Archive for history

a Hohhot movie

I haven’t seen it yet, but recently saw this posting on wechat about a film about Hohhot, filmed in Hohhot, and even uses the local dialect as the language for the movie.
You can use a translation program for the details of the page embedded or linked below, but the basic plot is the story of a boy born in Hohhot in the early nineties, the struggles of his family, and the changes his family experiences as China (and Hohhot) change around them. The Chinese title is ba yue (August) and the English title is Summer is Over. 

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If embedding does not display properly, try this link.

 

If you’ve seen the movie, leave us a comment with your thoughts.

14 years in (and out of) Hohhot

 

Early September marks the anniversary of my first arrival to Hohhot in 2002. Although I haven’t been here continuously, coming in and out for 14 years I’ve gotten to see some pretty amazing changes in the city. I posted articles in the past from news sources about some of the changes, but this post is my own reflections on what has changed in the Blue City since I first arrived.

Airport Arrival

When I arrived in 2002 the current airport wasn’t in existence yet (the old HET was a few hundred meters to the east of the current location) and the road (Xin Hua) into Hohhot proper wasn’t paved.

Western Food and amenities

There were 4-6 locations of KFC, two locations of Dairy Queen and that was the extent of international establishments. The newest big “thing” was the mall that’s now called Kai De, although it had a different name then.

There was, surprisingly, a decent sit-down Western restaurant that could rival, and arguably upstage, Hohhot’s current Western restaurants.

Currently Kai De mall, the newest large shopping center at that time.

Currently Kai De mall, the newest large shopping center at that time.

Communication

I didn’t have a cell phone. Some foreigners and very few locals I knew did, but they weren’t a necessity. Every convenience store had a red public use phone one could use for a few mao.

This situation meant that one had to know the full Chinese name of one’s local friends because you weren’t calling them directly. The mother, father, roommate, etc might answer the phone and one had to be able to ask for Wang Shao Hong (or whomever).

I also think this made us (foreigners) learn the city better since we had to be able to get to a location without the aid of being able to call multiple times along the way when going to meet someone.

Transportation

EVERYONE with the exception of professional drivers and government officials rode a bicycle. I didn’t even know anyone who owned an electric bike until 2006 and didn’t know anyone who owned a car until 2007. (And I wasn’t a hermit who sat inside and didn’t know people).

The only vehicle on the road were taxis, public buses, deliver vans, and black government cars….and LOTS of bikes. Lots and lots of bikes.

Also, the size of the city was much smaller. The second ring road was an anticipated enigma much like the subway now and places that are now six lane roads were dirt alleys then.

My first bike, purchased on day two or three of my arrival in Hohhot. This one was in my possession less than 36 hours before the transfer of ownership to bike thieves. (Some things never change!)

My first bike, purchased on day two or three of my arrival in Hohhot. This one was in my possession less than 36 hours before the transfer of ownership to bike thieves. (Some things never change!)

Intersection near Manduhai Park circa 2003

Intersection near Manduhai Park circa 2003

Standard of living

Perhaps the biggest change, though, is the standard of living in the average person’s residence. Housing in Hohhot has come a LONG way in 14 years. For the first few years I lived here, one would have to inquire if a home had hot water all the time, or just the standard two days per week. The public water service provided heated water through the pipes at set times, twice per week, and landlords were only just becoming willing to fork over money for a hot water heater if one wanted hot water all the time.

I only knew of one complex of “high rise” apartments (I think it’s called the Metropolitan, west on Da Xue Lu). Otherwise, most lived in 4 or 6 story walk-ups and some in ping fangs.

Not an uncommon sight in 2002

Not an uncommon sight in 2002

Many homes still had plain concrete floors and interior design wasn’t a thing.

BUT, we’re all paying for those upgrades in our rent now. The first two bedroom house I rented was 450 RMB/month. The second one, 4-5 years later was 600 or 700. Even in 2007 I only knew 1-2 people (families with kids) who were paying more than 1000/month.

Interesting enough, though, it was much more common to be invited to someone’s home for a meal, instead of being invited out to eat. My guess is that economics is the reason for this. Meals could be prepared at home much more affordably than eating at a restaurant, which was still a luxury for many.

Entertainment

There was roller skating, bowling at the Xin Cheng, and KTV was big. The squares, particularly Xin Hua, had lots of cool things it doesn’t have now….a camel to ride on and take a photo with, and cars like these, below. They weren’t bumper cars and they weren’t for kids. Just small electric cars for adults to drive around the square.

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Other old photos

Chang Le Gong

Chang Le Gong and the New York New York Club used to be located in the same building.

I've heard that this was the tallest building in Hohhot until the late 80s or early 90s.

I’ve heard that this was the tallest building in Hohhot until the late 80s or early 90s.

changes in Hohhot, 1991-2015

I found this post in my drafts today from way back in August that never got posted….mind you, I was having a baby then so please give some grace.

It’s in Chinese, but if you can’t fully read it, you can see the history of changes in Hohhot just by looking at the pictures and seeing the dates.

If it doesn’t display correctly, try this link.
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What would you say the biggest change in Hohhot has been since 1991? since you arrived here? Leave us a comment.

because it’s almost Christmas…

…and because we have small kids. There has been quite a bit of talk about reindeer in our house. Are they real? do they fly? Can we have one?

To stop the questions for a few brief moments, I found this video on youtube about China’s “reindeer herders, the Ewenki/Evenki/Ewenke ethnic minority. If you don’t know, this minority group calls Inner Mongolia home and are known historically for herding and hunting reindeer. They are one of the smallest minority groups in China. You can see displays about them and learn more at the Inner Mongolia Museum.

The documentary below is in four parts (Only part one is linked). It’s a bit slow-moving (especially if you are 2 and 4 years old) and gets a PG rating for language (again, because the kids were watching). If you watch in its entirety you can piece together quite a bit about the history and current state of this group.

If you’re watching just to showcase the reindeer to your preschoolers, speed ahead to the 10, 16, and 20 minute marks. Watch the last 2-3 minutes for the baby reindeer, which was indeed the highlight 🙂

Also, the link below is from youtube so you’ll need a VPN to watch, but if you notice in the top right corner the video must also be available on youku.

 

If you need a VPN check out the sidebar on the right for a link to Express VPN!

Hohhot Breakfasts: You Tiao

One of the most classic breakfasts in Hohhot is a you tiao paired with a cup of warm soy milk (dou jiang). You can get this from roadside vendors, in fast food restaurants, or in almost any place that sells breakfast.

 

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My husband has been a fan of the Chinese History Podcast for a long time, but recently one of the episodes he listened to references the history behind this breakfast food. Here’s the link if you’re interested. You’ll have to listen to the whole thing to get to the connection to the you tiao, but check if out.

Or check out any of the episodes to learn more about China’s history.

 

Changes in Hohhot

The post below, shared from Hohhot’s daily news service, does a really great job of highlighting just how quickly Hohhot has changed in recent years. The full article is posted below in Chinese, but I’ll do my best to share the highlights. If it doesn’t display correctly, try this link.

The first kind of change mentioned is the increase in population. Here’s the rundown:

2015 3.05 million

2010 2.86 million

2000 2.43 million

1990 1.91 million

1964 1.11 million

1953 790,000

 

Next, there has been tremendous economic change. In 2014, Hohhot’s urban residents’ per capita disposable income increased by 8.5%.

 

Next, as evidenced by rush hour traffic every single day, is the increase in the number of private vehicles. The number of registered vehicles in Hohhot as of February 26, 2015 was 801,746 which according to the article means that on average every household has a car.

In 2006, there were 4.5 vehicles for every 100 households and in 2000 the number was just one car for 100 households.

 

If you’re following along with the embedded article’s photos and graphics, we’re now at the pictures of folks leaving work (by bicycle) in the 1950s followed by what getting off work time looks like today on Hohhot’s streets.
Next, the article has pictures of buses and highlights some of the changes to Hohhot’s public transportation. The first picture is Hohhot’s first bus for its first bus route in 1954, when the city was called Gui Sui, before it became known as Hohhot. (more on this topic in a future post). The next picture shows 4 buses that drove the Number 3 Route. The next picture shows that in 2012, double decker buses had been added and the city had 102 bus routes. Then in 2013, double length buses were added to Hohhot’s two free bus routes as part of a green initiative.

Public transportation continued to improve in 2015 with plans for high speed trains and two lines of a subway to be complete in 2020.

Also, the high-speed portion of the second ring road was scheduled to be completed in July 2015. (I don’t think it’s all finished, but I heard that the portion between Jin Qiao and Jin Chuan is finished and that it now takes just 20 minutes to drive between the two).

The fourth change mentioned under the public transportation heading is how much Hohhot’s airport has changed. There’s a picture of the airport in 1958 and then a present-day photo. (You can read about Hohhot’s plans for an even newer airport here). 

 

You can keep scrolling down for even more contrasting then-and-now pictures of Hohhot. (famous places, universities, and city scenes)

 

What has changed the most since you arrived in Hohhot? Leave us a comment with your thoughts.

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