The First Stop
03.09.2010 - 04.09.2010 28 °C
Now that we have had the chance to catch our breath and collect our thoughts let me step back a little to help you understand our journey. We are on an adoption trip under the management of Chinese Children Adoption International (CCAI). Our sightseeing is both secondary to the adoption process and intended to help us better understand the culture of the adopted child (grandchild in our case). The overall adoption trip is divided into three parts. First, our visit to Beijing that provides the cultural background and a chance to get acclimated to China. Second, our stay in Zhengzhou where we will actually meet Levi and complete the Chinese part of the adoption process. Finally, a stop in Guangzhou to process the US adoption paperwork.
We have just completed our stay in Beijing and have moved on to Zhengzhou. While in Beijing we looked at an interesting slice of Chinese culture. We started our first day a rickshaw ride through a typical Hutong district. Hutong means “small streets” and describes an area similar to much of old Europe. The area has small winding streets with small homes and shops. We stopped at a classic middle level home that featured an open courtyard surrounded by living quarters on the west, north and east. The family head lived in the main northern section. The southeast corner had the common kitchen while the common privy was in the southwest corner. The section was just off the center of Beijing near the second ring road.
From there we went to a silk factory. They demonstrated the process of growing the silk worms that produce the cocoons that yield the silk thread that is woven into silk garments. Cocoons that are formed by two silk worms produce a silk mesh that becomes silk comforters and similar silk insulated products.From there we went to lunch at a Thai restaurant that featured live dancers on stage.
That afternoon we stopped at a jade factory. They demonstrated the process of turning raw jade into carved works and jewelry. My wife accomplished one of her goals and bought jade ear rings.
We toured two of the more well-known landmarks of Beijing. We began with a walk through of Tiananmen Square. This is the largest public square in the world and will hold 1 million people. The Square, which is really quite modern, is bounded on the south by the Zhenjiang Gate and on the North by the Forbidden City. On the west side of the square is the Great Hall of the People and on the East by the Chinese Nation Museum. We were not able to tour the buildings in the short time available to us. The Forbidden City with its 9,999.5 rooms, was the official residence of the Emperor. I It was built with two purposes. The first is security. The Forbidden City has high and thick walls and concentric layers with the Palace of Supreme Harmony at the center. The Emperor was well protected or well imprisoned as in the last years of the empire. The second purpose was to impress the population for the Forbidden City was truly impressive. It actually looks like it is described in many Chinese movies but is even more impressive. The rare outsider that was allowed into the Forbidden City would have been truly intimidated. We spent about three hours walking through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City which should help you to appreciate their size.
The next day we went to visit the Great Wall. Pictures do not really do the wall justice. Built high in the mountains the Wall follows the terrain and is just as steep as the hills themselves. Climbing the Wall is a real physical challenge. First, there is the sheer number of steps from one guard post to another. Second, the steps were steep along section we climbed. Finally, the risers on the steps were very uneven. In a few places the risers were only two or three inches. In many places the risers were 12 inches or more and in some places were higher than I could step without the use of the modern hand rail. I reached the top of the section we were climbing but that was about as far as I could physically go. Fortunately the return trip to the bottom was much easier.
After lunch we went to a theatre that featured Chinese acrobatics. They were quite good and I hope the pictures will give you an idea of their skills.
Before I forget, our hosts in Beijing were George and Devan from CCAI.