Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Beijing and The Great Wall

We left Haerbin and flew to Beijing.  We had missed the BYU tour because we had to teach in November.  Don went with us and we enjoyed a beautiful, sunny 3 days, although still quite cold.  Today (Jan 15) Beijing is suffering with hazardous pollution, so we felt truly blessed.  As we flew in, I was watching for The Great Wall in the mountains.  I didn't see it, but I did see this Olympic Logo that must be huge considering how far away I was.  (See it in the center just above the grey patch?)

We started off our trip with Peking Duck for dinner!  It's like a Chinese taco...kindof.  You roll the duck slices in a small, flour "tortilla" with onions, garlic  and cucumber after dipping the meat in a soy-based sauce.  I really enjoyed it!  Quite tasty!

After dinner, we went to see Tiananmen Square by night, and then had ice cream at a Baskin Robbins!!!  What a treat!

The next morning, we were off to the Great Wall of China!!  We first drove by some of the Olympic Park buildings, like the "Bird's Nest" stadium, and a large hotel that looks like an Olympic flame.

The Great Wall of China was started in 221 BC by Emperor Qin (the same one buried with the terra cotta warriors).  Millions of people died building the wall, so it is nicknamed "the longest cemetery in the world".  It had several different sections and areas and it wasn't until the Ming Dynasty that it was connected together to make a 4000-mile-long structure.  You CANNOT see it from outer space--it's no wider than I-10.  It was never very effective, nor were there any significant battles fought at it.  But that doesn't make it any less impressive.  We went to the Juyongguan Pass section of the wall, used to defend Beijing.

Hiking the Great Wall of China

There was a biting wind whistling through the pass, so it was very cold.  But we soon warmed up hiking it.  The higher we got, the fewer the crowds, so when we got to the highest section, we were nearly alone.  That's pretty rare in China!

Off in the distance...

Up on the highest "Beacon Tower"--we're at the highest height!
It was awesome to be there and especially awesome that we had sunshine.  We could see a pretty good view back to Beijing!  Mao Zedong said you are not a true hero until you have hiked the Great Wall.  Well, we are official heroes now!  And by the time we got back down, our legs felt like jelly.

We ate lunch upstairs above a Cloisonne factory.  It is amazing the intricate work that goes into these lovely pieces of art and jewelry!
Tiny copper pieces--can you imagine doing this every day, all day?

Placing the copper pieces that will "hold" the color in place and leave an outline.

Adding the color glaze.

Before firing.

Firing a vase to "set" the color.

We spent the afternoon at The Summer Palace.  This was where the Imperial Court had it's royal garden and would retreat to during the hot season in Beijing.  It was built starting in 1749.  It was ransacked and rebuilt a couple of times in history.  It is covered 75% by Kunming Lake which is frozen over now.  People were out walking all over it.  There are some interesting special features here, the first being the Marble Boat.
Colored glass-not stained glass.

The Emperor Qianlong was given the advice: "the waters that float the boat can also swallow it", implying that the people can support the emperor but can also topple him. With this in mind, Emperor Qianlong might have chosen to construct the Marble Boat on a solid stone base to indicate that the Qing Dynasty was not to be overthrown.  Whatever the reason, this boat will never "float".

The second special feature is the longest painted corridor in the world!  It's an amazing passageway with beautiful colored paintings and portals along its way.

Four portals represent the four seasons.

The third major feature of the Summer Palace is the Empress Dowager Cixi's Temple of Buddhist Virtue--the landmark of the grounds.  We opted not to buy an extra ticket to climb up to see it.  We have seen so many Buddhist Temples, and although very pretty, they are beginning to look the same!  It is built at the top of Longevity Hill which was created from the excavated dirt of the lake.
Standing beside a Taihu stone--only used in Emperor's Gardens!

The grounds were very pretty, and we saw where the Empress Dowager Cixi, aka the "Dragon Lady", lived and conducted affairs of state.

The mythical "qilin".

Dragon and Phoenix--Emperor and Empress--the Dragon Lady switched their positions to make herself more important!
You can't go to Beijing without seeing the Chinese Acrobats.  One of the acts was the Sichuan Face Changing with their special masks.

Sichuan Face Changing

And tumblers, contortionists, stunts on straps hanging from above, a circular trapeze couple, strength holds... 

All amazing and awe inspiring, although hardly ANY of the Chinese folks in the audience would applaud!  I was so surprised at that!

Beijing Chinese Acrobats 

At the end, they brought out 5 motorbikes who all got (one at a time) in a huge wire globe and drove around inside without crashing.  I remember seeing this stunt at the circus when I took my nephew, Johnny, years ago.  Still, it's pretty impressive!

After a day like today, what could be better than dinner at Kenny Rogers Chicken Restaurant!  I had chicken and ribs.  Nothing like a taste from home to make the day complete.

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