scenes from harbin, part II

The nice thing about short trips is that it's pretty easy to look through and compile photos.


The Russians arrived in Harbin in the early 20th century to establish a trade route to Northeast Asia, and with them came trams, stately villas, and Russian Orthodox churches. It's a fascinating bit of Chinese history and that alone makes Harbin quite an interesting stop, particularly given the historical context (the Cultural Revolution saw many of these landmarks destroyed) and the current wave of change China is going through - it's like a microcosm of modern Chinese history.

Most of the pictures here were taken around the old quarter near the historic Zhongyang Dajie (Central Street), and something about the place reminds me of the old quarter in Hanoi, or the "hutongs" of Beijing.

The snap of a river is at the Sun Island Wetlands, a surprisingly idyllic marshland that the government envisions as a "green lung" for the city. It won't impress anyone from say, Florida, but it is an unusual sight in a place so urbanised.

The Russian Orthodox church is the St Sophia Cathedral, which was completed in 1923. It's a gem of a building and the peeling interior speaks volumes about its shaky fate during the Cultural Revolution. It's no longer a church, and functions as an "architectural museum" with exhibits of photos showing Harbin in the 1920s.

The last two pictures were taken at Volga Manor, a resort built by a rich Chinese businessman that recreated some of the now-gone Russian buildings in a resort - a Russian-themed Disneyland, if you will. I didn't love the actual buildings but the landscaping was so, so beautiful.

China is a country that everyone has an opinion about; it polarises and never fails to spark off lively conversation (at least in my experience). Visits to the country fascinate me because while I have cultural ties to China as a Chinese, it's ultimately a foreign place. I understand it and don't understand it at the same time.

Happy weekend to everyone!


rachel said…
cool! I'm so intrigued by the concept of east meets west all over the world, but particularly in asia. have you ever been to mongolia?
Ammu said…
Lovely pictures :)
Anonymous said…
Hello!! I am Singaporean and I have to say that is nice to finally read a Singapore fashion blog that isn't really for the sole purpose of advertising stuff and putting their mugs all over their posts. While I do read it sometimes, such blogs tend to get abit artificial after awhile. I like your minimalist style and your thoughtful posts! I tend to get abit carried away with shopping and current trends sometimes so I do appreciate reading a more minimalist approach to style.

I popped over after I was linked over from the Les Anti-Modernes blog and am glad I found this blog.
I identify with the fashion woes , especially about the humid and extremely hot weather here! Also, I can easily access the item you reccommend so that is good for me too.

Look forward to reading more of your posts!
Lindsay K said…
Wonderful travel pictures! Thanks for sharing.
lin said…
rachel: No I haven't, but it's on the list. I dream of an epic trip starting in West China (Xinjiang) and heading to Mongolia, and then towards Central Asia and all its 'stans. I dream of lots of epic trips but all I have been able to swing are short ones...

Ammu: Thanks!

springfiry: Thanks! I know little about other Singapore blogs actually, but what little I've seen ties in with your experience!

Yes, humidity occupies my thoughts a lot, as you can tell from the endless mentions on this blog...

Lindsay K: Thanks!
Anonymous said…
Oh my gosh, the church. I live by a mini version of that. How crazy. When I opened your blog today I couldn't believe the similarity. What a surprising thing to encounter in Harbin.
hannah-rose said…
oh my goodness the inside of that church!!!! amazing. amazing. amazing. there are churches like that in venice, but there's something eerie about it in china. I'd love to go to China one day being culturally chinese too, but I fear it will feel too foreign to me. I'm afraid of that.

lin said…
editor: I remember someone told me Harbin's population reached 300,000 during the time and 100,000 of them were Russians! There was also a wave of Jewish immigration when the Jews started leaving Europe because of the persecution. Fascinating stuff.

Hannah: It was strangely beautiful, the peeling walls, and very surprising considering how much the Chinese love doing up old stuff to look like new (like sections of the Great Wall).

I say go forth and be surprised - the country is changing so quickly and some things will definitely vanish in time..
Your last couple of sentences jump out at me because I can strongly identify with your sentiments. Although we're of Chinese descent, we've assimilated into the culture that we live in.

I've read so much about Harbin but this is the first time I've actually seen pictures of the city. How fascinating. More diverse that I would ever imagine.
lin said…
Marlene: I liked being able to bond with locals in China over little similarities like food.

I'd always associated Harbin with those ice sculptures but it is really so much more.

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