Photos from the Road: Playing Chinese Chess under Chaoyang Gate

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Photos from the Road: Playing Chinese Chess under Chaoyang Gate

Chaoyang Gate stands proudly in the center of Jianshui, a small Yunnan city south of Kunming. This bright red prominent structure was modeled on the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan and Yueyang Tower in Hunan. Think Gate of Heavenly Peace in Beijing for more visuals.

Although beautiful, the Chaoyang Gate was not what captured my attention. It was rather the people in the park below the gate. This is a spot locals hang out—primarily retired folks. One group was dancing in a circle. The leader had a music box tied around her neck. Some groups of old men played cards. Another retired man passed time by playing an instrument. Then his friend joined him by singing along. Another pair of elderly men had drawn a crowd to watch their game of Chinese chess. Everyone looked on with intensity.

Up on Chaoyang Gate we enjoyed the view over all the above mentioned activities.

Jianshui is small city off the tourists’ trail about 200km south of Kunming in China’s Yunnan Province. It’s where I witnessed the Chinese New Year celebrations for the Year of the Dragon.

Chaoyang Gate of Jianshui Yunnan

Chaoyang Gate in Jianshui, Yunnan, China

Chaoyang Gate of Jianshui Yunnan China

Chaoyang Gate of Jianshui Yunnan (2)

playing Chinese chess

Men Playing Chinese Ches below Chaoyang Gate

old men playing Chinese chess atop Chaoyang Gate of Jianshui Yunnan

man playing Chinese instruent

playing music in the park in Jianshui

Playing an instrument and singing below Chaoyang gate in Jianshui, China

men playing cards in Jianshui China

Men playing cards below Chaoyang Gate in Jianshui, China

dancing in the park below Chaoyang Gate of Jianshui Yunnan

Dancing in the park below Chaoyang Gate in Jianshui, China

on top of Chaoyang Gate of Jianshui Yunnan

A man sits atop Chaoyang Gate in Jianshui

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. Juno says:

    I liked this day and the place. I think this was the first time we ever saw Chinese people who are enjoying their time. Good place, Jianshui!

  2. Noel says:

    Ah, the only chess I can play well. Beautiful people, I can blend in nicely.

  3. Stephen Bugno says:

    Noel, I think you’d really like Jianshui. Just an ordinary small city with nice architecture and some of the friendliest people I’ve met in all of China.

  4. Suzy says:

    How cool! I love the old men playing chess on the ground. It’s a fascinating cultural scene.

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