Thursday, July 28, 2011

Observations in China Part 3

This was the view we had from our hotel window
Temple of Heaven...Great Wall...Forbidden City...Summer Palace

Holy Sh!t.

Temple of Heaven is stunning. We spent a little over an hour there--and I broke my expensive camera. In China all the retirees over 60 (or 55, I can't remember) have free access to all the state parks. Because of that when you walk into any state park you'll find dozens if not a hundred or more retirees in the park doing Tai Chi or practicing Buddhism or whatever else.

Older gentleman creating characters with water and practicing Buddhism

Tile on the Temple of Heaven is blue

In Beijing we ran into a theme with the Temples and Palaces--Are we done yet?  Once you think you've seen the main building, you go around it and find something even grander.

From the temple viewing the buildings holding the prayers.
I broke this camera on my way down.
Temple of Heaven had the highest point thing where the Emperor did a ritual invoking Heaven. After this platform was a temple area housing wood or bone sheets with writing. After this first one, we went into a second set of temples holding even more important writings. Then finally we entered the real important one with the prayer the Emperor said on that platform.

Throne . . . building?  Too large to be a simple room.

This is the beginning of the actual city.  This is where the Emperor, his wife and concubines and servants lived.
Add another two outstanding buildings and courtyards and you'll have what happened in the Forbidden City--3 great buildings or so before the actual Throne building and celebration room. Behind that and a few other buildings was the actual city for the Concubines, Empress, children, Eunics and servants. We spent maybe 2 hours there and saw about a quarter of the place. Our feet hurt bad that morning.

Summer Palace covered walk way.  It went on, and on, and on, and . . .  man, it took a while.

Doesn't look too far, right?  Half a mile away at least to the boat house.  Too foot sore to climb to the temples.
The Summer Palace...beautiful and 292 hectacres (722 acres). Um...beautiful. Stunning. Lot of walking. Lot of people. I don't think I can describe it as well as I'd like.  We didn't even come close to seeing it all.

We're on the GREAT WALL OF CHINA!!!  Freaking AWESOME!!
I skipped over the Great Wall. Only because the Great Wall made such an Awe-Inspiring Impact on us. The Wall has an interesting history. Emperor Qin had is built, initially, of dirt and maybe stone. Later, much later, another emperor had parts of it built up to into the actual stone wall to protect against the barbarian hordes belonging to the Khans. As a defense it failed. Ghenis just went around the Wall instead of trying to go through it. That is a problem with fortified defenses.

We took a gondola up to tower 14 (I think) and went from there. The view . . . is just stunning. It feels like the top of the world. And the Wall just goes on and on in both directions, up and down. And you know that thousands of people died building it. The stone is uneven, eroded, and different colors. The steps are sometimes deep and sometimes shallow and often times dangerous.

Foreman's day off on these stairs.

And for some reason, my mom got it into her head that my dad and I wanted to run together on the Great Wall. So, she had us bring our running clothes and shoes. We got up on the Wall, took a group photo, then my dad and I plotted our short--and I mean short--run along the Wall. We ran about half a mile total . . . but we ran on the GREAT WALL!!! We spent an hour on the GREAT WALL! Dude, it was so freakin' awesome!!!

Top of the World...on the GREAT WALL OF CHINA!!!
Then we walked along the Wall, down a couple towers and then actually off the Wall on the the ground just inside. We hit our walking time limit (30 mins out, 30 mins back and about 10 mins left to just enjoy the Wall).
Click to see larger: Great Wall of China!


Yeah, China was awesome to visit.

Click on the image below to enlarge.
This is the view into China.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Observations in China Part 2


At the Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an.
 After the Amazing two full days in Shanghai we flew to Xi'an (Xian, Chi'ang--there were a few other spellings for the name). Xi'an was the first capital of China when Emperor Qin (the first emperor, played by Jet Li in the 3rd Mummy movie with Brandon Frazer) united China for the first time. He ruled for 15 years and his son for 4. Then some peasants killed Qin's son and things changed...but China mostly remained. For the most part China has pretty much been the same basic area for over 2,200 years. Whether it has functioned as one country the entire time is debatable--especially when there are sections of 150-300 years of "Warring States/Kingdoms" following a dynasty. I don't know enough of Chinese history...but I'd love to take a class about it or maybe watch a good History Channel series on it.

Emperor Qin was a Bad Mother F#cker. 

Not Qin, but a soldier of some sort.
Qin killed off all the defeated warlords in order to create China. He had to kill their families as well. (Machiavelli should be inspired--as will the Evil Overlord people.)   Everyone that could claim a title was put the ax. He did this to make sure that he was the only game in town.  When you're creating a new country, especially from other countries, you are creating a new order, so you have to be the only source of authority. The Emperor--and successors--became the only game in town and giving rise to a consistent unified country.

You probably should enlarge this one to read it.
So, Qin made sure he was it. One ruler of one country. We might think that once you've killed of the challengers and their relatives that you'd be safe... Not for Qin. He was afraid of death and that he would be attacked by his enemies after he died. That is why he was drinking Mercury--his doctor told him that it would help prolong his life and help him obtain immortality. Yes, 2,200 years ago a Bad@ss was looking for the secret to immortal life. Well, he kicked the bucket at 49 years old from drinking Mercury.

Pit 1

Before he died he was having his tomb prepared--even though he was looking for the secret to immortality (always be prepared, anyone?). Over 700,000 people helped create this tomb. Today, you wouldn't even know it was a tomb, it looks like a large hill Northeast of Xi'an. Unlike the Egyptians, Qin's tomb was covered by dirt. So were the over 7,000 warriors created to protect Qin.  He wanted to surprise his enemies in death with an army to defend him.  Qin believed that the warriors would protect him against his enemies in death. We'll never know the answer to that--unless you think the Mummy movie was based on a true story.

Most of these guys are being pieced back together and will probably be transported to exhibits.

The Terracatta Warriors were not listed in any official writing in Qin's time or his son's. If they were text, they were lost in the Peasant Revolt that killed Qin's son. Anyway, the Peasants broke into the tombs containing the Warriors (not Qin's primary tomb--probably afraid the Bad@ss would rise up and kick ass), stole their real weapons and destroyed a lot of the warriors and set the tomb on fire.

The chrome-plating kept the weapons sharp.  And the ancient Chinese had this way back when--but lost the technique.  I wonder what other techniques/methods we've lost and rediscovered or forgotten completely.  Maybe space travel.
Over 2000 years later a farm supervisor and three workers were digging a new well and found the Warriors. The Chinese officials at the time thought it would take 7-10 days to dig them up . . . 30 years later and they are not finished yet.
Plenty of Warriors were destroyed during the Peasant Uprising.

You can see the burned wood from when the Peasants lit the tomb on fire.  And people are still escavating.
My mom kept saying "They don't do anything small in China." I can see why.

Pit 1 is the largest pit.  Qin's people dug the lanes for the Warriors, built wood slats to cover them, laying a layer or two of protective fabric, then finally burying them.  You can see why a farming crew found this pit.

Careful - He's watching you.
 We saw more than just the Warriors in Xi'an.  We went to a school and clinic out in a village.  My parents and their friend are teachers and visiting the school helps qualifying this trip as a work related event.  We saw the Old City Wall, the Wild Goose Pagoda, and some traditional performances specific to the region.

Old City Wall in Xi'an.  Built, rebuilt and rebuilt a long time ago. 

The back of our legs were sunburned at this point.

Warrior at Heart
I was knealing behind the thing.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Observations in China part 1

China was AWESOME!  Don't want to live there, but the places we went to were totally mind-blowing.

We spent a couple of days in Shanghai.  The city is truly international and modern.  We spent the first day on a bus tour going all around the city of 20 million people.  We didn't see everything, but we saw a lot.  We spent a good amount of time on the Bund, which is where the foreigners were restricted for a few hundred years--particularly in the 1800 through about 1937.  The buildings along the Bund are European and American in design--some of the most beautiful Gothic and Western design.

This is on the Bund.
After walking and riding around most the day--just getting adjusted to being in China and getting the feel for the tourist mindset and realizing that we would be foot sore alot--we took a boat ride along the river that splits Shanghai in half.  We went around the Bund and the newer, recently developed city center area.

Click on the picture to see all.  Panarama of the new city center and Bund

Bund at night

The second day in Shanghai is when our tour actually started.  We went to a Shanghai City museum/expo center detailing the develop of the city itself--from a small fishing village some 2000 years ago to the primary port city of the province and China several centuries ago to the international city it became following the Opium Wars and finally to the city it has become now.  Kind of boring, but it put things in to perspective for the city and for the country.  People having been living in Shanghai for over 2000 years.  Documented and all.

After that we walked across the street to the Shanghai History Museum.  It had less to do with Shanghai and more to do with historical and cultural artifacts.

The Bronze Exhibit was the most important by far.  There was a large water vessel (I'm thinking big enough to hold a 600 pound pig to cook in soup.  It was commissioned by a ruler of something and the maker was given title for making it.  It is awesome and impressive.  And the woman who donated it to the museum has had in her family for over 400 years. 

Ding food vessel with interlaced Dragons and Scale - made sometime between the early 6th century BC and 476 BC

China is freakin' OLD.  It has a rich history and our Westerncentric history classes completely miss the entirety of what Asia offered to the world's cultural development.  Everyone in our group who saw the Bronze Art from way back 4000-6000 years ago thought of South American art produced by the Inca, Mayans and Aztec; and the Native Americans with the tribal clothes from about the same time.  The idea that our First Nation people walked across the Bering Straight is Fact, not theory.  It happened . . . who knows when for sure, but it sure as hell happened. 

All of us at the Yu Garden in Shanghai - absolutely an awesome Ming style garden.