Monday, February 27, 2012

Guest Author Junying Kirk

Our guest author this week is Junying Kirk.

She grew up in the turbulent times of the Cultural Revolution and came from China to Britain in 1982, on a scholarship, to study English Language Teaching at Warwick University.

Later, she took postgraduate degrees at Glasgow and Leeds. She has worked as an academic, administrator, researcher, teacher and cultural consultant. When she is not travelling to Courts & Police stations as a professional interpreter, she loves spending her time reading & writing books.

The first two novels of her 'Journey to the West' trilogy, 'The Same Moon' and 'Trials of Life' have been published on Amazon Kindle, and on Smashwords. She is now writing her third,scheduled to be released later this year. She lives in Birmingham, England, with her husband.

Here's Junying:

Heavenly Kingdom Sichuan 天府之国四川

I’m a spice girl.
No, not one of those Spice Girls, one of whom married David Beckham.

I’m one of the original spice girls, one of the millions of women from Sichuan (川妹子 in Chinese. Spell it Szechuan, if you like) who are natives of the province, and who, in China, are called by that nickname.

We’re considered to be virtuous, hardworking and tough.
And not only in China, where we’re famous.
See, here, what Bertolt Brecht had to say: 

Whenever my husband boasts that he married a spice girl, Chinese people tend to give him a slap on the back and a compliment, because my home province has a great deal more to offer than just its women.

Mount Emei (峨嵋山), for example. At 3099 metres, it’s the highest of the four Buddhist Mountains in China,  and now protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I first paid my homage to the mountain when I was a student in China, back in 1982, and again in the spring 2011.

 The mountain remained the same but I have changed :)

Sichuan means, literally, Four Rivers.
But the province has much, much more: lakes and springs, waterfalls and limestone caves, mountains and valleys. The landscape is, in fact, so attractive, and so varied, that it’s credited for inspiring literary giants like Sima Xiangru and Yang Xiong from the Han Dynasty, Li Bai and Su Shi, the most eminent poets of the Tang and Song Dynasties, and a unique style of opera that features changing face masks and the spitting of fire.

Before 1997, when Greater Chongqing split from the rest to become an independent metropolis, Sichuan was the largest province in China, a region the size of France with a population that exceeded 100 million people. And, even now, it exceeds the land area, and the population, of many countries in Europe.

Mankind’s presence in the region goes back for a long, long time, perhaps as much as 200,000 years.

And the Kingdom of Shu, as Sichuan was once called, was one of the early cradles of Chinese civilization, having arisen some 25,000 years ago.

During the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280 AD) , Chengdu became the capital of the Kingdom of Shu, and it’s been a cultural and economic hub in the Southwest of China ever since.
This long history has left the province with an abundant historical heritage, including  the Dujiangyan Irrigation Project, the oldest and only surviving no-dam irrigation system in the world ( )  and...

...the Leshan Giant Buddha, completed well-before the end of the first millennium of the Christian era ( ).
We’re also amazingly diverse, a home to more than 15 minority groups like the the Yi, the Hui, and the Miao; each with its own culture, language, styles of dress and unique customs.
Another popular tourist site is Jiuzhaigou, “Nine Village Valley” (九寨沟), home to nine Tibetan villages:

It is a national park located in the Minshan Mountain range in Northern Sichuan, where more than 220 rare bird species, endangered animals and plants live, including...

... the Giant Panda, golden monkey and many different varieties of orchids and rhododendrons.

Spectacular waterfalls and lakes abound, all in different colours of blue and green, the result of colouration by natural minerals.

And then there’s the food, laced with the hot and spicy ingredients that made me an original spice girl. J

Check the menu of your Chinese restaurant. The odds are you’re going to find something like “Sichuan Gong Bao Chicken” or “Beef Sichuan Style”.

If you are a vegetarian, you might well have tried making “Mapo Tofu” (beancurd with Sichuan Peppers and Hot chillies).

Other famous Sichuan dishes include the mouth-watering Hot Pot, Tea Smoked Duck, Twice Cooked Pork, Husband and Wife Cold Beef Tripe, Water-Cooked Meat or Dan Dan Noodles.

If I’ve piqued your interest (and your appetite) and you’d like to learn more about the province (and the food) I invite you to drop into my blog.

There, you’ll be able to follow video instructions for preparing some recipes at home, learn about other tourist attractions and even read about the devastating earthquake that struck us when my husband and I were visiting my family back in May of 2008.

This is the link to that particular post: ( ).


  1. Leighton, many thanks for sharing my post on beautiful Sichuan today. It's wonderful to be featured on this awesome site.

    Hello, everyone.

  2. Sichuan is so lovely, one day I will get there and see for myself. Until then, your post was a tantalizing peek at the beauties it holds.

    1. Sessha,

      So glad I've enticed you - When you do decide to go, let me know, and I'll be your real guide. We can meet there and I'll treat you the best Sichuan food :)

  3. Wow! I had no idea. What a rich culinary (OK, I did know about that), literary, and topographical history. The photos are tremendous. I will definitely be checking out your blog.

    1. Jenny, I'm following you everywhere - Oh yes, I just followed you on Twitter too :)

      Lovely to make your acquaintance earlier on my blog, and so glad you enjoyed my posts and the photos :)

  4. There may be millions of spice girls, Junying, but from your obvious gift at bringing the magic of your province to the imaginations of your readers I think you've earned the right to be called the "write-spice girl." Great piece, great blog.

    1. Jeff, you've really made me smile and made my day :) It's great to have my ego massaged :) I love being called "writer-spice girl" and may very well use that as my future signature.

      Thanks for being so sweet :)!

  5. Wish I were there. Such a beautiful place, and how appropriate that it created a style of opera that involves spitting fire. Last time I was in China (2004, I think) I went repeatedly to a Sichuan restaurant in Shenzen, where I was warned away from certain dishes. But I ate one anyway, and for once in my life, food literally took my breath away. (And I'm used to spicy food -- I lived with a Mexican family for years and spend part of my life in Thailand.) But your pictures and commentary make me want to go there, and eat chilies right at the source.

    1. Tim, I can almost picture you in that Shenzhen restaurant :) I've seen quite a lot of westerns, and Chinese too, 'suffering' from the extreme 'hot' chillies :) I admire your courage to try though.

      Thanks for reading and commenting :)!

  6. Really enjoyed that Junying. I've never been to the region, but i know it's food well. One of the best meals I've had was at a Sichuan restaurant in Beijing. And one of the spiciest ones I've ever had was at one in...London. Honestly, there was so much heat I was almost hallucinating...and, married to an Indian, I'm no stranger to chilli heat.

    1. Dan, lucky you to get home Indian cooking whenever you want. I love Indian food too. I remember when I first arrived in the UK, I went to an Indian restaurant in Lemington Spa. I asked them for the HOTTEST dish they could make, as I had no idea what to order. So they added extra chillies for me, but afterwards when they asked me how it was, I said: not hot enough :) I think I impressed both the staff and my mates then :)

      You must tell me the name of that Hot Chinese restaurant in London, so I can check it out when I visit next.

      Appreciate your comments :)

    2. Hi Junying. Try to get some hot south Indian masala dishes in any Indian restaurant, so that you will come to know the real taste of India when it is hot

  7. Fantastic post! I love Szechuan food, now I know more about the province thanks to you, Junying. Thanks for sharing your immense knowledge about all your travels.

    Now I'm hungry again,

    1. Sorry, Eden, I tend to make you hungry on more than one occasion. I am sure you're well-served with different types of Chinese food where you are. I'm really pleased that Sichuan food is spreading in the UK too, as well as our reputation as a "Good Woman/Person of Sichuan" :)

      Thanks for your compliment :)

  8. I am on a non-voluntary 54-hour fast. I loved your blog except for the bits about food. They shook my resolve and made me want to run right out and start eating. Thanks for telling us a little about where you are from. Stan

    1. Sorry, Stan. At least you're having a drink or two, right?

      I forgot to mention that Sichuan produces some of the best Chinese spirits too - like the HotPot, they tend to burn at your throat - they do go well with the spices :)

      Cheers :)

  9. Wonderful journey through a beautiful land. I love Chinese food, but I think the chilies may not work for me :) Thank you this; so much of it was new to me.

    1. Lil, Glad to hear that you love Chinese food - we do have some fabulous non-spicy dishes too in Sichuan, so don't let the chillies put you off.

      Thanks for dropping by to read and comment on my post :)

  10. Junying, you've made me anxious to return to Sichuan! I have been there a few times. One of my favorite places was Qingchengshan -- beautiful and peaceful.

    And the panda sanctuary!

    And I love the food. My first time in Sichuan was early in 1980, and there weren't that many good restaurants in China because of the CR. But I had an absolutely amazing meal in Chengdu.

    An amazing, diverse place, and I hope to spend more time there!

    1. Lisa,

      I'm delighted to hear that you've been to my home province and loved it. Qingchengshan is my favourite too and we go there every time we visit Chengdu.

      I left China in 1988, and even then there was not so much diversity in terms of food and restaurants. It was the last decades or so which has seen major changes.

      Hope you can go back soon. I'm planning to visit in 2013 :)

      Lovely of you to comment :) Thanks!