China christmas lights: China Holiday Lighting Manufacturer and Supplier

The Chinese Town That Turns Your Old Christmas Tree Lights Into Slippers

Every year, 20 million pounds of the discarded holiday lights make their way to Shijiao

Factory workers stand over bundles of Christmas tree lights to be recycled / Adam Minter

SHIJIAO, China — A single strand of burnt-out Christmas lights weighs almost nothing in the hand. But a bale of burnt-out Christmas tree lights the size of a love seat? That weighs around 2200 pounds, according to Raymond Li, the general manager of Yong Chang Processing, a scrap metal processor in the southern Chinese town of Shijiao. He would know: on a recent Saturday morning I stood between him and three such bales, or 6600 pounds of Christmas tree lights that Americans had tossed into recycling bins, dropped off at the Salvation Army, or sold to a roving junk man. He had bought that 6600 pounds for my benefit, to show me how his company’s Christmas tree light recycling system works.

The huge volume was nothing unusual for Shijiao, the world capitol for recycling the old, unwanted Christmas tree lights that Americans throw away every year. Yong Chang recycles around 2.2 million pounds and Li estimates that Shijiao, located about an hour’s drive from Guangzhou, is home to at least nine other factories that import and process similar volumes. Combined, the factories here process in excess of 20 million pounds annually.

Shijiao, like most of China’s recycling zones, began to thrive 20 years ago in part because of its cheap labor and low environmental standards. Even two years ago, visitors to the fields around town would see clouds of black smoke churning off giant piles of burning wire (not just Christmas tree wire), the fastest — though by no means the cleanest — way to extract copper from plastic and rubber. But something interesting happened on the road to globalization: China’s manufacturers, hungry for cheap raw materials, developed an appetite for the recovered insulation that wraps around insulated copper wire, and devised a way to make into a range of products including, Li tells me, slipper soles.

Getting from Christmas tree lights to slipper soles, isn’t simple. It requires a bit of innovation and tinkering. Yong Chang’s system, for example, took a full year to perfect (one of Li’s relatives, a college-educated engineer who now runs their business operations, designed it). The secret, in many ways, is simplicity. Workers untangle the lights and toss them into small shredders, where they are chopped into millimeter-sized fragments and mixed with water into a sticky mud-like substance. Next, they’re shoveled onto a large, downward-angled, vibrating table, covered in a thin sheen of flowing water.

As the table shakes, the heavier flecks of copper (from the wire) and brass (from the light bulb sockets) flow in one direction, and the lighter plastic and glass (from the insulation and bulbs) flows in another. It’s the same concept that miners use when panning for gold, and the results of this updated, age-old technology can be found at the far end of the water tables: baskets of roughly 95% pure copper and brass alongside baskets of insulation and glass. The contaminated water, meanwhile, flows into a recovery system, where it’s re-circulated, over and over, through the recycling system.

To be sure, it’s possible to shred wire in the United States. But unlike China, where there are plenty of manufacturers eager to buy large volumes of rubber and plastic insulation, the United States lacks such industrial demand, forcing U.S. recyclers to either landfill insulation or sell it to power plants as fuel. But the lack of a U.S. market for chopped plastic and mixed chopped copper and brass creates a counter-intuitive (for American environmentalists, at least) result: not only do Chinese recyclers recover more material from Christmas tree lights than Americans, they make more money, too. After all, they can sell the insulation, not pay for its interment.

Randy Goodman, an American scrap metal industry veteran, and the Vice-president of Non-ferrous Metals at Freedom Metals, a Louisville, Kentucky, scrap metal processor that buys and sells Christmas tree wire, put it in stark terms. “If Americans put Christmas tree wire in their choppers, it’s either by accident,” he told me over the phone. “Or they’re delusional.” As Goodman explained it, the U.S. not only lacks domestic markets for the insulation, it also lacks markets for the mixed brass and copper “chops” peculiar to Christmas tree lights. In Shijiao, however, there are several refineries within driving distance. Alas, due to environmental issues, the last of the U.S. refineries specializing in wire closed down a decade ago, leaving U.S. wire choppers with almost nowhere to send the same material — except to China and India. “It all depends on what people are making,” Goodman said. “And right now, in the U.S., they really aren’t making much with that kind of mix. So Christmas wire goes to China.”

There are some U.S. companies and organizations that take Christmas tree lights for free and promise to recycle them in the United States. And some of those lights may, in fact, end up being chopped in U.S. recycling plants. But most, invariably, will be sold for about 60 cents a pound, stuffed into a shipping container, and shipped to China — to the benefit of the environment, and pocketbooks, in both countries. Indeed, if there’s a weak environmental link in the chain, it’s the American consumers who start it by buying tens of millions of pounds of Christmas tree lights every year, only to throw them into the recycle bin, guilt free, when a bulb breaks. But Li, for one, doesn’t mind: that waste is the raw material for his green business.

US buys Chinese Christmas lights “made in Vietnam”

According to Bloomberg, for many years, China has been a manufacturer, providing mainly Christmas lights and decorations for the US market.

But the US-China trade war has caused American importers to change direction. The reason is that the US imposes tariffs on Chinese goods, resulting in a sharp increase in many items here.

In that context, the US came to Vietnam.

Shipments of Christmas lights and decorations imported from Vietnam to the US doubled in the first 10 months of the year compared to the same period in 2018. Meanwhile, in the same period, imports of lamps from China’s China has dropped by 49%.

But the story behind this is much more complicated.

Christmas lights are just one of a number of goods that are in the erratic up and downtrend of the list of Chinese goods that are taxed by the US.

Chinese manufacturers have sought to avoid putting “Made in China” labels on their goods to avoid taxation.

They take the goods across the ‘neighbors’ border like Vietnam and re-affix the labels, for example, “Made in Vietnam,” and then export to the US.

Vietnam is, without a doubt, attracting many foreign investors and producers, before US President Donald Trump rocked the global supply chain.

However, the trade war has increased the risk of illegal goods trade, pushing Vietnam into a ‘hot seat’.

Nguyen Thi Ha, a Christmas seller on Hang Ma Street, Hanoi, told Bloomberg that some local companies have imported materials and parts from China to Vietnam and then assembled them into Christmas light.

In May, President Trump imposed another 25% tariff on Chinese Christmas lights, up from 10% previously. This item was not on the list of the first phase trade agreement between the US and China earlier this month.

The representative of the Vietnam General Department of Customs, Mr. Au Anh Tuan, told Bloomberg that controlling the illegal goods flow is a current obstacle for Vietnam.

Recently, the country’s Customs has detected 14 cases of exporting goods with fake labels.

Meanwhile, data through November shows that direct investment from China into Vietnam in 2019 has increased by three digits.

Foreign direct investment into Vietnam (FDI) is on track to reach $ 35 billion this year, equivalent to two years ago.

But success also comes with the cost.

Vietnam’s merchandise surplus with the United States increased to $ 46.3 billion in the first 10 months of 2019 – an increase of 39% over the same period last year – making Vietnam a target for the White House.

Mr. Trump used to point out that Vietnam is a commercial abuser.

Soon after that, Vietnam bought a large volume of liquefied gas from the US to help reduce the trade surplus.

Recently, the US has imposed more than 400% tariff on anti-corrosion steel and cold rolled steel imported in Vietnam using substrate steel originating from Korea and Taiwan.

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Chinese Prisons Making the World’s Xmas Decor

Inmates in Chinese prisons are reportedly being forced to make Christmas lights and decorations that are exported around the world.

One such prison is Baiyun District Detention Center on the outskirts of Guangzhou. Like many other Chinese detention centers, it houses everyone from petty criminals to convicted murderers, and even those who are arbitrarily detained for “civil disobedience.”

Stuart Foster, a middle-aged sociology professor from South Carolina, is believed to be the only Westerner who has been subjected to forced labor in the Chinese prison system. Labelled as prisoner 13h2741, Foster spent nine months inside the Baiyun Detention Center.

The Independent reports:

“You have nothing, no chairs or beds, just a concrete floor to sleep on,” says Foster. “Each day, they clap at 7am to wake you up, and then you sit in a line and chant communist slogans – ‘Make the motherland strong’, ‘Hail to the party’ – then you stand up, and do marching, and then the work comes. They come and drop fairy light bulbs, receptacles, and wires at your feet, and that was your job for the day for the next 10 hours.”

Foster explains that these systems typically function through a combination of bribery and violence. Cells are run by particularly hardened inmates, known as “bosses” who are bribed with small rewards by the prison guards to ensure that each cell produces a certain quota, usually in the tens of thousands of products per day.

Foster recalls that at times whippings were so commonplace that the cell floor would be stained with the blood of inmates. “They whipped people with the Christmas light cords,” he remembers. “I don’t want to ruin people’s Christmas, but if you pick up a fairy light cord, chances are it could have been used to beat someone.”

Foster says he remembers how the guards would express their delight that many of the retail giants purchasing the goods had no idea how they were made.

“I got to know one of them quite well, and he would often brag about how he was dealing with Americans,” Foster said. “He said to me a few times, ‘I think America would be angry, if they knew these were made in prisons.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, they would.’”

Part of the reason why it has been difficult for major Western brands to detect if goods were made by prisoners is because these prisons often operate like businesses. Some prisons have their own sales teams who pitch to factories across China.

Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese civil rights activist, explains that this is due to the fact that the Chinese government deliberately withholds funding for prisons in an effort to make them self-sustaining, leading them to use prison labor as a means of generating revenue.

“When you look at China’s annual budget, what the party puts out as its GDP, it’ll list a certain amount for the prison system, but in reality what the prisons will actually get is much lower number,” said Guangcheng.

“And that difference is left for them to cover. So prisons are left with having to find funds from other avenues.”

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Is Christmas Celebrated in China?

Christmas is not an official holiday in China, so most offices, schools, and shops remain open. Nonetheless, many people still get in the holiday spirit during Christmastime in China, and all the trappings of a Western Christmas can be found in China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. 

Christmas Decorations

Starting in late November, many department stores are decorated with Christmas trees, twinkling lights, and festive decorations. Malls, banks, and restaurants often have Christmas displays, Christmas trees, and lights. Large shopping malls help usher in Christmas in China with tree lighting ceremonies. Store clerks often wear Santa hats and green and red accessories. It’s not uncommon to see leftover Christmas decorations still decking the halls well into February, or to hear Christmas music at cafes in July.

For spectacular holiday light displays and fake snow, head to the Western theme parks in Hong Kong, such as Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park. The Hong Kong Tourism Board also sponsors WinterFest, an annual Christmas wonderland.

At home, families opt to have a small Christmas tree. Also, a few homes have Christmas lights strung outside their houses or light candles in the windows. 

Is There a Santa Claus?

It’s not uncommon to see a Santa Claus at malls and hotels across Asia. Children often have their picture taken with Santa, and some department stores can coordinate a visit from a gift-bearing Santa to people’s homes. While Chinese children do not leave out cookies and milk for Santa or write a note requesting gifts, many children enjoy such a visit with Santa.

In China and Taiwan, Santa is called 聖誕老人 (shèngdànlǎorén). Instead of elves, he is often accompanied by his sisters, young women dressed as elves or in red and white skirts. In Hong Kong, Santa is called Lan Khoong or Dun Che Lao Ren.

Christmas Activities 

Ice skating is available year-round at indoor rinks throughout Asia, but special places to ice skate during Christmas in China are Weiming Lake at Peking University in Beijing and Houkou Swimming Pool Leisure Rink, which is a massive swimming pool in Shanghai that is converted into an ice rink in the winter. Snowboarding is also available in Nanshan, outside of Beijing.

A variety of performances, including touring productions of “The Nutcracker,” are often staged in major cities during the Christmas season in China. Check English-language magazines like City Weekend, Time Out Beijing, and Time Out Shanghai for information about upcoming shows in Beijing and Shanghai. That’s Beijing and That’s Shanghai are also good resources for Christmas-related or other performances.

The International Festival Chorus holds annual performances in Beijing and Shanghai. Additionally, Beijing Playhouse, an English language community theater, and East West Theater in Shanghai stage Christmas shows.

A variety of touring shows are staged in Hong Kong and Macau each year. Check Time Out Hong Kong for details. In Taiwan, consult English language newspapers like the Taipei Times for details on performances and shows during Christmas time.

Christmas Dishes

Shopping sprees in the weeks leading up to Christmas are popular in China. A growing number of Chinese celebrate on Christmas Eve by eating Christmas dinners with friends. Traditional Christmas dinners are readily available at hotel restaurants and Western restaurants. Supermarket chains catering to foreigners like Jenny Lou’s and Carrefour in China, and City’Super in Hong Kong and Taiwan, sell all the trimmings needed for a home-cooked Christmas feast.

An East-meets-West Christmas dinner can also be had during Christmas in China. Eight treasures duck (八宝鸭, bā bǎo yā) is the Chinese version of a stuffed turkey. It is a whole duck stuffed with diced chicken, smoked ham, peeled shrimp, fresh chestnuts, bamboo shoots, dried scallops and mushrooms stir-fried with slightly undercooked rice, soy sauce, ginger, spring onions, white sugar, and rice wine.

How Is Christmas in China Celebrated?

Similar to the West, Christmas is celebrated by giving gifts to family and loved ones. Gift hampers, which include edible Christmas treats, are on sale at many hotels and specialty stores during Christmas time. Christmas cards, gift wrap, and decorations are easily found at large markets, hypermarkets, and small shops. Exchanging Christmas cards with close friends and family is becoming more popular as is exchanging small, inexpensive gifts.

While most Chinese opt to overlook Christmas’s religious roots, a sizable minority do head to church for services in a variety of languages, including Chinese, English, and French. The Pew Research Institute estimated there were some 67 million Chinese Christians in China in 2010, although estimates vary. Christmas services are held at an array of state-run churches in China and at houses of worship throughout Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

While government offices, restaurants, and shops are open on Christmas day, international schools and some embassies and consulates are closed on Dec. 25 in China. Christmas Day (Dec. 25) and Boxing Day (Dec. 26) are public holidays in Hong Kong in which government offices and businesses are closed. Macau recognizes Christmas as a holiday and most businesses are closed. In Taiwan, Christmas coincides with Constitution Day (行憲紀念日). Taiwan used to observe Dec. 25 as a day off, but currently, Dec. 25 is a regular working day in Taiwan.


  • Albert, Eleanor. Religion in China. Council on Foreign Relations, Foreign Updated October 11, 2018.

The Chinese Christmas lights conspiracy? Sabotage meets the holiday…

My friend Sissy is a resourceful woman. Aside from being an accountant, this is a person who cooks right up there with Martha Stewart, hauls in her own Christmas tree, paints her own kitchen, and is an avid gardener. She’s also someone who was onto something way before the rest of us were.

Last Christmas, she called and said, “I think it’s China.” She said this with a tone similar to how a doctor might sound delivering bad news to a patient.

“What do you mean, ‘It’s China’?” I asked Sissy. She proceeded to tell me about her Christmas lights, or rather, what’s commonly referred to now as the Chinese Conspiracy.

It goes something like this: The year before, she’d purchased 18 strands (100 lights on each strand) of green Christmas lights and eight strands of red. Lights that were all, she happened to read, “Made in China.” She went about wrapping the trunk of her magnolia tree with the green lights, using the red ones on some of the branches. Pleased with the outcome of her labor, she set the timer and headed off to bed. The next night, however, things didn’t look so bright.

Gazing out from her living room window, she saw that the first three rows of green lights worked, but the strands in the middle did not. She returned to the store to find that they were all out of green ones. “They had blue, white and red,” she reported, “all ‘Made in China.’ ”

She decided to go with the white ones, went home and immediately got to work. “So now I’m lookin’ at green, white and red,” she said, “and thinkin’ it’s OK, not bad.”

Two nights later, however, the white lights went out, requiring a return trip to the store to buy yet more. Just as she was finishing wrapping the newest sets of lights, another outage occurred on her Christmas magnolia. It was during this max point of frustration that a working light went off in Sissy’s head. It’s all about China, she concluded.

By the time I was sitting in Sissy’s kitchen a few weeks later, it was indeed ALL about China!

“I mean this (Christmas lights) isn’t a complicated invention!” she told me. “It’s like they’re sabotaging Christmas! Like there’s some device in there that says ‘let’s wait until they get everything up, and THEN go out.’ Then you gotta go back out and buy more lights — Made In China!”

Sissy continued, convinced of the conspiracy.

“I understand now there’s a gun you can plug into the lights and it shoots a charge through there,” she said. “But isn’t it easier to buy new ones?” Her point, exactly.

The Chinese conspiracy theory now moved from Christmas to cribs.

“I mean, last week,” she said, “I went to the baby department at Nordstrom to buy a baby shower gift and even the baby clothes were Made In China! Now if you’re of a suspicious mind, I ask you, would you rather have flame retardant pajamas made in the USA or made in China?!”

At this point, I was rolling. I glanced outside at the poor magnolia tree, which I could’ve sworn had fewer lights than seconds before, and laughed even harder. “Surely somewhere in Houston,” I told her, “I can find a strand of green lights.”

“Well,” Sissy vowed, “next year I’m gonna look for Christmas lights that are NOT made in China.”

Immediately after that Christmas (as a joke) my friend Scott found some green lights. He handed me the box, wearing a big ole grin on his face. “These are for Sissy,” he smirked, “read on the bottom.” Sure enough, “Made In China.”

Even though it was after Christmas and they were made in China, Sissy was delighted by the box of green lights.

How, might you ask, is the Chinese Christmas conspiracy going this year? Well, here’s what I recently received in an e-mail:

“If you talk to Scott,” Sissy wrote, “please let him know that the string of green lights he sent me last year were the only ones that all worked. I decided not to get upset and blew off the idea of trying to buy more Chinese green lights. So, I just started wrapping the magnolia tree first with green lights, then white, then did the branches in red. Looked really good when I finished around midnight . . . plugged them in the next night and only two white balls went on!

“The wise Chinese did it to me again.”

How inmates in Chinese prisons are forced to make the world’s Christmas decorations | The Independent

Flanked by large, grey, windowless walls, the Baiyun District Detention Centre is an ominous-looking building situated on the edge of Guangzhou, a city in China’s southern Guangdong province.

Like many other detention facilities and secret “black jails” located across the country, it is used to house anyone from convicted murderers on Death Row, to petty criminals, and those arbitrarily detained without trial for crimes of what the government terms “civil disobedience”.

Few on the outside know what takes place within these walls. The information we have on their role in a global supply chain, which uses forced labour and torture to produce much of the fairy lights, baubles, Christmas cards and other festive decorations supplied to major brands across the western world, comes from various activist groups within the country, and the stories of former inmates.

One such ex-inmate is Stuart Foster, a middle-aged sociology professor from South Carolina, who is believed to be the only western man to have endured forced labour inside the Chinese prison camp system. Known as Prisoner 13h2741, Foster spent nine months inside the Baiyun Detention Centre, where among other cellmates he was forced to assemble thousands of Christmas lights every day, destined for Europe and North America.

“Like me, many prisoners had been detained without trial, and they would be released after a few days or months, but it didn’t matter if you were guilty or not, you were going to work in there,” says Foster, who no longer lives in China and prefers not to publicly disclose his current location.

“If you were Chinese and you refused to work, they would beat you straight up, without hesitation.”

Foster had been accused of fraud, an incident he describes as a major misunderstanding, while working as a lecturer at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. After being arrested by the Public Security Bureau, he would spend the next 280 days confined to a cell the size of a squash court, living, sleeping and working alongside 30 other prisoners ranging from heroin smugglers, to murderers, rapists and pickpockets.

“You have nothing, no chairs or beds, just a concrete floor to sleep on,” he says. “Each day, they clap at 7am to wake you up, and then you sit in a line and chant communist slogans – ‘Make the motherland strong’, ‘Hail to the party’ – then you stand up, and do marching, and then the work comes. They come and drop fairy light bulbs, receptacles, and wires at your feet, and that was your job for the day for the next 10 hours.”

Stuart Foster

(Author provided)

Foster explains that these systems typically function through a combination of bribery and violence. Cells are run by particularly hardened inmates, known as “bosses” who are bribed with small rewards by the prison guards to ensure that each cell produces a certain quota, usually in the tens of thousands of products per day.

“The officials in the prison were purely interested in driving production,” he says. “They would even have competitions. I was in cell B21A, and they’d tell our bosses, cell B29A assembled 60,000 Christmas lights today, and if you can assemble more than them tomorrow, you get a pack of cigarettes.”

On the other hand, failure to work hard enough would result in immediate punishment. This ranged from denial of food, to being manacled by your hands and legs to the floor for hours or days on end. Reports from other prison labour camps have revealed that those who refuse to work altogether are often placed in “hanging cuffs” – where the inmate is handcuffed and left to dangle by the wrists from the iron bars of a window – until they submit.

Foster recalls that at times whippings were so commonplace that the cell floor would be stained with the blood of inmates. “They whipped people with the Christmas light cords,” he remembers. “I don’t want to ruin people’s Christmas, but if you pick up a fairy light cord, chances are it could have been used to beat someone.”

‘If Americans didn’t always buy those Christmas lights, China wouldn’t produce them’


Each year, the workload at the Baiyun Detention Centre intensifies towards the middle of summer when a major auction is held at a local trade fair, offering the stacks of Christmas merchandise to the highest bidders. After September, the production trade would simply switch and the cells would turn to producing vast quantities of Chinese New Year decorations, aimed at markets in Malaysia and Singapore.

During Foster’s time there, the guards would openly delight in the fact that the retail giants purchasing the goods had no idea of the circumstances in which they’d been made. “I got to know one of them quite well, and he would often brag about how he was dealing with Americans,” Foster remembers. “He said to me a few times, ‘I think America would be angry, if they knew these were made in prisons.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, they would.’”

* * *

China’s system of using prison camps as factories of forced labour is believed to have begun in the 1950s, when the Chinese Communist Party first assumed control of the country. But it has only been since the 1990s that the practise has become known to the wider world, largely due to the efforts of human rights researchers and activists, such as British legal scholar Robin Munro, in exposing the scale of illegal labour in China.

Working at a prison in Chengdu city, Sichuan province


In particular, there was widespread outcry about China’s notorious laojiao or re-education through labour system in which people could be sentenced to prison-like conditions entirely at the discretion of police, without access to lawyers or a fair trial. But while China officially abolished the laojiao system in 2013, after years of international pressure, activists say that many of the key aspects laojiao still continue under different guises.

“Laojiao was blatantly illegal under international law,” says William Nee, a China researcher at Amnesty International. “However, forced labour still persists in detention facilities, where people are kept who’ve not yet been tried, and in actual prisons. In the past few months, the Chinese government has been trying to spin many of these detention facilities as vocational centres, where in their narrative, people are learning helpful skills which make them go up the value chain in terms of jobs. However, research has shown torture is highly prevalent, and people are essentially being forced to work.”

When Xi Jinping became president of the People’s Republic of China back in 2013, there was widespread hope that he would be a reformer, and perhaps even abolish forced labour for good. However, many suspect that instead, forced labour in prison and detention facilities has actually become far more prevalent under Xi’s leadership.

In Foster’s eyes the responsibility for such atrocities ultimately lies in the hands of western consumers (Stuart Foster)

(Author provided)

“There’s several reasons for this,” explains Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese civil rights activist, who was imprisoned for four years in various detention centres from 2006 to 2010. “Inequities in Chinese society are becoming more and more serious, so crime is on the rise and every year more and more people are going to jail. And in addition, the number of people who have had their freedom taken away from them and been placed in black jails, detention centres or house arrest has increased a lot. You can see this in many places. The detention centre near where I lived originally held 80 people. Now it holds more than 1,000. So, of course, more and more people are being subject to forced labour.”

At the same time, this growing captive workforce has proved extremely useful for the Chinese economy, which has been coming under greater pressure from Thailand, Bangladesh and other southeast Asian countries in the production of everything from textiles to Christmas trinkets. “Many of the low-wage, low-tech jobs have left China over the past ten years because of cost reasons,” Nee says. “There have been rumours that factory owners have been actively looking to switch to forced labour in detention centres to keep costs down.”

One of the reasons why it has been difficult for major brands in the western world to identify and eliminate goods made through prison labour from their supply chains is because in many ways, on the outside, many prisons and detention centres operate almost identically to genuine businesses. Some even have their own full-time sales teams, comprised of prison staff who spend their time continually pitching to factories across China, and sourcing new work.

UK prison conditions: in pictures

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1/8UK prison conditions: in pictures

UK prison conditions: in pictures

A cell covered in graffiti at HMP Liverpool.


UK prison conditions: in pictures

HMP Liverpool has some of the worst conditions inspectors have seen.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons/PA

UK prison conditions: in pictures

A broken window in a cell at HMP Liverpool

HM Inspectorate of Prisons/PA Wire

UK prison conditions: in pictures

A shower unit with protruding electric cable at HMP Liverpool

HM Inspectorate of Prisons/PA

UK prison conditions: in pictures

Litter at HMP Liverpool

HM Inspectorate of Prisons/PA Wire

UK prison conditions: in pictures

A wall damaged by damp at HMP Liverpool

HM Inspectorate of Prisons/PA

UK prison conditions: in pictures

A pool table at HMP Liverpool

HM Inspectorate of Prisons/PA

UK prison conditions: in pictures

A sign for HMP Liverpool, where drones are seized at a rate of more than one a week. The prisons watchdog flagged up the impact of the remote-controlled flying devices at HMP Liverpool.


Guangcheng points out that this is actively encouraged by the Chinese government who deliberately withhold funding from prisons and detention centres to force them to be self-sustainable, using prisoners to generate enough revenue to cover the prison’s costs. “When you look at China’s annual budget, what the party puts out as its GDP, it’ll list a certain amount for the prison system, but in reality what the prisons will actually get is much lower number,” he says. “And that difference is left for them to cover. So prisons are left with having to find funds from other avenues.”

For Stuart Foster, this rings true with much of what he witnessed. “I got the impression that the guards were constantly on a budget,” he says. “It reminded me almost like a business, where they knew they had to spend so much money on food, electricity, bribes for the cell bosses, and so they had to hit the production numbers on those Christmas lights to cover that and remain profitable.”

Such is the focus on daily and monthly quotas, that as an incentive in some prisons, sentences can even be reduced for good work. But most commonly, they are extended for perceived underperformance. “If you do your work well in a given month, then you’ll get one point, which means you have four days taken off your overall sentence,” Guangcheng says.

Many suspect that forced labour in prison and detention facilities has become more prevalent under Xi Jinping’s leadership


“But if you haven’t met your target, which is more common, then you get points deducted and sentences extended. Prison guards care only about the quotas, there’s no attention given to anything else. It’s like the prisoners are like ants. I think the thing which would horrify people most in the west is that when someone dies in a Chinese prison doing labour, no one really cares.”

* * *

Last December, Jessica Rigby, a 27-year-old from Essex, was browsing through Christmas cards in Sainsbury’s when she spotted one with a snowy penguin adorned on the outside. Opening it up, Rigby discovered a note scrawled in Mandarin.

After posting it on Facebook and asking for a translation, Rigby found that it wished her happiness and good luck, and had been signed “Third Product Shop, Guangzhou Prison, Number 6 District”.

Rigby was shocked, saying “If these cards are genuinely made by Chinese prisoners, what’s to say other things [Sainsbury’s] sell aren’t made by child labour and stuff like that?”

In recent years, many such notes which have made their way into the hands of horrified westerners after being discovered in boxes of Halloween or Christmas decorations, has led to increased pressure on retailers to try and ensure that their products are not being produced in Chinese prisons.

The fact that this still persists is largely due to the complexity and costs of doing full due diligence on Chinese suppliers. “A lot of brands pass on their orders to third-party factories, unaware that these factories then outsource all of their production to prison labour camps,” says Li Qiang, head of activist group China Labour Watch. “To actually find out whether this is going on or not would require a lot of costly work, auditing these various factories in person and trying to actively seek whether their goods are being manufactured in prisons. And at the end of the day, the brands only really care more about whether the orders are produced on time, not how they’re being made.”

Inmates working at Panxi prison, Sichuan province


Qiang says that the only way this could change is through sustained public demand, and a refusal to accept goods which have been produced cheaply in China. Foster believes one of the main reasons why this has not happened, is simply due to ignorance amongst the wider population of the scale of the horrors which take place in many Chinese prisons and detention centres.

“People have no idea to the extent of the squalor in these facilities, where these products are being produced,” he says. “One of the things which disgusted me the most on a daily basis, was the bed sores. Because you had to remain meek and stay on the floor all day long, otherwise the bosses might beat you, and you’re living and working in such a confined space, eventually inmates develop these sores all over their bodies.”

In addition, it is commonplace for inmates to be mentally impaired, which typically sees them singled out for beatings and punishment as they are unable to keep up with the required workload. Foster recalls one such boy in his cell who was beaten on a daily basis, whenever the cell bosses felt like it.

“This boy was particularly mentally challenged,” he says. “Every morning, we’d have to stand in a line, shout our numbers, and they’d play tricks on him, deliberately switching up the order, so he didn’t know what to say. And then they’d whip him.”

“We had one boss who was particularly sadistic. He’d actually taken three Christmas light cords and braided them together to make this whip, and he’d walk round, threatening and intimidating people with it. I remember this boy was sitting, maybe four, five feet away from me, and the boss came up and gave him three slashes across the back. And from where I was sitting, I could vividly see the welts forming across his skin. That’s something I’ll never forget.”

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China Labour Watch feel that it is the responsibility of western governments to introduce legislation which forces major brands to do more to ensure that they are not feeding the prison labour trade, even if this does mean that consumers ultimately have to pay more for merchandise.

But in Foster’s eyes the responsibility for such atrocities ultimately lies in the hands of western consumers themselves.

“The prison labour system in China is evil, but I will state very clearly, the blood is on the hands of the consumers too,” he says. “If Americans didn’t always buy those Christmas lights, China wouldn’t produce them. So I really think a lot of the blame lies with the commercial system. There’s people I know, who buy Christmas lights, put them in the attic where they become tangled, and the following year, instead of untangling them, they’ll go buy cheap lights at the local store. Forced labour wouldn’t happen if people weren’t wanting to buy cheap trinkets.”

Shanghai Kerry, China | MK Illumination


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90,000 Is our New Year made in China?

  • Tim Mohan
  • BBC Future

Photo by Tim Maughan

Santa Claus and Santa Claus seem to have stuffed their bags with gifts in strange and little-known Chinese during the New Year holidays. a city called Yiwu.

BBC Future.

I was stuck a few hours away from Shanghai and hadn’t seen a white light in over three hours. Besides, I am thoroughly lost.

I’ve been trying to get out of the building I’m in for 45 minutes, but it’s impossible to navigate in this endless maze of identical corridors and shops.

Artificial trees, Christmas balls, fake snow, santa claus hats and moving deer strewn with bright lights surround me on all sides. Cheerful holiday music is playing.

In general, I found myself in a natural Christmas nightmare, and it’s only August in the yard. Moreover, August is hot.

For a moment, hope leaves me, and it seems to me that I will spend the rest of my life in this giant Santa’s lair.

I am standing on the Christmas floor of the Yiwu International Trade Market, about 300 kilometers south of Shanghai.

According to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua, this city produces more than 60% of all Christmas and New Year decorations in the world, and a large share of them is sold here, in the huge wholesale market.

Anyway, Christmas, as I found out, is done in Yiwu. A festive artificial tree in your living room, a garland on the ceiling, rain and firecrackers – all these items were most likely released near where I am.

I came here with the Unknown Fields Division initiative group led by Liam Young and Keith Davis. We – students, writers, filmmakers – try to trace the path of everyday goods from source to consumer. As part of this task, we found ourselves in the world capital of New Year’s tinsel.

Giant Market

The entire gigantic scale of the market in Yiwu is generally quite difficult to describe in a nutshell.

You can start with statistics: it covers an area of ​​four million square meters and contains 62 thousand stores.

Photo by Tim Maughan

It is visited by 40 thousand people every day, of which 5 thousand are allegedly buyers from abroad. But these are just dry numbers.

From the inside, the market resembles a somewhat dilapidated shopping center, but to properly assess its size, you need to walk through it.

The complex is divided into five zones. I enter it through the first zone and immediately find myself in a corridor where shops sell only pencils and pens. I turn the corner and again I see pens and pencils.

I walk for about 15 minutes, but the rows of the same stationery still do not end. Finally, I reach a fixed escalator and move to another floor.

Instead of pencils and pens, they sell solid glasses cases. On the next floor is the kingdom of artificial flowers.

Liam Young, the organizer of our trip, has been here before. He says that on a previous visit, some of his students decided to walk through all five zones and look at all the different product departments.

They surrendered in more than eight hours.

Wholesale only

The market in Yiwu differs from the usual shopping complex not only in size. For starters, nothing can be bought here, at least in the usual consumer sense.

This market is mainly wholesale.Each of the 62 thousand compartments-shops with a standard size of 2.5 by 2.5 m is an exhibition of the products of any firm or enterprise.

That is, in fact, it is more likely not a shopping center, but a trade and industrial fair built for retail buyers. They flock here from all over China and all over the world to arrange to ship these goods in whole containers to the shelves of your local supermarkets and stores.

Photo by Tim Maughan

The scale of what I saw makes me forget that the market in Yiwu has already passed its heyday: now many transactions are made on the Internet, on sites such as Alibaba and Made In China.

But the market is still a visible display of a huge invisible network through which inexpensive everyday products are distributed around the world.

On the way, I mentally mark the goods I meet. Here are the buckets and shovels. Here are the umbrellas. Chinese space station models. Lanterns depicting foreign presidents and prime ministers. Vuvuzelas (yes, it turns out, someone else produces them).

An entire compartment, the size of a large mall, only sells creeping signs.Most of them are tuned to the English phrase “Creeping characters”.

Here is a shop with only loops that look like the familiar Sherlock Holmes instrument. And so on ad infinitum.

The variety is striking at first, but all products in Yiwu, if you look closely, have one thing in common. There are no expensive things in this market and there are almost no branded items.

You won’t find Samsung, Apple or Beats in the electronics area. On the other hand, a large-scale branch of Chinese industry is fully represented here, producing all sorts of small things: free pens, which are distributed at exhibitions; the contents of the drawers of countless desks; toys that children happily break or lose.

Hundreds, thousands of disposable items filling cheap shops, kiosks and gas station stores – things that you buy by accident or because they suddenly make you smile.

And also because they are inexpensive. China is the world leader in the production of plastic junk, and the market in Yiwu is the showcase for this industry.

This is why Christmas products are doing particularly well in this market. They are, of course, not made by the elves at the North Pole. According to the Yiwu Christmas Products Association, in 2012 there were 750 companies producing Christmas decorations and related products in and around the city.

Photo by Tim Maughan

We decided to visit one of the local businesses selling their goods in Yiwu to see with our own eyes how a New Year’s fairy tale is being born in this plastic kingdom.

Thus, less than a day after my Christmas nightmare in the first market zone, I found myself in the office of a small firm Yiwu Hangtian Arts and Crafts Co, about half an hour from the city.

I must say that she puzzled us more than any other factories that we visited in China.

The work is in full swing

First, we need to give some idea of ​​the surrounding conditions: it’s almost 30 degrees outside (let me remind you – we were there in August), and we are standing in a slightly shabby building, packed to capacity with Christmas props.

Photo by Reuters

Our tour begins with the main workshop, where several dozen workers (of different sex and age, but mostly girls under 20) collect and paint plastic mistletoe garlands, wreaths, miniature Christmas trees and so on.

One of the women rolls intricate bows out of plastic tape, and her neighbor glues them to the red with sequins “Merry Christmas!” A kid in a stained apron, looking like a teenager, hand paints holly berries red.

In the next room in front of a giant fan sits a man – he plunges a wire into a vat of incomprehensible boiling liquid, after which he bends head hoops with deer horns out of it.

On stream

Workers are surrounded by the products of their labor: thousands of Christmas decorations and tweets are dumped into cardboard boxes and plastic boxes at such a speed that they cannot be taken away.They fall to the floor and lie in heaps all over the place.

In another workshop, fabric products are produced: a couple dozen more women are sitting at sewing machines. It is hot in the workshop, only the continuous chirping of machines sewing hats, stockings for gifts and holiday decorations can be heard.

Photo by Tim Maughan

Here, for example, red and white Santa hats, which are bought for a couple of pounds, put on at a corporate event, and then thrown away. A girl is working on them: she sews white faux fur to red fabric, giving out a couple of hats per minute.

When she’s finished, she simply pushes another hat off the edge of her desk, and it falls soundlessly onto the growing pile on the floor.

A plastic workshop is located at the top. It employs mostly young guys, stripped to the waist because of the heat. They fill the machines with plastic granules from bags labeled Samsung.

The plastic is melted and then pressed into molds, turning into toy snowmen and santa claus at the exit. This work is monotonous and potentially dangerous, since the workers have to constantly remove something from the large presses.

Guys, bored of the routine, are simultaneously watching Chinese films on their phones.

It is not even the fact that Christmas decorations are produced in August that knocks the observer out of his usual rut. I am rather amazed at the amount of manual labor.

Before visiting Yiwu, I – perhaps with some naivety – would rather have assumed that Christmas decorations are mass-produced in some kind of automated factories.

But the reality is not, and this is the secret of China’s industrial success: the cost of manual labor is so low that it is cheaper to use it than machines.

I never got any specific numbers, but one of the factory managers mentioned that workers here are paid $ 200-300 a month for a six-day work week with 12-hour shifts.

With these rates, small companies like Yiwu Hangtian Arts and Crafts can get started with a relatively small investment, as well as have the flexibility to quickly change assortments to meet customer needs.

Photo by Tim Maughan

As we leave the factory, we see boxes of Christmas decorations being loaded into a container bound for the huge port of Ningbo.There he will be loaded onto a container ship leaving in a direction unknown to us.

We were told that most of the production goes to the USA and Europe, and Russia is also a large and important market.

Watching how workers hand-made Christmas before our very eyes, I have repeatedly heard from members of our group that from now on they will look at the New Year holidays with different eyes. Perhaps I agree with them.

The feeling remains as if we were only shown a microscopic part of the immense Chinese industry.And we seem to have begun to understand why it exists: so that young workers in a distant country make disposable goods for the rest of the world.

All the ensuing consequences – from climate change to unemployment – simply do not fit into the head.

We were informed that by the end of September the factory will stop producing Christmas decorations and will switch to goods for Valentine’s Day and Easter.

Then it will be Halloween production for the large American market.And at the end of spring, the Christmas phase will begin again.

As long as the world is ready to celebrate any holidays, China is ready to supply it with any cheap decorations.

7 man-made “wonders of the world” | Skyscanner Russia

China Lantern Festival

Just imagine, the festival of street lights in China has been celebrated for over 2000 years! The tradition of lighting city lanterns on the 15th day of the first lunar month dates back to 180 BC in honor of the coronation of Emperor Wen-di.Now the Chinese are celebrating the end of the New Year like that. Get ready for the largest concentration of street, interior, river and sky lanterns per square meter in your life. Will there be something to do when the camera memory fills up? And then! After all, you still need to try yuanxiao rice balls with candied fruits, sesame seeds or chocolate, admire the “lion dances” and yange dances and try to solve at least one of those riddles that are written in lanterns and festive ribbons.

Photo: sheldon0531, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 90 170

When: February 22, 2016, February 11, 2017, March 2, 2018.

Where: in any city in China, but the biggest festival in the country, the Qinhuai Lantern Fair by the Qinhuai River in Nanjing, a celebration in Beijing’s Yanqing county and festivities in Xiamen are considered the champions in impressions.

How much it costs: you will have to spend only on launching flashlights and satisfying hunger.

Las Vegas Neon Museum

The brightest city in the world (proven by NASA filming from space) dazzles with casino lights and an abundance of hotel attractions.In Las Vegas, you can live a stone’s throw from the shimmering Eiffel Tower or the Luxor Pyramid, from the top of which the Sky Beam, the most powerful beam of light on earth, pierces the sky. The Vegas signs that have illuminated their own do not dissolve in the dark, but find themselves in their own little paradise – the Boneyard Neon Museum in the open air.

Photo: Paul Gorbould, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

When: every day, day and night, except January 1, July 4, the last Thursday of November and 25 December.

Where: USA, Las Vegas, 770 Las Vegas Boulevard.

How much it costs: day tour – $ 18, night tour – $ 25.

Camera Obscura and the World of Illusion in Edinburgh

In the heart of the Old City, near Edinburgh Castle on the Royal Mile, travelers in time and space are awaited by a real camera obscura of the 19th century and an interactive museum of light, optical and color illusions. Here they turn into Gulliver in the land of Lilliputians, experience an internal compass in a mirror maze and a vestibular apparatus in a spinning colored pipe, and even get married quickly (look for a wedding machine at the entrance to a gift shop).All exhibits can and should be touched, but six floors of entertainment for children and adults are not all: one of the best views of Edinburgh opens from the observation deck on the museum’s roof!

Photo: Karoly Lorentey, CC BY 2.0

Where: United Kingdom, Edinburgh, Royal Mile, Castlehill.

When: every day, except December 25, from 09:30 to 19:00 (check the seasonal opening hours on the website).

How much: Standard ticket for adults – £ 13.95, for students and seniors – £ 11.95, for children from 5 to 15 years old – £ 9.95, for kids under 5 years old – free.

More Related: 13 Things to Do in Edinburgh

Circle of Light Festival in Moscow

Every year in the fall, virtuosos of lighting design and professionals in the field of 2D and 3D graphics come to Moscow from all over the world. Their goal is to turn the familiar architectural monuments of the capital into canvases for multimedia and light masterpieces. Artists are also not averse to sharing their experience at lectures and master classes – this is how the Circle of Light proves once again that spiritual food is perfectly combined with food for the mind.

Photo: Pavel Kazachkov, CC BY 2.0

Where: Russia, Moscow.

When: mid-autumn, in 2015 – from September 26 to October 4.

How much: free.

Electric Ladyland in Amsterdam

The surreal museum, named after Jimi Hendrix’s latest album, looks most like an underground gallery of luminescent art.Here you will learn a lot about fluorescence, wander among the bizarre mineral figures and make sure the stones remain gray until they are exposed to ultraviolet light. The founder of the museum, hardened hippie Nick Padalino, will only be glad if you take home a piece of his collection: the local shop sells paintings that glow in the dark.

Photo: ilovebutter, CC BY 2.0

When: Tuesday-Saturday, 13: 00-18: 00.

Where: Netherlands, Amsterdam, Tweede Leliedwarsstraat 5, five minutes walk from the Anne Frank House.

How much: 5 €, children under 12 – free.

Read Also: Top 10 Things to Do in Amsterdam

Thai Loykrathong

If you want to start life from scratch, but lack a beautiful start, go to Thailand in November. This month, Thais are waiting for the full moon to perform one of the most picturesque rituals of cleansing from sins and evil thoughts. You need to make a tiny raft of banana leaves, flowers and bread crumbs – kratkhong, put a lighted candle on it, put a coin for the spirits of water and let it go along the waves of rivers or canals.Some send cut hair or nails to the past on kratkhong – as a symbol of everything bad in themselves. But a simple note about what you want to get rid of in your new life is also fine. The main thing is to tune in to bright thoughts and enjoy the beauty of the moment! In the north, it is also customary to launch “heavenly lanterns” in Loikrathong, and together with the kratkhongs they create a stunning sight, as if the flickering candle lights are reflected at once in the black surface of the water and in the evening sky.

501room / iStock Editorial / Thinkstock

Where: in any city in Thailand that has deep water bodies.The brightest ceremonies are traditionally held in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai.

When: The festival falls on the full moon of the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar and usually lasts 3 days. In 2015, Loikrathong is celebrated on November 24-26, in 2016 – on November 14, in 2017 – on November 4.

How much: You can make a kratkhong boat with your own hands or buy it right on the waterfront for 50–120 baht.

Don’t Miss: How to Go to Thailand for Winter and How Much It Costs

Christmas lights in Europe

The magic of Christmas markets bewitches enthusiastic kids, their tired parents, romantic lovers and notorious cynics.This is because one mug of mulled wine or hot cocoa can warm the coldest heart, and golden lights, colorful garlands and glare on Christmas tree decorations highlight the best in everyone.

Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, CC BY-ND 2.0

Where: in dazzling Cologne, fabulous Bruges or any city from our Christmas selection.

When: End of November – 1 January.

How much: free.

Read also:

15 Natural Wonders of the World – Photo

Where to see the northern lights in Russia and abroad

9 magical places on earth

90,000 Beijing Daguanyuan Splendor Park – scenery for the Chinese classic novel A Dream in the Red Chamber – Rovdyr Dreams


In whose house, in whose red mansion the flute sings so wonderfully? Breath, subject to the wind, it seems to me her voice.Here are the sounds of magic roulades rushed into the azure heights, Here, in the moonlit quiet coolness, they poured onto my window ... Huanzi once played the flute three times and disappeared; There are no mediocre plays in Ma Rong's legacy to the rich. Suddenly it was all over, and I don't know if the mortal was playing or not? The last sound, slowly melting, rings in the heavens above ...

Zhao Luanluan 赵 鸾 鸾, or Zhao Gu (14th century; poet whose work was mistakenly included in the Quan Tangshi anthology of Tang poetry / circa 1705)). “I heard the flute.”

There is a consistent denomination for four of the most famous novels in the Chinese literary tradition: Four Classical Novels (四大 名著, sì dà míng zhù, literally “The Four Great Creations”):

“River backwaters” (水滸傳 Shuǐ hǔ zhuàn – Shui hu zhuán) is a 14th century novel based on folk tales about the exploits and adventures of 108 robbers during the reign of Hui-tsong (1124–1127), the eighth Emperor of the Song Dynasty. The author is Shi Nai’an (1296-1372).The first-ever Wuxia adventure novel in the Chinese fantasy genre, which focuses on the demonstration of martial arts. The term “wushu” is formed by concatenation of the words wushu (武術 wǔ shù) – martial art, and xia (侠 xià) – “wandering knight”.

“Three Kingdoms” (三國 演義 Sānguó yǎnyì – Sango yanyi) is a historical novel that tells about the events on the eve and during the era of the Three Kingdoms in China (end of II century – III century), when the Han Empire split into three states: Wei, Shu and W.The author of the novel is Luo Guanzhong (c. 1330–1400), who created the work from the chronicles of the court historian Chen Shou. The historical outline in the novel is combined with a fair amount of fiction, including elements of mysticism.

“Journey to the West” (西遊記 Xī yóu jì – Xi yu ji). Published in the 1590s without an indication of the author. A 100-chapter fantastic satirical novel tells the story of the journey of the monk Xuanzang and the monkey king Sun Wukong (this is the main character) along the Silk Road to India for Buddhist sutras.Structurally, the book is a chain of entertaining episodes in which a transparent Buddhist allegory is layered on the canvas of a rogue novel.

“Sleep in the red chamber” : 紅樓夢 (Hóng lóu mèng – Hun loo men; these words mean, respectively: red-tower-sleep). The first 80 chapters were written by Cao Xueqin and were published under the title “Notes on the Stone” (石頭記 Shítóu jì – Shitou ji) shortly before his death in 1763. Almost thirty years later, in 1791, the publisher Gao E, together with published forty more chapters by his assistant, completing the storyline of the novel.

“A Dream in a Red Chamber” is a multifaceted story about the decline of two branches of the aristocratic Jia family, against which – in addition to three generations of the family – countless numbers of their relatives and household members pass by. The novel is replete with details reflecting various aspects of Chinese culture – mythology, teachings, tea, medicine, art, literature, opera and much more. This is the first Chinese novel in which the writer reveals in detail the feelings of the characters and the change in their moods.”Sleep in the Red Chamber” has been repeatedly banned in China for indecency.

Beijing Daguanyuan Park: 大观 园 (dà guān yuán; these words are translated, respectively: great / magnificent / luxurious – view / spectacle – park / garden) was created in 1984-1989; originally served as a filming location for the television series Sleep in the Red Chamber. Has an area of ​​about 13 hectares. Based on the results of my visit to the park, I can note that Daguanyuan mainly focuses on portraying the female characters of the novel and their habitats.

I’ll start my walk in the park from the entrance gate. The ticket price in April 2016 is Ұ40 (this is a lot compared to other parks). There is a small map of the park on the ticket.

Outer wall of the park:

Since the diagram on the ticket was very small, I could hardly read it. So I walked around the park “just like that”. This had its own reason: thus, I did not see the whole image of the novel at once, but as if flipping page after page, gradually revealing the plot.

At first, the territory of the park seemed to me a harmonious set of small spaces, the combination of which created a feeling of privacy and comfort.Naturally, it could not do without a flower symbol of China – a peony, as well as cozy gazebos:

By the way, about peonies I will quote a funny poem by Zhang Xian (990-1078):

Dew sparkles on the peony,

Like a pearl grain.

Plucked a peony mischievous

And put it on the window.

Smiling with sly eyes,

She says to her betrothed:

“Do you like me or a peony?

Who is more seductive to look at? ”

Not hiding, as it were, annoyance,

The young man answers in tone:

“If you need to tell the truth –

More attractive peony … “

And she in her turn: “Well, then,

Let the peony be more beautiful.But

He cannot speak,

Quite a wordless flower! ”

Among these spaces are scattered small buildings – the residences of the heroines of the novel. In the houses you can see their wax figures. The faces of the figures are not entirely realistic, but I like that more than absolute naturalism; after all, we are talking about a work of art:

The novel “A Dream in the Red Chamber” gave rise to the image “Twelve hairpins from Jinling” – jinling shier tea (金陵十二釵 Jīnlíng shí’èr chāi).For me, this place name remained not entirely clear; in ancient times, this name was given to Nanjing, but the action of the novel takes place not in this city (it is clearly named Nanjing in the book), but in a place designated only by the term “capital” (which, in my opinion, combines the features of different capitals of China – mostly Beijing). I can assume that Jinling is the name of the fictitious place of origin of the Jia family, which has a symbolic meaning: Jinling (金陵) is Chinese for “golden tomb.”

This image represents the 12 beauties of the novel.A hairpin serves as a Chinese metaphor for a beautiful girl. Whether the heroines of the novel were beautiful, everyone can judge for himself.

In the study, there are the indispensable written attributes – a brush, ink, paper and ink (together they are described by the expression “wen fang si bao” / 文房四 urn wén fáng sì bǎo / – “four jewels of the study”):

You can also look at the dwellings of the late 18th century. It is worth paying attention to the two chairs at the table – a demonstration of the principle of symmetry characteristic of China:

By the way, playing cards (often combined with tea drinking) was and still is a popular pastime among women in China: on this occasion, I will give a photo of noble Manchu ladies of the early 20th century:

Manchu ladies drinking tea and playing cards

A classic element of Chinese architecture – small courtyards with galleries:

Wall openings:

Stone hills, watercourses and graceful bridges, immersed in vegetation, serve as a magnificent decoration of the park:

Of course, it does not do without ponds with lotuses and ducks; there are large gazebos on the banks:

Water area for decorating lotus fields (in spring there were almost no lotuses yet):

Fish frolic in the ponds:

There is a wheel on one of the streams:

In one of the gardens, a cat was discovered that at first wanted to run away, but nevertheless remained and modestly posed for my shooting:

But it’s not just cats that pose in Daguanyuan Park.A curious feature of Daguanyuan is that it is a favorite place for peculiar photo shoots (you can also catch video filming; however, I was not lucky in this). Girls (less often boys) dress up in old clothes, imitating the characters of the novel “A Dream in the Red Chamber”:

Basically, I photographed them from behind and stealthily, so as not to violate possible commercial rights.

By the way, on the topic of beauty. In Chinese culture, there is a stable name for four women who were companions of the Emperors and became symbols of female beauty in literature – “The Four Great Beauties of Ancient China” (中国 古代 四大 美女 zhōngguó gǔdài sì dà měi nǚ – Zhongguo gudai si da mei nui) …These are Xi Shi (西施), Wang Zhaojun (王昭君), Diaochan (貂蝉), Yang Guifei (杨贵妃). The idioms 闭月羞花 (bi yue, xu hua) “darken the moon and shame the flowers” and 沉鱼落雁 (chen yue, lo yang) “make the fish drown, but the flying goose to fall” arose under the influence of classics dedicated to these four beauties. Since ancient times, the flower and the moon have been associated with femininity and beauty. The ability of female beauty to attract the attention of even a fish swimming in the water and a goose soaring in the sky is a vivid artistic way of expressing phenomenal attractiveness.

However, the proverb “don’t be born beautiful, but be born beautiful” also applies to China. Thus, the beautiful Yang Guifei, the wife of the Emperor Xuanzong (Tang Dynasty), was killed by order of her husband, since the dignitaries accused him of being involved in Yang Guifei, poorly engaged in state affairs. It would be better for her not to become the wife of the Emperor, but to remain a Taoist nun (under the name Taizhen), whom she stayed for some time.

The four great beauties of ancient China

Closer to the rear (northern) part of the park, there are several large buildings that house exhibitions dedicated to the novel.

Model of the Jia family residence (this is not a model of the park):

Palanquin and Dresses

Paintings depicting various parts of the plot of the work:

I will conclude the story about Daguanyuan Park with the depiction of the central female character in the novel A Dream in the Red Chamber.

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