Friday, December 05, 2008

The Five Senses of China

Part I: Smell

As you might imagine, China abounds with smells, both familiar and unrecognizable. Walk down the 85 steps of your apartment around 11 am and you'll want to knock on every door to see what's cooking. Stroll into an alley neighborhood and around every 200 meters you'll know you're approaching the public toilet. Sparing the details, you'll be glad computers can't store and reproduce odors...yet.

One of the best smells and one of the worst smells that my olfactory system has ever experienced occurred right here in Guangzhou. So that I can end on a positive note. I'll start with the latter.

Back in '04, we took a day trip to Guangzhou from Taishan, with the Kangs and their crew. After a day of touring Shamian Island and shopping on Beijing Lu, we headed to the train station to wait for our ride. I have no idea what it was, and probably do not want to know, but the stench that filled the air made all of us gag. Plain and simply, it was vile. From what we could hypothesize, the smell was most likely from some type of meat market or a factory where animal products are processed. While we are usually happy to visit places we've already been, we're in no rush to return there!

Oh, the sweet smell of spring amid winter's gloom. Actually, it's not quite winter yet, but spending a few days in southern China provides a respite from the chill of Beijing and also a delight to the nose. On the campus of Jinan University, there are trees, the likes of which I've never seen. Apparently indigenous only to this part of China, they are in full bloom, with beautiful fuchsia-colored flowers whose fragrance fills the air with the aroma of May and whose falling petals drift to the Earth like a purple snowstorm. A true feast for the nasal passages.



At 12:59 AM, Blogger The Balla Family said...

Li Ying tells us that the name of the flowers in the pictures is bauhinia (紫荆花). She also reports that this flower appears in the flag of Hong Kong.



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