Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 15 - Beijing/Home

Well, it’s been a fun trip, but we’re going home today.  Since our flight doesn’t leave until this evening, there are still more sights we can go see or things to do: Tian’An Men Square, Forbidden Palace, Wu Dan Historical District (Old Beijing), and shopping.

The day began at Tian An Men Square. We were warned not to talk about anything political or that would be considered bad by the government. They have plain clothes cops wandering about who can read lips. Whether or not they can read English speakers, I have no idea, so why take the risk. 
The Square is immense and there is security that you have to go through. They basically just check your bags, if you have any. In the square is the Mao Ze Dong Memorial Hall. There is a three-hour wait to get in and see Mao in a crystal coffin. I never thought they would subscribe to worshiping a leader since the Communist or Socialist Philosophy is about the people, not the leaders. What was neat was seeing the People’s Memorial. It is a obelisk in the center of the square that has various reliefs inscribed at the base.  The reliefs show the historic events and uprisings throughout China’s history. Unfortunately, they don’t let you get close enough to really see them.
After Tian An Men, we walked to the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was impressive in its scale. The courtyards were made purely from stone bricks and it is 13 bricks deep. Apparently, the emperor was afraid of someone digging a tunnel to get in and assassinate him.  The number of buildings in the complex was amazing and it is easy to see how someone could get lost in there. The buildings started in the front as government buildings and as you made it toward the back of the complex it gradually became living quarters. Behind the living quarters were the gardens. Unfortunately, because of the lack of time at this point, we did not get a chance to really go through the gardens or explore.

After the Forbidden City, we went to Wu Dan (old Beijing) and took rickshaws to have lunch at a local family’s house for some authentic local cuisine.  The food was cooked for us by a woman who was 75 years old, but didn't look a day over 50.  She told us that this is how she made her living and throughout her career had hosted people from over 150 countries.

After lunch we did some last minute shopping and then went to the airport.
Overall, we had a good trip. I will definitely come back at some point in the future.

Day 14 - Beijing

We’re going to the Great Wall! We’re going to the Great Wall!  Yes, I’m excited.  But first things first. We are going to see the panda. Awesome creatures. Here’s a joke: What are a panda bears two wishes?  Give up?  1. To get some sleep so they can get rid of the rings around their eyes. 2. To take a color picture. Haha. Lame, I know, but cute. The panda is an extraordinary creature. They only live in isolated places in China, and that’s it. The U.S. received it’s first pandas, as a gift, from the Qing Dynasty in the early 1900s, but couldn’t take care of them, and they died. Sad. But now we lease them from the Chinese government. And….the babies are owned by the Chinese too. Yep, that’s right. Panda bears cannot have any anchor babies.

Next stop, Ming Tombs

The Ming Tombs are located outside of Beijing.  It was the third Ming Emperor who created them, and it was from there that they began. The first Ming Emperor had established a tomb in Nanjing (southern capital), and the second Emperor is missing. The reason for this is this: Traditionally, the first son of the emperor ascends the throne when the father passes away. However, at this point, the eldest son had already died, when the first emperor died. There were still 3 other sons, but because of the tradition, the throne fell to the eldest son of the eldest son. Subsequently, the kid went missing.  When the youngest son of the first emperor ascended the throne, none of the officials would recognize his position, and he had to move the capital to Beijing, with new officials and council.

When he was in Beijing, he began construction of the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, and the Ming Tombs up in the hills. Since then, there is an elaborate network of tombs up in the hills about 1 hour away (driving).  During the third emperor’s reign, he not only began construction of numerous buildings, but had also sent out the famous Eunuch Captain Zheng He. In the tombs, there have been drawings of maps of the travels of Zheng He. The whole tomb was a very interesting historical perspective of the way the dynasty tried to help their kingdoms prosper.

Last stop: Great Wall!!!!
A structure that has been around for nearly 2,000 years and can be seen from space, it was not completed, actually, until the 1300’s.   The Chinese name for it is Chang Cheng, or long City. It was originally built as a fortification against the Hun or Mongol invasions.  At some points it is wide enough for a horse to walk, and at others not so much. The part of the wall we went to was not wide enough for a horse to walk up and down on. Especially with the steps, it would have been very treacherous for the horse.  The top was 888 meters high.  You are not able to hike at all locations on the wall, since some of it has eroded away and has become fairly unstable, but our location, we could. 19 of us made it to the top. I’ll let the videos speak for themselves.

Day 13 - Beijing

Today was factory day. We went to Jiya (langfang) Electronic Co. Ltd. They are manufacturer of monochromatic LCD displays. The company specializes in only monochromatic and after some explanation, I realized that there really is a strong market for things like this. They make displays for things such as Motorola products, timex watches, and other products where there is no need for color displays.
I never knew the complexity of the process to make LCD displays. Even monochromatic requires a fairly sterile or dust free environment. It makes sense now, but I would never have thought it. All the workers wear white lab suits, including hair covering and a face mask.  All the work is painstakingly done unit-by-unit. There was no mass production assembly line that we saw, but there were a lot of workers checking every item. Inspecting it front and back, forwards and backwards to make sure everything matches perfectly. During lunch, the business owners and the professors went into a special room, where they drank and drank. Another example of how “honoring” specific people and drinking with them is conducive to a negotiation. You really have to know how to drink around here.
Afterwards, we went to the Temple of Heaven. This temple was built nearly 600 years ago in 1420, during the Qing Dynasty. It was a temple to worship the jade gods. The ruler would come here during special times of the year, such as the equinoxes or solstices and would conduct a report to the jade god. There was one area that was merely a circle.  In the middle of the circle was a small rock on which you could stand. If you stood on the center of that spot, you could hear your voice rebounding off the railings because the rock is so hard.  This is what gave the emperor the impression that he was able to communicate with the gods.

Today was mostly a commuting day, so that’s about it