When directly translating Chinese to English, it’s easy to find laughable mistakes; unfortunately technology has also proven unreliable. There are also terribly literal translations such as “冰球 ” (“ice ball”, otherwise known as “hockey”) or “枫树糖浆” (“maple tree sweet sauce”…you guessed it…”syrup”).
Occasionally however, I come across a word that strikes me as slightly romantic – literally translated, “长春” (Changchun) means “Long Spring”. Somehow the name evokes images of snow-capped mountains and cherry blossoms. Attractions like Changbai Mountain and Heavenly Lake, Jingyuetan National Forest and Nanhu Park all give credibility to Changchun’s reputation as one of the greenest and most livable cities in China.
The provincial capital of Jilin province, Changchun is in the beautiful northeast of China – near Russia, Mongolia and Korea. People often say that China, as seen on a map looks like a chicken (it really does!). If China really is a giant rooster, Changchun is the “eye”.
After overcoming occupations by the Mongolians and Japan, Changchun has finally flourished into a modern city with a robust economy which includes automobile manufacturing and much of China’s film industry. Unlike many of China’s coastal cities, Changchun has a short history and is still very much a work in progress – because of the city’s reputation as the “City in the Forest”, there is a conscious effort to develop in a sustainable fashion. Green spaces are preserved and the air is among the cleanest in China.
In the past few years, the city has seen several upscale Western restaurants open – and although the nightlife has a long way to go before it catches up with Beijing and Shanghai, there are several good places that are friendly to expats. Changchun is a great place to live for outdoorsy types – especially in winter. Outside the city is skiing, snowboarding and you can find places for ice-skating inside the city.
The food in Changchun is well-known throughout China – ginseng is a specialty here and it is found in several classic dishes. Because of its proximity to the Korean Peninsula, there’s also a notably Korean flair to the food – lots of kimchi and chili sauce for lovers of spicy food – not to mention plenty of tasty seafood dishes.
As nice as it is to live in Changchun, it’s also an easy place to get away from. Beijing, Dalian, Mongolia and Shenyang are all reachable by train. In winter, you can hop on a train to Harbin to see the unbelievable Harbin Ice Festival. I’d show you photos myself but my Canon ‘Elf’ froze while I was there (nearly -40 degrees C)!
With its unique blend of Chinese and Korean culture, well-protected green spaces and rugged mountain surroundings, Changchun is a Chinese city unlike any other.
- City Profile: Tianjin, China (eslsuite.wordpress.com)