Monday, April 15, 2013

Beijing, China - Spring Break 2013

The girls returned to school this morning after two weeks of spring break and I've just started snooping through our pics from the family trip to China. It may take a while and I've got a lot to choose from because everything was so foreign and unique to us. The one thing I didn't anticipate was the interest Chinese would have in Americans touring their country. They stared and took pics, though I was a bit slow on the draw with my camera to capture them taking pics of us. Blatantly and without our permission like these two guys.

Now I know how movie stars feel regarding paparazzi. In addition to staring and taking our pics, they also filmed us. I honestly thought that in the year 2013, with capitalism on the rise over the course of this generation, we wouldn't be of great interest to them. I was wrong. The senior was even asked by some college-aged Chinese guys to pose in pics with them. I was so amused that I didn't get a pic of her posing for her pic. I can't help but wonder what sort of rounds that pic made amongst their friends. At least I can rest assured in the fact that it didn't make it onto You Tube or Facebook since these aren't permitted thanks to the Chinese censors.

After an almost ten hour flight from London to Beijing, we got checked into our hotel and spent the bulk of our first afternoon resting. The next day, we set off on our first full day of sightseeing in Beijing. We kicked it off in Tiananmen Square...

which sits in between Chairman Mao's tomb (below)...

and the Forbidden City, home of the emperor.

Along the four corners of the roofs, you can see decorative critters. I was really intrigued by them. They are animals and mythological beasts. And the wire running along the top of them serves as a conductor in case it's struck by lightning.

There were many halls located within the Forbidden City that served a variety of purposes.

I took the pic below because I liked the story our Chinese tour guide Stanley told us. In the temple leading up to the area above where the emperor would sit, there was a set of stairs with a central area that had a scene with a dragon. This was reserved for the sole use of the emperor since he is represented by the dragon. His empress is represented by the phoenix. The only time anyone besides the emperor and empress may use these symbols is on the day of their marriage.

We spent a good bit of the morning here and kept stumbling across doorways that served as frames for interesting views in the distance.

After leaving the Forbidden City, we went to the oldest part of the city center that still has hutongs, which are courtyards surrounded by residences. Because the streets amongst the hutongs are really just glorified alleys, we rode in rickshaws.

We saw multiple public restrooms in every block and asked our tour guide about it. We were told that only a very few of the residences in the hutong have plumbing and so most folks must use the common toilets. First thing in the morning or late at night. In the freezing cold predawn weather of winter or on hot and smelly summer afternoons. That was interesting to contemplate and hard to fathom.

We ate a traditional Chinese lunch in the home of a family who lives in the hutong...

followed by lessons in paper cutting, calligraphy and Chinese yo yo.

Later in the afternoon, we went to the Summer Palace where we took a boat ride on Kumming Lake.

We rode on the wooden boats seen below, not the decorative stone one seen above.

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