The city is located in the north-east of China, in Shandong province, about 600km south of Beijing. It’s inhabited by some 8 million people and is one of the major cities of the province. In the early 1900s, during the first world war, the Germans occupied the city and we did what we do best: Bring regularity to things, sweet sweet Struktur!
So what the Hanses and Brunhildes of that time did, was to bring concrete housing, a sewer system and electrification to the town of Tsingtao. That is how Qingdao was called back then. And because they wanted it – didn’t need it! – they also built a brewery. Prost!
Tsingtao Brewery Co.,Ltd. today is the second largest brewery in all of China and exports to over 50 countries, including Germany! The initial funding was 400.000 mexican silver dollars, by the way…
All in all, Qingdao is probably a good way to ease into the chinese culture. It is quite open and it’s culture is international but you can also see all the typical chinese things that you’d expect from a journey halfway around the world.
Things to do in Qingdao
When in town, there are plenty of things to do. I was able to spend one weekend exploring the city together with two locals and here is what we did…
Walking along the coast
Qingdao is located at the yellow sea, on the south-east corner of the Jiaozhou bay. You can follow the coastline from the city centre, marked with the red Wind of May sculpture, towards the west. After some miles we reached some of the beaches, where you can swim and surf in the summer. The beaches are beautiful in autumn and winter too though, given some clouds and good lighting the scenery can be pretty amazing.
Located nearby is a small island which is home to a lighthouse, called Xiaoqing Dao. The scenerey is beautiful and you can see parts of the city as well as the ocean and the other side of the bay to the south. Next to the island, there is a junkyard for old military airplanes, boats, weapons and a submarine.
Half way between the lighthouse and Qingdao city centre, you can find a small little castle, located directly in front of the ocean. The Huashi villa was built in the 1930s by a russian aristocrat, aiming to resemble a German castle. Later it was owned by a british business man and after that by the government. Today it is open for tourists to visit and enjoy the 360°C view around the tower.
Zhongshan Park, -Zoo and the Zhanshan Temple
About two km west of Wusi square, you will find Zhongshan park, the main park of Qingao. The park is bigger than it looks on the map, you can easily walk in it for hours without actually seeing a spot twice. There are sculptures of Chinese leaders like Sun Yat-sen, who is reknown to be the founder of modern China. Within the park you can find many small places that sell street food, but unlike on my trip to Brazil there were no coconuts to be purchased. Since Qingdao is located at the sea, the snacks are ocean-inspired: Squid-on-a-stick!
On the western corner of the park you can find the Qingdao zoo. Although it is a small zoo, they have over a hundred species to display and among them many typical chinese animals. You can find bears, red pandas, tigers and lions. You can see the chinese badger and milus. There is a house for primates and a small terrarium. It is worth to visit the zoo, I assume, because the conditions are far from perfect. It seemed to my like every cent they can earn helps.
On the other side of the park you will find Zhanshan temple. Although it may look ancient on the pictures, the temple was built in 1945 and is until today a buddhist sanctuary. You can find several buildings, among them buddhist scripture shops for Buddhist supplies. Other buildings include heavenly king hall, the hall of Sakyamuni which is an active place of prayer, the hall of three saints and the main preaching hall. In the hall of the recumbent buddha you can find a huge statue behind an altar. No pictures inside the halls please!
The monks welcomed us in a friendly way and we were allowed to walk freely inside their premises. We were able to witness morning prayers, school for young buddhists and ringin of the bells.
Dancing Walzer at the sailing center
In 2008 the olympics took place in China and Qingdao was the main spot for all sailing competitions. The port is quite big and the promenade is filled with small restaurants and shopping venues. We were there in the evening to witness something that seems to be quite popular in China: People dancing Walzer on the street. There were about 8-10 couples in the sailing center, a ghettoblaster and a guide to coordinate the dancers. Some couples came in evening dresses and some just in plain street clothes. Some couples were same-sex, one couple had been married for nearly 50 years.
The mountain and the temple
…will be the content of the next article about China.