“Today, a lacquer-ware factory. The fresh milky white sap1 of the lacquer treeI makes the highest quality lacquer. As it oxidises2, becomes black – the commonest lacquer for furniture, much of which is further decorated with beautiful jade3 art which abounded in the factory – from huge vases to small jewellery items. From there, we went to the delicately tiered4 Small Goose Pagoda in the Jianfu Temple, one of the oldest pagodas in China. Then an afternoon of free time before our flight to Beijing and the Tianhong Plaza Hotel.”
“BeijingII has probably been populated for 5000 years. In 1949, it was declared the capital of the People’s Republic of China and is the cultural, financial and political hub5. We walked around the city to see the local shops and then enjoyed our Peking Duck dinner.”
Ms Pauline Suder now lives in Pennsylvania, USA, but SE permanent author David Wright first met her in England when they both lived in the same village. Her family emigrated to America when she was a teenager. Now Ms P. Suder enjoys travelling, photography and keeping in touch with her many friends and family.
“We travelled to Tiananmen Square along the ring road which was once the city wall and still has the moat6 in places as well as one remaining city gate. Old housing areas are being razed and new roads and hotels are being built for the summer Olympics in 2008, as well as the arenas for the games themselves. The people are greatly excited about hosting the Olympics and they enjoy the employment opportunities.
“Although many new high rises7 are being built, there are still the HutongsIII, where many old-timers8 prefer to live. ‘Hutong’ derives from the ancient narrow lanes9 between walled residential compounds10. High walls surround traditional quadrangles: four, single-story buildings fronting a courtyard. Hutongs are named afterIV those who live or work within. The inhabitants mingle11 in the courtyards, walking babies, playing chess, etc. Even though urban development now threatens the Hutongs, they still occupy one third of the city and serve as dwellings for half the population.
“Tiananmen Square covers 98 acres; the largest square in the world. It has been used for mass Red Guard rallies and, in 1989, saw huge pro-democracy demonstrations. The famous student protest grew larger as confrontations between students and police escalated12. The People’s Daily accused the students of plotting turmoil13 and the consequent outrage14 drew even larger crowds. The government declared martial law, but the demonstrations continued and the Communist party leaders decided to use military force to resolve the crisis. Soldiers and tanks were sent to control the city, but they were attacked by workers and students. Estimates of deaths are still in dispute and vary greatly from a few hundred to over 7000. Younger students today, with no memory of the massacre15, believe that no students were killed. History will tell the real story.
“The Square houses the several great buildings, including Chairman Mao’s Memorial HallV, and Tiananmen where emperors issued decrees and where Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
“The Forbidden City was founded in the 13th century by Kublai Khan. Twenty-four emperors lived in what is now the Palace MuseumVI. Its treasures were taken to Taiwan by the Nationalists, so today it is just a shell, but a perfect example of concentric square city planning. During the Ming dynasty, it was the home of 9000 concubines16 – the Empress chose who was the lucky girl for the night and the length of each visit was limited to 15 minutes! The ladies had to be naked when presented to show that they had no hidden weaponsVII. The Palace is divided into two sections plus the Imperial Garden – the outer section for business; the inner where the emperors lived and where imperial weddings took place. The halls on either side housed the concubines. The red used on the gates and outer walls and the yellow roof tiles could be used only on imperial buildings. The Palace was formerly off limits to commoners17 and foreigners, but is now open to the public.”
“We paid a delightful visit to an expensiveVIII residential school where children learn KongfuIX; then a jade factory followed by another silk factory – the things seemed so cheap and we all needed extra suitcases!”
“The day began with a visit to a cloisonnéX factory. Cloisonné ranks as one of China’s major contributions to the world’s fine arts. After a quick lesson, we were each challenged to decorate our own plate. It was like painting by numbers without the numbers. The winners were awarded our own cloisonnй chop sticks18.
“Then came the grand finale19 — the world famous Great Wall — once meant to keep foreigners out, now attracting them in droves20 and said to be visible from space. Badalin is one of several places affording access to the 4,000 mile long wall. It is a popular restored area where the wall snakes over the mountaintops. It was a steep climb and the weather was cold and raw21. The higher we went, the stronger the winds so I felt proud of making it to the top. The view was marvellous – distant mountains shrouded22 in mist – a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Construction began 2000 years ago when separate walls were linked up. Hundreds of thousands of workers spent ten years building the original wall using rammed23 earth, but it never really functioned as a defence line. Genghis Khan once said, “The strength of a wall depends on the courage of those who defend it” and sentries24 were easily bribed25, so the wall became an elevated highway.
“During the Ming Dynasty, bricks and stone were added to create a double wall – taking another 100 years to complete at great human cost26. Restoration began in the 1950s and today, it is easy to picture all the events it has seen. Along the wall, there are great stone towers two bow shots apart so that the entire wall could be defended by archers. Its winding, undulating27 path was kept away the demons and evil spirits that mythology maintains can travel only in a straight line!
“Following that inspiring visit, it was fitting to stroll28 in a peaceful valley – the Ming emperors’ burial ground29 – through the great marble gateway more than four centuries old and on to the Avenue of the Animals lined with massive stone statues of elephants and other beasts. Nearby are the tombs housing the remains of thirteen emperors and innumerable treasures.”
“Our last day. We visited the local zoo and saw giant panda bearsXI and the red pandas, which are like large racoons30. Thence to the Summer Palace, the prettiest of all the gardens we have visited, formerly a summer retreat for the imperial family and now China’s largest and best preserved royal garden. In 800-years it has been restored twice after being damaged by foreign military forcesXII. This twelve-square mileXIII complex includes pavilions, temples, palaces and halls in a landscape of hills amidst open water. A large lake connects the Summer and Imperial Palaces, facilitating travel for the Emperor and Empress. We finished the day with some more frantic31 shopping at the Silk Market, followed by a lovely farewell dinner and a parting of ways.
“The trip of a lifetime. Memories for the golden years.”
To be concluded...
I In the cashew tree family. II Formerly known as ‘Peking’ in English. III Meaning ‘alleys’. IV US ‘named for’. V Where the body of Mao Tse Tung lies in state. VI It is also known as the Imperial Palace. VII Maybe that was just an excuse! VIII This school costs $2000 per year but some poor but talented students are subsidised by scholarships. IX Kongfu is a series of exercises to strengthen the body and condition the mind. overtime, the exercises have developed into movements of a system of self-defence. A disciple of Kongfu is committed to the cultivation of mind, body and spirit. The primary goal is to be in harmony with the universe. X Cloisonnй is the decorative art of applying enamel of all colours to the surface of a copper or bronze object which is then fired to become a bright and colourful work of art. XI Pandas are not bears, but are members of the racoon family. XII Including the British! XIII 31 square km.
1 sap – сок (растений) 2 oxidise – окисляться 3 jade – нефрит 4 tiered – расположенный ярусами 5 hub – центр (событий) 6 moat – ров (с водой) 7 high rise – высотное здание 8 old-timer – (амер.) пожилой человек 9 lane – узкая улочка, переулок 10 compound – обнесённая забором территория 11 mingle – собираться 12 escalate – обостряться (о конфликте) 13 turmoil – беспорядок 14 outrage – возмущение 15 massacre – резня; бойня 16 concubine – наложница 17 commoner – простой человек; 18 chop sticks – палочки для еды (у китайцев, корейцев и японцев) 19 the grand finale – торжественное завершение 20 drove – толпа 21 raw – промозглый (о погоде) 22 shrouded – скрытый 23 rammed – утрамбованный 24 sentry – часовой 25 bribe – подкупать 26 at great human cost – ценой больших человеческих жертв 27 undulating – волнообразный 28 stroll – гулять 29 burial ground – кладбище 30 racoon – енот 31 frantic – безумный