planning for New York
Join Date: Jan 2009
(excerpts from my travel journal for western China; please excuse grammar and such......bad wifi and little chance/time to check it.)
(end of 16-04)
In one of the alleys in the muslim quarter is the former residence of an important man at the imperial court of the Ming dynasty, Gao Yue Song. Seven generations of his family live here and all have an official position in the royal palace. This family house, build in the 16th century(2517 sq.m.) has three seperate courtyards and four storeys. The 56 of the 86 rooms that are open for the public are decorated in the Ming- and Qing style: a beautifully carved bed with red silk draperies and bedlinnen and the same in yellow silk for a dark hardwood bed. Painted geometric designs and lotus on chests and cupboards. As in the streets of the muslim quarter, there a many tiny birds in cages, singing away. They all have Chinese decorated water bowls in their wooden cages. Even some beo's, shouting ' hello, hello'. Several plants in pots, trees and small fountain make this complex a pleasant place to walk or sit.
At the end of the afternoon I take a cab to an extremely crowded station for the last train on this journey. People sit on the floor in the hall. I see a man with two heavy loads balanced on a large pole.
A nice Chinese girl, a chemical scientist, sleeps in the same compartment. We talk a bit about our countries, but there's a vacuum. I would like to ask her about Mao's cultural revolution of 1966, when teachers, intellectuals and many cultural things are destroyed, but hé....I'm a guest and we circle about other topics as well....
17-04 Xī'ān to Bejing
Beijing (pop. 20,693,000.) ‘ Nothern Capital' has a history of three millenia. It is the last of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China and has been a political center for much of the past seven centuries. Bejing is a stop in the history of human evolution as well. The earliest traces of human habitation are found in the caves of Dragon Bone Hill near Zhoukoudian in the Fangshan District, where the Peking Man, homo erectus, lived 230,000 to 250,000 years ago.
After an hours ride I'm in an traditional pagode like hotel, in the middle of an ancient part of this huge modern town; the cab can hardly get through, past the eating stalls, other vendors and tricycles. Washing hangs in between lampposts on lines. Wheezing dirt white Pekinese dogs search for food in the rubble. I have some wifi in the hotel; linked to my passport......it takes me a while to figure that out....
Beautiful weather for sightseeing it is, 18 C. Near the hotel is a Tibetan temple, the Lama Temple or Yonghe Gong. This building used to be part of a mansion; build in 1694 by the Kangxi emperor. In the next centuries Lamas (spiritual leaders/teachers) of Tibetan, Mongolian and Manchu origin study here. These days pilgrims pray, prostate themseves and light incense on splendid bronze burners before the different Buddha's and offer money. I see saffron yellow robed monk and one of two dark red robed.
Again a magnificent complex with dark red buildings, pagoda's decorated with gold, blue and yellow. Slanted roofs with lions, dragons, birds and others. Beautiful wall paintings, huge copper praying wheels and innumerable images of Buddha's and deities.
Lunch is in a vegetarian restaurant a few blocks further on, opposite the Confucian Temple. I have never seen the likes of it. I eat from a buffet of about fifty different choices: veg. chicken, veg. fried pork, several fried mushrooms, veg. beef, nudels, rice, veg.chicken curry. One also can stir fry at the table, on a small fire. There's dragonfruit, fruit jellies and so on. xuxianggzhai.com
On to Confucius (551-479 B.C), who is worshipped from 175 B.C. on; a religious cult based on a kind of hero worship, under the Chinese emperors. Confucius aspires a peaceful world, run by a moral elite. Confucian thought is deeply associated with the Chinese civil service examinations, for staffing it's bureaucracy. The aim: testing the candidate's knowledge of an elaborate canon of ancient books, memorizing texts of 400,000 Chinese characters and the ability to write essays on didactic subjets. From the name of the earliest degree holder in 1313 all names are engraved on a stone.
Confucius teachings are attacked in the 20th century, but since the 1980ies there's a revival of his ideas, and State sponsored Confucian institutes are opening in foreign countries.
All buildings and courtyards in this ancient temple (1306) breaths Confucius teachings. There's the Gate of the First Teacher, reserved for the Emperor, the Hall of Perfection with a huge set of Stone tablets preserving the texts of 13 Confucian classics. The Pool of Water for Inkstones is said to have given sage thoughts to anyone drinking from it, and so on. And I see the museum on Confucius life. Many gigling Chinese girls in school uniform take their picture with Confucius. It must be on the currucilum.
Next is the Imperial Academy, also build in 1306 by the Yuan dynasty, the grandson of Kublai Khan. There is all for the students: dormotories, a vegetable garden and a huge library. From the 13-20 th century, it's students come from China and tributary states as Siam, Korea, Annam, but also Russians.
The entrance is a magnificent three gate archway; red with white arches, topped by three pagodes with green and yellow glazed tiles, decorated with lions and dragons. Most of the buildings are red, with slanted roofs and eaves painted and decorated in green and blue. Ancient gnarled trees in it's courtyards and new fruit trees.
And an early night after an exhausting night rattling around in the train. Dinner: bananas and beer. Another two days in Bejing and then home again.
In my cup: Pu- er tea. Never drank it.....