Sunday, July 17, 2011

“Welcome to Chinese”

On Sunday, our final day in China, we set out early to visit the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

There were reminders everywhere that this was a special weekend for China…._7035234 

Our first stop was Tiananmen Square and it was that…..a big open area with TONS of people…..  _7035248 There was a huge video screen that was showing Nationalistic images….._7035247  Our first stop was to get a bottle of water and were thrilled when it was almost frozen solid….._7035242

The only area of the square that was not crowded was this monument, but unfortunately I never found out what it was a monument to……_7035251 The color red is very important to the Chinese people, as evidenced by this photo….red flags AND red hats…..

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It was even crowded to get OUT of the square….._7035257We crossed the street and, accompanied by many other people, and watched by all of the video cameras on the light poles, we walked to the Forbidden City. _7035260

The entrance to the city is dwarfed by the huge photo of Mao Zedong, one of the founders of the Chinese Communist Party.  _7035265

Now, let me stop here and say that were not that impressed with the Forbidden City, but that may be partly because it was so crowded…. _7035286 and partly because of what it stands for.

The city was made up of several gates and halls……

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Each area had a special name, including……

- Gate of Supreme Harmony

- Hall of Preserved Harmony

- Gate of Heavenly Purity

- Hall of Union and Peace

- Hill of Accumulated Elegance

There were a few photo opportunities that we liked…..

_7035290 _7035294   _7035315_7035310There were lots of school groups visiting and one young boy (maybe 10 years old) said hello to me and told me “Welcome to Chinese”!!   It was my favorite part of the day!!!

I laughed at this police officer stationed under the umbrella.  He had LOTS of company as everybody tried to find a bit of shade….

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Speaking of shade, the weather was gorgeous and the smog miraculously disappeared for the day!!

We continued to walk thru the gates and past the halls and found our favorite part of the city….the garden at the back….. _7035326

As we exited the city, there were a huge number of vendors selling slices of melon (similar to a cantaloupe) on a stick.  They looked really good…..

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We hailed a taxi and headed for the Lama Temple (Yonghegong) which is the largest temple in Beijing.

I laughed as we stood in line to get our tickets.  The ticket window next to us was closed and the sign indicated that they were at “Rest”….._7035353

As we walked in the gate, this huge bell was just to our right.  People were paying to be able to go into the enclosure and ring the bell….._7035366

There were also many prayer wheels around the compound and most were being spun by the passersby._7035371The complex is about 1/2 kilometer in length and is made up of 5 main halls that are separated by courtyards.

Each courtyard has pits for burning incense and areas for prayer.  People would first use a small pit to light the incense.…._7035392 

They then  waited patiently in line to step up and present their incense and prayers.    Most people used three sticks of incense at each of the altars……_7035395_7035376The incense pieces were then put into the big pit to burn out….._7035409

These scenes were repeated in front of each of the halls.

I loved the sign that reminded you that you couldn’t take photos inside the halls…._7035370

…although you could take photos from the door…..

_7035384Each hall contained one or more Buddha statues.  The most interesting one was housed in the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses and was 26 meters (about 80 feet) tall.  The coolest thing about this Buddha is that it was carved from a SINGLE piece of White Sandalwood.  It has actually been included in the Guinness Book of Records!!!!

This hall was filled with benches for the monks to sit and pray and chant….

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I always like the colors that are seen in these temples…..

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And it is good to know that monks are living in the modern world too….._7035412          

We left the temple and took another taxi back to the hotel.  After cooling off and relaxing for a bit we asked the concierge to help us get to a music instrument shop.   When the taxi driver stopped, he pointed vaguely in one directly and we started walking that way.

Our first stop was into a fun music store and we ended up buying Brian a Ruan (Chinese guitar) which we then had to carry around for the rest of our shopping trip. 

After we left the instrument shop, we walked down a street that was nothing but art shops and calligraphy shops and book shops!!!  We spent about two hours exploring the artistic side of China!!!

 

For dinner, we had made reservations at the hotel restaurant and had reserved a Peking Duck (well, actually 1/2 of a Peking Duck).   Because it takes about 45 minutes to prepare a duck, you have to order them in advance!!!

This time we were seated by  the dessert and chocolate station!!!   This woman was making the banana dessert that I had enjoyed on Friday…..

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The duck was brought to our table by an  “aproned” and  “hatted” chef and he began to cut the wonderful, crunchy  skin off of the duck and bring it to our table.  The second and third platters contained more of the duck meat as well, but the skin was the best….  _7035423

It was served with small tortilla-like round on which you would put some duck, a couple of onion and/or cucumber slices, some garlic, sugar and/or chili sauce.  Then, roll it up and pop it into your mouth….

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We added a vegetable…..slivered potatoes, chilis and onions!!!!_7035425

At the very end of our dinner, we were served this duck soup.  The soup was fine, but I  really liked the wooden container that it was served in…._7035426

The evening ended with dessert and wine up on the 17th floor and then to our room for our last night in China!!!!

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