Well, we were certainly fortunate to have three of the only ten days in Beijing that there is an actual blue sky. We cannot believe our good fortune because we were all very concerned about the pollution here. We leave tomorrow for Guilin where it is supposed to be drizzling. We cannot complain however because Beijing has been so kind to us. I would rather be rained on than ‘pollutioned’ on. Is that a word??
Today we visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Before we left the bus, Huang told us to not ask him any sensitive questions while we were in the square. We didn’t want Huang to ‘disappear’ so we didn’t. He told us he would answer all of our questions on the bus. There were probably 100,000 people in queue to pay respects to Chairman Mao. The people cannot bring bags or cameras into the mausoleum, so they hire someone to watch their stuff while they go inside. It must take hours to finally get inside and once inside you cannot stop, you must keep walking. No, we did not go inside but did take photos on the street under the picture of Mao. Why we did that, not sure, but it seemed the thing to do at the time.
The Square is 100 acres, which makes it the world’s largest public square and was initially the “front door” of the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is the world’s largest palace with 9,999 rooms. It was completed in 1420 and was the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing Dynasties where outside visitors were forbidden for five centuries. No, we did not go into all 9,999 rooms mostly because there was very little in any of them. When you are Emperor, it is a good life but you always have to be watching over your shoulder, so better to have very few items for anyone to hide behind.
In the afternoon, we went to the Summer Palace, once the summer retreat and playground for the imperial family. It was especially loved by the Dragon Lady as she was quite the outdoorsman. Her palace overlooks 700 acres, three lakes with islands and bridges connecting it all, not to mention the beautiful gardens. The Dragon Lady is not well loved in China today. The last empress of China--Dowager Empress Tzu is remembered as one of history's monsters, an iron-willed concubine who, after usurping power in 1861, ruled from the Dragon Throne for half a century. Her reign was one of murder, poison, and intrigue.
Last night we went to the Peking Opera. The word “opera” is definitely a misnomer. One can’t describe it, so I won’t bother, but will probably never do it again. On the way to the opera we learned some more interesting facts about Beijing. During the Olympics, Beijing wanted to put on their best face, so moved hundreds of people “far” out of the city, as the guide put it, tore down their houses, and built modern buildings. Complete with undercover security to keep any undesirable types out. People live in really run down houses behind the street shops and all use a common court yard to cook. Bathrooms are mostly where ever you need to go etc. So the government just moved them. There are also some new apartments/condos surrounded by cameras and large security fences and gates. Not far from our hotel area, we did see many of these court yard people as they are called and many of them sleeping on the street. China is certainly country of great dichotomy.
As we ready to leave for the airport, we can see the pollution coming inward. You can no longer see the mountains so time to go.
As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.Buddha
Confucius say – With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my bended arm for a pillow – I have still joy in the midst of these things. Riches and honors acquired by unrighteousness are to me as a floating cloud.
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Tom & Holly