The Incredible Story of Nek Chand’s Rock Garden

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The Rock Garden of Chandigarh is a 40-acre park full of plazas, waterfalls and thousands of unique creatures made from recycled materials. It’s a truly impressive sight, but even more so is the story of how Nek Chand spent four decades creating it and how he kept it a secret, for years.

In 1958, Nek Chand was a road inspector for the Public Works Department, and was making rafts and boats to be sail upon the recently created Sukhna Lake, but peddle boats were soon made available for rent by authorities, and his craft was banned. This allowed Nek to devote more time to his passion for rocks and stones, and he began gathering them from the nearby Shivalik Hills, and the Sukhna Cho, Patiala Rao and Ghaggar rivers. It was around this time that the Swiss architect Le Corbusier was asked to design the city of Chandigarh, the first planned city of India, and the small villages around the area were demolished. This provided Nek Chand with plenty of material for his increasing collection of rocks.

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Python Wedding Held in Cambodian Village

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Over 1,000 people gathered in the Cambodian village of Sit Bow, to witness the wedding of two pythons, believed to bring prosperity and good fortune to the settlement.

Early 2008, I wrote a post about a Cambodian boy who had an unusually friendly relationship with a full grown python. Villagers believed he was the son of a dragon, and had supernatural powers. Fast forward to present day, Chamerun, the boy’s female pet snake is getting married to male Krong Pich, and the whole village has gathered for the big ceremony.

While most Camodians are Buddhists, they also believe in animism – a belief that spirits inhabit the bodies of animals – so whenever a bizarre animal makes an appearance, there are always speculations about it being housing some important spirit. Fortunetellers told the two snake owner their reptiles were soul mates blessed by the gods, and that they needed to be married and live together, otherwise the village will be struck by bad luck.

The marriage ceremony lasted two hours and was attended by people from all around the village area. Two Buddhist monks  blessed the snake couple, while villagers showered them with flowers and sang traditional wedding music. It must have been pretty creepy, for the pythons, of course.

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6-Year-Old Girl Is World’s Youngest Yoga Instructor

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Yoga has been around for thousands of years, and the benefits it has for the mind and body are unquestionable, so its ever-growing popularity is not surprising . But what is very surprising is  6-year-old Shruti Pandey, who has been a successful Yoga teacher for two years now.

Interestingly enough, she is not the only “miracle” in her family, as her older brother, Harsh Kumar, mastered all 84 yoga positions by the age of five, making it into the Limca Book of Records and becoming a source of inspiration and motivation for Shruti. But he has never been interested in becoming a teacher.

67 year-old Hari Chetan, Shruti’s instructor, who set up the Swami Brahmachand Saraswati Kaivalya Dham Ashram 35 years ago, is simply amazed not only with her flexibility, which many may find normal for a child this age, but also with her talent and determination. She proved to be e vary quick learner and as she mastered this art for herself, it didn’t come as a surprise when she started teaching others, in classes of around 30 adults that start at 5:30am. Everyone is amazed with her talent and the patience she puts in for everything and every one.

“The best thing about Shruti is she tries to provide an alternative position for the complicated ones that are difficult for an older person like me to do. She’s very patient,” says 90-year-old retired teacher Swami Bhanu.

After only three months of attending Shruti’s classes, 48-year-old businessman Lokendra Pal Singh says: “I have noticed a positive change in my life. I used to be short-tempered, but now I’m able to control my anger to quite an extent and it’s all thanks to a little six-year old.”

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Cong Langui – China’s One Legged Chalk Art Master

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Cong Langui is a talented Chinese chalk artist who travels across the country creating amazing artworks that make people stop in their tracks and stare in amazement.

Cong may not be the only talented chalk artist in the world, but the hardships he has had to cope with throughout his life, make him stand out as a truly impressive person. He was born in the Linyi countryside, Shandong, and was diagnosed with bone cancer, when he was just 16 years old, and had his left leg amputated. It was a terrible blow for a young man, but he found comfort in painting, and started making replicas of world-renown artworks, every day.

At the age of 21, Cong Langui left his home and began traveling from city to city, living off his amazing chalk paintings. Now at age 48, the artist says he’s been to every one of China’s provinces, except Tibet and Xinjiang. Life was never easy for Cong, especially with only one leg, but by painting chalk masterpieces on city streets, he’s always made enough money to get by and keep traveling. Always hungry for cultural knowledge, the one legged artist would visit the art museum of every city he traveled to, in order to improve his cultural accomplishment and level of chalk drawing.

Every one of his chalk artworks takes hours to complete, but Cong feels that his pastel technique is of relatively low difficulty, and his biggest dream is to study painting in oil, watercolor and ink. Well versed in the art of chalk drawing (he has drawn Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” more than 300 times), Cong feels the need for a new challenge.

After the earthquake of Sichuan, even though he could barely afford to survive, Cong Langui insisted that all the money people gave him, for his amazing street art, be donated to the Hubei Red Cross.

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Japanese Researchers Create Tweeting Mouse

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In a genetically engineered experiment, Japanese scientists at the University of Osaka have created a mouse that tweets like a bird. After crossbreeding genetically altered mice for some time, to see what would happen, they apparently got their first interesting result, by mistake. Researcher Arikuni Uchimura said they were expecting physical mutations, but definitely not a tweeting mouse.

The “mistake” happened at the University of Osaka called “Evolved Mouse Project”, where scientists have the sole purpose of breeding mice ‘pron to miscopying DNA and thus to mutation”, without knowing for sure what will the end results may be.

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Great Walker Completes Journey Across the Great Wall

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Robert Loken, a 42-year-old Norwegian engaged in the journey of a life time, following his 21-year-old dream of walking across China’s Great Wall, has finally achieved his goal.

Robert Loken sold his house, quit his job and embarked on his trip with nothing else but the courage and ambition of conquering the Great Wall. It did not matter whether he would be the first to do it or the fastest, so he took his time and just started walking. His incredible journey began last April from Gansu province’s Jiayuguan, the Wall’s western most point, and ended 601 days and 6,000 km later, on Dec. 2nd, in the eastern most point, in Liaoning province’s Dandong.

All this time he had to face temperatures raging from -22C to 40C, scorpions or snakes, but as Robert himself admits, it was all as he imagined it would be. There were definitely some difficult moments, to say the least, one of them being when Robert blacked out for two hours due to high fever, while crossing the snowdrifts in rural Shanxi province. Luckily he had managed to put up his tent beforehand. “If I had lost consciousness, I would have frozen to death in the snow.” He also had to cope with dehydration, scorpions under his tent, snakes, wild dogs chasing him, but he never once thought about giving up. You would think isolation was a big issue as well, but Robert says that although he was physically alone, he always considered the Wall as being his companion “When I went in a town to stock up on food or relax, I would always greet the Great Wall as a friend when I come back.” Keeping a blog was also very helpful and “inspirational”.

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Dordoy – The Shipping Container Bazaar of Kyrgyzstan

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One of Asia’s largest shopping centers, the Dordoy Bazaar consists of around 7,000 shipping containers, which makes it a monument to repurposing.

Located near the city of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Dordoy Bazaar is one of the main entrepots through which Chinese goods make their way to markets in Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It was inaugurated in 1992, and as wholesale markets across the country began to plummet, the bazaar’s popularity kept rising transforming it in the monument of raw commerce it is today.

Dordoy Bazaar stretches for about a kilometer, on the north-eastern outskirts of Bishkek, and features all kinds of goods, from Chinese and Turkish knock-offs to Russian music CDs, all off them stocked in the thousands of stacked shipping containers that serve as shops and storage space. Practically, the entire bazaar is built out of shipping containers organized in rows to form streets and plazas of sort. A 2005 newspaper report stated there were between 6,000 and 7,000 containers in Dordoy Bazaar, and their numbers probably went up considerably, since then.

The few buildings in Dordoy Bazaar that aren’t made of containers serve as administrative offices, hotels and toilets.

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Chinese Artist Paints on Water

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Zhu Shenghi, a talented artist from Xi’an, China’s Shaanxi Province, has developed a unique way of painting on water.

While we can all take a brush and start stroking away on water, results won’t be nearly as spectacular as what Zhu Shenghi can do. Using a fine tool and naphta, he paints all kinds of detailed shapes on the surface of the water, but water isn’t actually the real canvas. After he’s finished the design, Zhu places a piece of paper that absorbs the paint from the surface of the water, thus becoming a regular painting without having been touched by any painting utensils.

UPDATE: Seeing the photos for the first time, I thought Zhu Shenghi’s art was unique, but it’s apparently been around since the 15th century, and used in East Asia and the Islamic World. It might not be as modern as other painting techniques, but it’s still pretty fascinating.

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Kobe Luminarie – Japan’s Festival of Light

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Kobe Luminarie is an extraordinary light festival that takes place every December, in commemoration of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995.

The first edition Kobe Luminarie took place in December of 1995, as a memorial to the lives lost in the terrible earthquake of January 17. It was entitled “Dreams and Light” and was a message of hope that two and a half million people came to see, on the first day. Following the success of the first festival, Kobe Luminarie became a yearly event that celebrates Kobe’s remarkable recovery from disaster.

Various light decorations are created from millions of small light bulbs and LEDs, from bright arches to citadels and whatever else Italian designer Valerio Festi and his team decide on. Since the name of the festival comes from the plural of the Italian “luminaria” -which means light decoration – the decision of employing an Italian team must not have been incidental. Every year, the theme of Kobe Luminarie changes, and that has people from all over the world coming back year after year, to see the new light structures. Approximately five million people attend the Kobe Luminarie every year.

Apart from the beautiful light structures, another impressive aspect of Kobe Luminarie is that it relies on its audience to keep going. Visitors support the event by putting coins in the donation boxes set up around the brightly lit structures, and this assures the funding for next year’s festival. A great way to show appreciation, considering the entrance if free of charge…

Just to be clear, Kobe Luminarie has nothing to do with Christmas, despite the common colorful-lights theme. This year, the festival of light took place between December 2-13, and was named “Il cuore nella luce” (The heart in the light).

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Taiwanese Professor Buries His Students Alive

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Professor Qiu Daneng is treating his medical school students as dead bodies, to make them appreciate every second of their life.

The kooky professor from Taiwan’s Rende Medical College came up with the idea of having his students enclosed in a coffin and lowered into a cavity under the floor, as a way of giving them insight about death, and thus stimulating them to do the best they can to preserve patients’ lives, as medical doctors. At the beginning of his course, he has his students draw up their testaments, then dresses them up in a funeral shroud and asks them to get into a custom-made coffin. He then lowers them into a cavity beneath the floor and leaves them there for a good 10 minutes.

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Only in Japan – Love Doll Brothels Are Bustling

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Some people tend to compare Japanese Love Dolls with regular western sex dolls, but in reality, they are on a whole other level. Believe it or not, people actually pay big money to sleep with a doll, at the bustling love doll brothels across Japan.

The first Japanese love dolls were created 30 years ago, so that people with disabilities could enjoy some female companionship, but they quickly became an alternative for healthy men simply to shy to enjoy sleeping with real women. A lot of Japanese men are obsessed with anime and manga girls, and these realistic love dolls gave them the chance to actually fulfill their fantasies of spending some time with their favorite characters. Some have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying dozens of high-end love dolls, made of silicon, and feel much more comfortable in their presence than they would in that of a real woman. They don’t nag, they never complain and they don’t cheat.

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Fishing for Dead Bodies – a Morbid Yet Profitable Business

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Fishing dead bodies is a well known practice in China since ancient times, when some fishermen dedicated their time to recovering bodies from the waters and then returning them to their families. Back then, this  “job” was appreciated and respected, and the fisherman himself wasn’t rewarded with money but an immense gratitude.

With the evolution of the country, both economical and demographic, fishing for dead bodies soon became a thriving business for most of the fishermen on Yellow River, with younger and younger boys taking up the task, every day.

The most “offering” place, as they themselves assert, is at about 18 miles down stream from Lanzhou, the provincial capital of Gansu, northwestern China, a place where  a hydroelectric dam and a bend in the river cause the bodies to surface.

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Robot Restaurant Opened in Jiang, China

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They weren’t born to serve you but they were definitely built to do just that, and where else if not in China.

Located in Jiang, China’s Shandong Province, the Dalu Rebot Restaurant opened on the 5th of December and can cater to about 100 customers, featuring two robot receptionists and a “staff” of six robot-waitresses. Two of them serve drinks, two serve small tables and another two tend to the big one. It seems that more “hiring” will be made in the near future as owners expect the restaurant will become quite a hit.

As all the waiting is done by robots, the tables were set in a circular pattern so that the robots can follow an exact route. Not all the work in the restaurant is done by them though, there are also people working there, especially in the kitchen, but some were also hired to welcome customers into the restaurant.

The concept belongs to The Shandong Dalu Science and Technology Company, who isn’t planning to stop here, as they want to further develop this idea and ultimately have a staff of 40 robots. Seems logical enough, considering that business really took off when the people heard about these unusual waiters.

 

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The Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani Yaen-koen Park

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Even though the name of this park might not sound very familiar you’ve probably heard about the Snow Monkeys of Japan.

The Jigokudani Yaen-koen (Hell Valley Wild Monkey Park) is located in the Nagano mountains and since it was opened, in 1964, this park has been the attraction of tourists from all over the world, eager to see the famous snow monkeys.

The Japanese Macaques (Macaca Fuscata) are monkeys native to northern Japan and very much used to being around people. Even so, the park’s officials recommend that you shouldn’t try  touching them or even looking directly into their eyes, as this is considered, in the monkey society, a sign of enmity.

They are the most north-living species of primate, able to survive temperatures of below -15 °C. Their bodies are covered in a brown-gray coat of fur and they have red skin on their face, hands and bottom. Although they sometimes spend their time in the mountains, they just love bathing and swimming in the hot springs. In the park you can sometimes find about 200 monkeys enjoying the hot water of Japanese onsen in the spring and especially during Japan’s extremely cold winters.

The sight of monkeys in hot water with snow falling on their heads is particularly beautiful.

The Jigokudani park is located in the center of Japan, on the valley of the Yokoyu River, in a harsh environment where snow is present for about four months, reason enough to be named Hell Valley, although the monkeys seem to love this place.


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Researchers in Panda Costumes Trick Four-Month-Old Cub

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Researchers at the Hetaoping Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan province, China came up with a gumptious way to help a four month panda cub re-adapt  to wildlife.

For the success of the reintroduction the baby panda isn’t supposed to come in contact with humans so the researchers had to dress-up as giant pandas in order to do their job, because although the cub is being supervised with hidden cameras, some of the procedures, such as weighing or measuring his body temperature,  involve handling.

Although they aren’t very convincing to us it seems that this cute baby panda has accepted his new “family” and is making great progress.

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