Bing’s Souvenir Poker Cards

Bing is a strong Chinese woman in her late 2os, and she has been a traveller for many years. She is from Heilongjiang Province and came to UK to study in 2010 and went back to China this year. Her plan is to run a youth hostel in Harbin.

Her story with souvenirs were started by a set of poker cards she bought in the Forbidden back in the winter of 2006.

Li Bing's Forbidden City Poker Card

Bing’s first set of souvenir poker card. Themed on Forbidden City. Photo provided by Bing, 24/Nov/2015. Same below. 

“I bought this set of poker cards because each card of it has a thorough and detailed introduction of an ancient building in the Forbidden City. It is a souvenir comes with knowledge of the place I have visited – it can help me understand the place better. Also, it is quite small so easier to carry home than other souvenirs. Not so likely to be broken and it is easier to keep.” Bing said.

After nine years of collection, Bing’s poker cards have reached a certain number. Most of them were bought at the site of interest, but some of them came from some special shops which only sell cards.

“I don’t might where the cards are produced. It would not affect my opinion and feelings towards them.” Bing said, “I’ve never used them as normal playing cards, they are my precious souvenirs. I store them in a safe place and take them out to have a look when I remember them or when I am in the mood.”

Li Bing's Poker Cards

Bing’s collection of souvenir poker cards.


Beside souvenirs, Bing also collects cards in other ways, like in instant noodles (in some certain era, some brands of instant noodles would put cards in the package for customers to collect. Those cards might come from pop TV dramas, novel illustrations…e.g. Pearl Princess, see below).

Cards of Pearl Princess

Bing’s card collection of TV drama, Pearl Princess. 

After collecting cards, Bing is interested in  collecting other souvenirs. When she travels to a new place, she would buy a set of poker cards, a fridge magnet and send herself a postcard.

It is possible that one of them is missing or she forgets to buy one of them, but she would not buy place souvenirs online. “Missing is missing, I accepted it as part of the place experience. I understand some people buy collections online because they want to have a ‘completed’ collection. But for me, I only want to keep the ones I take home from the places I have been to. Even I forgot to buy, I would not look for them online. It means different.”

Bing started collecting fridge magnet only 1 year ago, so “my collection is not many”, she said.

Li Bing's Fridge Magnet

Bing’s fridge magnets collection. 

Li Bing‘s postcards 2

Bing’s post cards collection, the text side.

Li Bing‘s postcards

Bing’s post cards collection, the pictorial side. 

Bing’s plan is to run a Youth Space – her own youth hostel – in Harbin next year, and she would display all her souvenir collections in the Youth Space.

Best wishes to Bing and I would update here when her Youth Space is open and continue following her souvenirs’ life.


Getting to know tie-dyeing

Hi everyone, finally I am back from fieldwork in China and can update my blog from now on.  I still cannot believe wordpress is blocked (like Facebook does) in China! Anyway, here I am~

My fieldwork in China was quite intense and now I am transcribing the interviews. Along with transcribing, I will post fieldwork story here bit by bit. I might lose my ability to speak English after 3 months in China, so bear with me and tell me whenever you spot a mistake.  Thanks a million~

Today we are getting to know tie-dyeing.  What is tie-dyeing? Let me show you a picture first:

Tie-dyed cloth. Photo by author in Dali. Feb 2015

Tie-dyed cloth. Photo by author in Dali. Feb 2015

According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, to tie-dye something is to make patterns on cloth by tying knots in it or tying string around it before you put it in a dye, so that some parts receive more colour than others.

The main Oxford Dictionary says to tie-dye is to produce patterns in (a garment or piece of cloth) by tying parts of it to shield it from the dye.

Wikipedia offered a rather confusing explanation which mixed tie-dyeing and other resist-dyeing techniques, but it got the technique right. The manipulations of the fabric prior to application of dye are called resists, as they partially or completely prevent the applied dye from colouring the fabric. Resist-dyeing techniques were found in Africa, Japan and South Asia – where Dali Zhoucheng Village (Yunnan Province, China) is.

Landscape of Dali

Landscape of Dali

Zhoucheng Bai Zu tie-dyed souvenirs plant a seed deeply in my heart when I travelled to Dali with my mom 17 years ago (1997). This traditional folk craft product of the ethnic minority Bai Zu somehow managed telling me how important authenticity is back that time. Bai Zu tie-dyeing is closely related to Bai Zu people’s life, linking various forms of traditional culture and cultural space. Also, it combined culture and art in one object; hence it has a unique and precious value and vital significance for both Bai Zu culture and Chinese culture as a whole.

The natural environment has deep influence on the ethnic nationality of Bai Zu people. Bai Zu people worship the colour white, so we are called Bai ethnic group – “Bai” means white in Chinese. “You can see our houses use white walls. We like wearing white clothes – our young people all wear white clothes. White means purity, honest and loyalty and integrity, etc., good characteristics, we worship these characteristics.” Yihui Chen, the heir of Blue-white Tie-dyeing House said.

It’s a Bai Zu ethnic tradition that young people wearing white clothes. People of Zhoucheng Village lived on hillside, they went to fields to get firewood, the indigo might coloured their white clothes, and then they discovered that the indigo can be dyestuff, and it can make beautiful blue background and white flowers cloth (Chen, 2015).

In 2006,Bai Zu tie-dyeing was listed in the first national nonmaterial cultural heritage lists (Intangible Cultural Heritage).

Now some Bai Zu tie-dyeing exist as souvenirs. In order to learn about the current situation of tie-dyed souvenirs, I decide to go to Dali again. Dali is a small and remote town in Yunnan Province (southwest China), which is an ethnic minority autonomous region inhabited by ethnic minority Bai Zu. Fieldwork site is Zhoucheng Village (see figure 2), the birth place of Bai Zu tie-dying, and naturally now the making place of most Bai Zu tie-dyeing souvenirs.

A normal street food stand in Zhoucheng Village. Photo by author. Feb 2015

A normal street food stand in Zhoucheng Village. Photo by author. Feb 2015

My fieldwork was carried in Blue-white Tie-dyeing House in Dali (the picture below), and my story is to be continued.

Blue-white Tie-dyeing House @Dali. Photo by author. Feb 2015

Blue-white Tie-dyeing House @Dali. Photo by author. Feb 2015

A Reflection on RGS-IBG PGF Mid-Term Conference

First Day

2014 RGS-IBG PGF Mid-Term Conference is held in Loughborough University on 14-15 April. This is my first time in Loughborough which is a lovely little town.  Loughborough is similar to Egham. Both of them university town, which have big university area and small commercial town centre.

This two-day conference has around 80 presenters.

A family photo of all the presenters

A family photo of all the presenters

We started with  Hilary’s warm up session,  in which she encourage us to keep a PhD diary (identify your motivation of doing a PhD regularly) and attend more conference to communicate with people alike, and not alike.   She mentioned a project ‘stories from the store’ in science museum interested me.

Then is the presentations. There are massive sessions to choose from, and I am amazed again by the diversity of the topics in Geography.  Some of them are focus on developing countries and some developed; some on old people and some on mobility of drunk teenagers (LOL); some on transportation and some on writing.

Hannah, Miriam, Ella, Mel, Mike and Katie had their projects presented.

Hannah presenting

Hannah presenting


We noticed an interesting point that in one session, two PhD students from Loughborough uni talked about ‘Studentification’, and then Mike pointed out that the person who came up with the word ‘studentification’ is actually teaching here (Professor Darren Smith). The two presenters might be his students, and his idea is proven right by chatting to new friends in Loughborough. XD

Meeting new friends in the garden

Meeting new friends in the garden

We had our conference dinner in the Ramada Hotel, which perfectly ends the first day of the conference,





Second Day

The presentation I enjoyed most is Professor John Anderson’s  ‘China and Global Change’ (on the second day).  I feel excited to look at China from a different angel. Professor John Anderson pointed out lots of problem in China, while showing his affection for the country.

All the problems he pointed out are realistic, I admit it. The central government thought we can take the same way as the western took in the 20 century, but now it realizes that the damage to environment will be too huge to fix if we have the same way of developing (economy first, and then we will fix the environment). So it is taking action now. I was in Chine during Feb 2014, and in this month, several (7 or something like that) iron and steel plants and some cement hills in suburban Beijing had been torn down, to control the producing of steel in order to control the building of new houses, and to control the usage of coal in order to pollute the environment less.

Pro John Anderson on China and Global Change

Pro John Anderson on China and Global Change


Although some action have been taken, I still think the problem is serious and I like the ending of Professor John Anderson’s presentation: if the Chinese continuing taking the same way as the western did, and if the West of China has the same developed level as the East of China, ‘WE ARE F**KED!’  I like how he deals with the conclusion and makes it sound more serious. The more serious the problem sounds, the worse the situation we are in, the central government will pay more attention to the environment. It was a very great presentation! And I am touched about Professor John Anderson’s feeling of China. He must love it and hate it!

I realised my shortness of  reading and dealing with geography journals, so I joined the publishing workshop, which was very helpful.

I have heard some ideas of my souvenir geographies project and found 4 participants who are will to join the research.

To sum up, there are a lot to take in from the conference and we have enjoyed it.

rhul table

rhul table

We even started writing for the Landscape Surgery blog on the train back to London. XD

writing for landscape surgery on the train back to London

writing for landscape surgery on the train back to London


souvenirs from the conference

souvenirs from the conference


A pencil case full of souvenirs: biography of my overseas student life

I came to UK on 23 Sep 2010, to my first destination: a little city called Wrexham in Walse.  It was the very first time that I crossed the boarder of China, and set a foot in a foreign country. I took the flight in Guangzhou, stopped in Singapore, and finally after 23 hours, I arrived in Manchester. The sky is blue outside, and there were cows separating across the bright green fields when university bus carried me on the high way to my new university: Glyndwr.

I spent 2 years there, and got a BA of Broadcasting, Journalism and Screen Study. I met a lot of awesome friends and had amazing experience with my tutors and co-workers. Finally, for my last project, I decided to shot a short video for Glyndwr University (available here: International Experience at Glyndwr ). We also created a video introducing Wales’ National Day: St. David Day (available here:  St. David’s Day). During the shooting of ‘St. David’s Day’, each of our team member had a yellow daffodil brooch pinned in front of our chest. I saved this yellow daffodil brooch as a souvenir of my two years study in Wales (Picture 1).


Picture 1: A Welsh  daffodil on the pencil case. The daffodil is the national flower of Wales, and is worn on St David's Day each 1 March.

Picture 1: A Welsh daffodil on the pencil case. The daffodil is the national flower of Wales, and is worn on St David’s Day each 1 March.


During my two years in Wales, I have visited many places in Wales: Cardiff, Capital of Wales, Llandudno and Llangollen, Colwyn Bay, Barmouth, Lyme Park (the shooting set of Price and Prejudiced), Bala Lake, Errdig Park and Holywell, etc.. All these Welsh memories can be represented by this lovely little yellow daffodil. Whenever and wherever I see this flower, the bell of Wales is rang.

I also visited other British cities other than those in Wales.   Edinburgh is an amazing city full of mysterious stories.  It was shocking for me that a tomb ground / grave yard which is hunted can also be a tourist attraction. I joined the night tour, following the route which many ghosts (of human and animals ) were seen by people and animals…  What a interesting and chilling tour! Each of the tourist has a torch light to make oneself feel a little safer in the trip to see ghosts.


Picture 2:  A torch light from a night walk in Edinburgh and the ball-pen from Youth Hostel in Edinburgh.

Picture 2: A torch light from a night walk in Edinburgh and the ball-pen from Youth Hostel in Edinburgh.


Apart from UK, I visited some cities in West Europe.  The most amazing experience in Glyndwr was that I had lots of international friends, to whom I can pay a visit. Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, they consisted lots of good memories.

Picture 3: Souvenir pen from La Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudí, in Barcelona

Picture 3: Souvenir pen from La Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudí, in Barcelona


During the study of media in Glyndwr, I became interested in geographical magazines, which directed me to the MA of Cultural Geography. So I took a master course in Cultural Geography in Royal Holloway, University of London. It was an amazing experience as well. I learnt a lot, and everyone, especially staffs in the Geography Department are extremely nice.

But being a post-graduate student, apart from studying hard and travelling around, I started to have part-time jobs to support myself. Name badge from the stores I have worked in are in my collection of souvenirs in my pencil case.


Picture 4: 2012-2013 Part-time job name badge

Picture 4: 2012-2013 Part-time job name badge


I put all these souvenirs in my pencil case which I got when staying in Berlin. Actually I got a special cup in Potsdamer Platz, but I lost it during one of the process of home moving. Only this pencil case which I carried with me everyday stayed alive these years.


Picture 5: the pencil case and the souvenirs inside

Picture 5: the pencil case and the souvenirs inside


I feel different after visiting each place and having new experience and thus I feel the desire to take away some token of the place, as a memento, to remember my visit and to evidence my experience. These souvenirs made my visiting and experience material. I seek ‘a sign of our experienced reality made material’ (Price, 2013:116), and these souvenirs ‘help(s) convert given reality in to experienced reality’ (Carpenter, quoted in Price, 2013:116). These souvenirs make me feel like I can touch the past, and their existing (can be seen visually and can be touched and used daily) in my pencil case present the fourth dimension of my overseas student life. Even though they are mass-produced and might be manufactured in China, they are still a materiel touch of the experience I had outside of China.