures, and clothing and adornment details.

Perhaps eerily, the degree of individualization suggests that real soldiers were replicated, one by one. Hundreds of Terracotta soldiers have been meticulously unearthed and preserved or restored to high standards. Currently, teams of archaeologists are working to unearth large new sections of standing ranks. Four distinct pits are known, three of which have been excavated to a significant degree, while the fourth has not yet been unearthed. It is thought that an entire replica of the ancient City of Xi’an may exist in the emperor’s tomb located near the warrior pits.

 9. The Forbidden City (Beijing)

A prime destination for visitors despite its name, the Forbidden City is now open for public viewing of ancient, intricate and colorful imperial buildings that bring the ancient world to life in China’s capital, Beijing. Upon arrival, one will be faced with building after building amongst expansive squares, defined by traditional Chinese architecture constructed with fine south China jungle wood and Beijing marble. The Phoebe zhennan wood came from a tree sufficiently rare as to be outside the price range of all except ancient Chinese royalty.

Considered the definitive Chinese architectural accomplishment, this largest of palatial complexes on the planet originated in the years 1406 to 1420, serving as the ancient seat of Chinese government from the Ming up to the end of the Qing Dynasty. Built with the labor of over 1 million workers, the Forbidden City was so named due to the requirement for the Emperor’s permission to be given for anyone coming into or out of the city. Now, the preserved and extensively restored splendor of the Forbidden City attracts a whopping 14 plus million visitors per year, prompting concerns over the level of use of the site. The Forbidden City represents that greatest set of preserved ancient wooden buildings in the world, now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

8. The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

Rising from the grounds of the Da Ci’en Temple complex grounds in Southern Xi’an, Shaanxi province, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda dates back to 652 at the time of the Tang Dynasty. Accessible for a modest fee, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is a marvel of Chinese architecture with an iconic and commanding appearance. A World Heritage Site, the tower offers spectacular views of the city of Xi’an from the top, a panorama mixing ancient Buddhist architecture with modern buildings. The pagoda was erected to contain Buddhist artifacts brought from India to China by the highly regarded Chinese Buddhist translator and traveler, Xuanzang. According to legend, the name comes from the story of a wild goose falling from the sky at the spot to provide food for monks who had prayed for a meal.

Originally built from rammed earth, a construction method not generally known for being earthquake resistant, the structure collapsed in a 1556 earthquake before being rebuilt taller and stronger at the direction of China’s only female Emperor, Empress Wu Zetian. The rebuilt Giant Wild Goose Pagoda incorporated 5 additional stories, for a total of 10 stories.Yet, this tall structure was too high in relation to its stability and 3 stories simply toppled off, leaving the present day 7-story building that reaches a height of 210 feet. Reachable by a short walk from Da Yan Ta station on line three of the Xi’an Metro, the tower is built of brick with an interior winding staircase that matches the square shape of the building, fashioned from wood.

7. The Temple of Heaven (Beijing)

 A mysterious looking circular building, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing was constructed in the year 1420 AD by Emperor Zhu Di of the Ming Dynasty, which spanned 1368-1644, and subsequently used into the Qing Dynasty of the years 1644-1911. The location of temple construction, the Royal Garden, had been used for Heaven worship from the beginning of the Ming dynasty. The largest sacrificial building constructed in Chinese history, the Temple of Heaven and its grounds cover an area even larger than the already enormous Forbidden City. Designed to represent mystical laws and principles of cosmology, the temple was a place where Heaven itself was worshiped during the Winter Solstice, when prayers for a bountiful harvest were offered.

The Temple complex consists of an area of 3,529,412 square yards and was deliberately made larger than the Forbidden City due to a prohibition on Chinese emperors living in a dwelling place of greater size than the construction dedicated to Heaven. The Emperor was regarded as the Son of Heaven, according to ancient Chinese culture, and a representative. Two times per year, the Emperor and his imperial accompany-ers would camp in the complex to appeal to Heaven in hopes of successful harvests. The spectacular and iconic Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is built upon a three-tiered marble base and spans 118 feet in diameter with a height of just over 125 feet. The other main elements of the site include the Imperial Vault of Heaven, a circle shaped building with one gable, while the Circular Mound Altar is an enormous set of concentric circles, the largest spanning just over 229 feet. The 360 balustrades symbolize the 360 degrees of heaven, which was seen representing the roundness of heaven as viewed in traditional Chinese culture.

6. Qianling Mausoleum (Resting Place of China’s Female Emperor)

Originally just a concubine in the harem of Tang Dynasty Emperor Taizong, Wu Zeitan (624-705) took a spectacular rise to power that interrupted the Tang Dynasty once she declared her own Dynasty, a reign that would span from 690 to 705. Upon the death of Emperor Taizong om 649, Wu became an increasingly high ranking and influential concubine of his son, born Li Zhi, later becoming Emperor Gaozong. Having gained the favor of the Emperor, she became Empress Consort and through a serious of largely disputed but clearly brutal purges of rivals, established herself as Empress Regent, equivalent to the male title Emperor. In this role, she was to become the only recognized female Emperor of China in history. Her strict and aggressive but effective reign constituted the Zhou Dynasty, spanning from 690-705, interrupting the Tang Dynasty that began in 618 and ended in 907.

After a serious of aggressive military campaigns and spectacular construction projects completed at her direction, Wu Zetian weakened and died in December 705 at age 80 or 81. Wu Zetian is buried in a shared tomb in the spectacular Qianling Mausoleum, which is seen as the number one Chinese royal tomb and known as the only tomb containing the bodies of multiple emperors in China. Just 53 miles northwest of Xi’an, the Tang dynasty tomb complex was completed in 684. Subjected to numerous attempts at robbery over 1,200 years, the mausoleum is a guarded artifact that must be kept shut under Chinese law. The site is dramatic with vast gardens, walkways, and statues amongst panoramic mountain views, with two huge stone steles commissioned by Wu herself. One offers a rich tribute to her deceased husband, Emperor Gaozong (Li Zhi), but mysteriously, the other stele, commissioned for herself, is completely blank.

5. The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China steadily extends across mountains and valleys, crawling up seemingly impossible grades while maintaining its grand structural integrity and a consistent appearance. A wonder of the world of paramount significance and iconic status, the Great Wall of China as it currently stands is primarily a Ming Dynasty relic of impressive defensive architecture. Attracting 10 million visitors per year, the wall is unfortunately facing significant impact pressures, yet conservation measures are challenging given the wall’s inter-jurisdictional span. Readily accessible from Beijing by a short bus ride, the wall spans multiple cities and provinces across China, with a length of 13,170 miles and numerous access points. To put that size in perspective, it is approximately half of the length of the equator in its extent. The most visited point of the wall, the Badaling section, received 63,000,000 million visitors in 2001, with visitor flow reaching 70,000 per day at peak times.

Perhaps the most surprising fact about the Great Wall is the fact that there is no single Great Wall from any particular time. Instead, the Great Wall is a combination of construction efforts from different dynasties and in different places. The 7th century BC saw the start of construction efforts intended to keep out raids from nomadic tribes from the steppes of Eurasia, while the famous first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang constructed massive sections of wall from 220 to 206 BC. While famous, that wall is mostly gone, with the largest portion of the current wall dating from the Ming Dynasty of 1368 to 1644, constructed to resist Mongolian and Jurchen invasions. With massive wall bodies, flanking towards and battlements, the Great Wall looks like a cross between a castle and a wall, and it is also the project with the greatest ever cost to human life and effort.

4. The Coiling Dragon Path (Hunan Province)

Located on the bizarre looking Tianmen Mountain in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park within Hunan province, the Coiling Dragon Path is defined by an eerie glass-bottomed walkway attached to the side of the mountain as it extends in a curving pattern for 330 feet, 4,600 feet above sea level. Opened in the summer of 2016, a fully sheer drop lies below as the path is stuck to the side of the cliffs of the thumb-shaped peak, plunging hundreds of feet to the base sections of the mountain below. In replacing the more rudimentary and also terrifying wooden path, the glass-bottomed path allows tourists to look directly beneath their feet at the ground far below as they advance along the side of the mountain on the impossibly curving glass walkway, brushing against the vegetation of the vertical mountainside.

Just 5 feet in width, the Coiling Dragon Path is accompanied by additional dizzying attractions, including a spectacular record breaker in the form of the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge, which is the world’s highest and longest glass-bottomed bridge. This bridge has been subjected to bizarre safety tests including being cracked with a sledgehammer, after which a car was driven across. The glass-bottomed bridge spans 1,410 feet, with a height of 984 feet above the floor of the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon that it spans. Adding to the bizarre and stunning visuals of the site is a 431-foot high hole in Tianmen Mountain known as Tianmen Cave, accessible by a crazily winding road with 99 sharp bends that inches its way up the slopes.

3. The Bund (Shanghai)

A complex of enormous colonial European buildings that are seemingly out of place, the Bund in Shanghai is comprised of 52 colonial buildings that include Baroque, Gothic, Neo-Classical, and Renaissance architectural styles, and the most extensive set of Art-Deco construction on the planet. Despite their foreign origin and appearance, the buildings of the Bund are seen as forming the definitive landmark of Shanghai, extending along the waterfront to include spectacular churches, hotels, and former government buildings. The buildings include trading and colonial posts of countries including the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, and Belgium, and the consulates of Russia and Britain.

Understood to be invaders by China, European colonists and soldiers engaged in conflicts that led to significant destruction of Chinese heritage property and cultural artifacts and imposition of trade and territorial concessions, most notoriously through the Opium Wars, where England declared war against China in 1839 in the First Opium War. As part of colonial settlement, the Bund served as a headquarters for enforcing trade and territorial concessions up the end of China’s final imperial dynasty, the Qing Dynasty (CE 1644-1911).

Viewed by China as unreasonable and labeled the “Unequal Treaties,” the concessions fell apart during and subsequent to the events of WWII. Closed down in 1949 as a result of Chinese displeasure with what was seen as a symbol of Western colonialism, the site is now viewed as a prime tourist destination and economic engine. Attracting scores of visitors each year, the buildings have been subject to extensive historical restoration efforts by the Chinese government and form one of the most visited tourism sites in China. Now, uses for the buildings include hosting museums, hotels and corporate centers.

2. Mount Huashan

The 7,067-foot Mount Huashan, Shaanxi Province, offers a heart-stopping and unusual hike consisting of boardwalk sections strapped to the sides of the rising peaks and secured to each other with giant “staples.” A potentially dangerous “geotourism” site, the mountain rises dramatically above the surrounding foothills and farmlands. Stunning panoramic perspectives and firsthand views of sheer drops of unimaginable heights can be seen from the shockingly precarious chain hold and rickety wooden plank pathway called the “Plank Road” on the South peak of the mountain, which is known as “The Monarch of Huashan.” The plank road appears awkwardly rigged to the sides of the mountain and sometimes tilted towards it on an angle. At the end of the plank road, the “path” transforms to mere foot pegs jutting out of the mountain and footholds carved into the rock.

In fact, the sky walkways onsite are more akin to an assisted rock climbing experience where you had better hang on for your life with the help of the required harness than an actual developed “path.” Considered one of China’s five great mountains and a holy site dating back to the construction of a second century Daoist temple, the Monarch of Huashan has many sheer cliffs and a stout shape that may recall a giant peg or even a barnacle as it protrudes far above the surrounding peaks, reaching a staggering height of 7,070 feet. Mount Huashan has been labelled “The most dangerous hike in the world,” with widely disputed claims of high death tolls but an undeniably real risk of danger. Due to the popularity of Mount Huashan as an extreme hiking destination, concerns of crowding have become a significant problem, leading to numerous visitors choosing to climb at night.

1. Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

Not truly a bear, the Giant Panda is an icon not only of Chinese wildlife and biological diversity but a symbol of nature conservation globally and the logo of the World Wildlife Fund.

Considered vulnerable with a population of only 1,864 pandas remaining in the wild, the Giant Panda is restricted in range to mountainous regions of western China where they naturally live, breed, and forage in bamboo forests, subsisting almost 100 percent upon this gigantic grass species. Home to 83 pandas, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is located at the north end of Chengdu, the sub-provincial capital of Sichuan, a province known for spicy food, mountains, and bamboo forests on which the critically endangered Giant Panda depends. The majority of the Giant Panda range is in Sichuan province, with smaller populations in Shaanxi province and Gansu province.

The birthplace of 124 new pandas as of 2008, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding started through the rescue of six pandas in the 1980s and aspires to be recognized as a world class destination for research, education, and international tourism. The site is readily accessible from downtown Chengdu by bus or vehicle but enjoys a wilderness setting. Awarded the categorization of “Class 4a National Tourist Attraction,” the center attracts an incredible 3.5 million tourists per year intent on viewing the pandas and seeing the breeding facilities, handler interactions, and surrounding lush forested hills. The site also has facilities to enable the gradual release of pandas into the wild, and conducts crucial fieldwork projects to research the ecology, conservation, and life history of pandas in the wild as well as pioneering panda conservation breeding techniques.


China Sightseeing Highlights –

WIF Travel

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 274

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 274

…Whatever the season, whatever the reason, this is a joyful moment in the extensive history of Eridanus…

… Back at the wedding “party” and ever the prankster, Sampson insists Fortän judge the liquidLoudmouth Soup refreshment that has loosened the collar of more than one celebrator. She liked it so much that she requested a whole glass and when the brew hit home, it would be hard to get a word in edgewise.

She is quite lucid, in an entertaining sort of way, allowing a real personality to shine through. Mental perfection is quite a narrow path to take and sometimes it takes a little lubrication to expose one’s humanoid-ity.

Whatever the season, whatever the reason, this is a joyful moment in the extensive history of Eridanus {which spans countless millennia} and an untold story for a planet {Earth which is an infant by comparison} which could use some good news for a change —

— Having Ekcello wrapped around her pinkie finger, Celeste has a major role in arranging the ceremony that sets the cements her son and his daughter for all time… which to her surprise is Weddingdirectly, yes sometime BEFORE childbirth. She does not question the time-honored Eridanian ritual rather she injects as many tasteful Earthly touches as possible, for the comfort of her clan.

Probably the most enduring custom, that of having a Maid-of-Honor and Best Man, is a lock-down must. On the guy side, Gussy is the obvious choice, with Sampson a close second. Cerella chooses another heiress, from a towered city on the other side of the planet, who is as close to a best friend as things go here. She and Zina were born in the same century and as personal contact goes, their minds seem to be tuned to the same tune. —


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 274


page 318

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