July 29th, 2008

birds nest

July 29, 2008 - Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace

Originally published at Andy Does Beijing. You can comment here or there.

This CD was made by Eric

Practicing tai chi in the park Eric, our tour guide, made a mix CD for us to listen to on ths bus. It was a selection of his favorite songs:

  • Hey Juliette
  • Queen - We are the Champions
  • Eric Johnson
  • The Carpenters - On Top of the World with You (the Great Wall song)
  • John Lennon - Let it Be
  • Backstret Boys - As Long as You Love Me
  • The Beatles - Hey Jude
  • A-Kon - Nobody Wants to See us Together
  • Britney Spears - Stronger
  • Chinese classical tune
  • The Beatles - Penny Lane
  • Ozzy Osbourne (?) - Crazy Train
  • Bon Jovi - It’s My Life

By the time we got to the Temple of Heaven, we hit every song on the CD. Whee! Dr. Goodwin had to ask what most of the songs were. Jeanne, his wife, filled us in on the Carpenters.

Many group choirs were singing in the park
The Temple of Heaven used to be that — an imperial religious area. The awesomely ginorgamous buildings are still there, like the Harvest Prayer Temple (a quite large pagoda, mounted upon several concentric rings); also, the Imperial something Chamber, built within the Echo Wall (a very large circle, quite acoustically reflective == you talk on one side and you can hear it around the other).

The park was full of older people, thanks to two reasons: Chinese custom of retiring at 55 to allow new members of the population into the workforce, foremost, and secondly, that the park was free to enter for retirees. They joined in many leisure activities, such as tai chi / shadow boxing, group chorus (many of them!), hackey sack (with a groovy hackey sack built out of one soft disk and several jangly disks; also, a variety of colorful feathers — it was like a flamboyant shuttlecock), and this cool game with keeping a ball on a a medium-size racket. Lots of fun group leisure activities.

Harvest Prayer Temple; a.k.a., my roommatea
We’ve noticed something curious about the architecture in all these tourist traps ancient Chinese cultural sites: they all look the same share a similar architectural and artistic style. There’s lots of blue fields with red, green, and white detailing, all with fancy motifs, distinctly Chinese. Lots of dragons an’ all.

We missed the weather forecast today, which was for a thunderstorm and rain. It caught up to us when we were inside the Echo Wall. The thunder would go BOOM to the east and then it would hit the echo wall and then you’d hear it from the north and the west and the south. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOM. Eep! Then, it started to pour. Lots and lots of water. Oh, man. Some of us just kept playing hackey sack =D

Do you love this song? I love this song.

Lunch was nearly American today! It was at a buffet place, and the whole counter area looked like an Italian cafe. Most of the serving stuff looked like an Italian cafe’s, too. The food offerings included several nearly-American foods, such as pizza (fried), potatoes, and assorted cooked vegetables. The meat was still stereotypically Chinese, though, with bones an’ all.

After lunch, we walked around the corner to a pearl store. Before we shopped, Yoyo, a Korean girl who spoke excellent English and worked at the store, presented us with plenty of information about pearl production — and an oyster! She popped it open and showed us all the pearls it had made. Salt-water oysters produce only one pearl, but fresh-water oysters can produce twenty to forty pearls! Thus, they are much less expensive. Yoyo was pretty sassy; she asked us if anyone knew Chinese (aka me). She asked me if I were Chinese. “Um … ????” Matt asked her if she were Chinese. “What do you think? No. I’m Korean.” Sorry, lady, we’re American! She also told us that “we take these pearls, crush them up, and make pearl cream to put on your face to make you look younger. I’m 30, but I look 21!” Hmm…

All the other girls in the store spoke pretty good English. They gave us a 30% discount because we were a big group of students (except on sale items). Then, they tried to sell us $500 rings! We all flocked to the 100-kuai ring and bracelet section — buy three, get one free! (Asian Lauren and I thought that we could only get that discount if we bought it all ourselves, so I bought her pendants as her “boyfriend.” This is not twenty minutes after one of the sales girls asked Laura and me if we were dating.)

I love you as long as you love me.

Inside a temple at the Summer Palace
The Summer Palace was around the corner from the restaurant. We turned the corner, walked through a gate, and there was a beautiful park before us! The Summer Palace is a variety of structures built upon a lake. Among these structures are a marble boat, for the empress to look out upon the lake; and the Temple of the Buddha of a Thousand Hands, which was way up ‘pon the hill. The Buddha didn’t have a thousand hands — it was more like thirty — but it did have four heads, with three faces each. No photos, please, Buddha is sensitive about his hands.

Overlooking the lake of the Summer Palace; also, some temples Behind Buddha’s temple is a great little area full of big boulders to climb around on. I climbed all the way up the hill to it, and then around it to the boulder area. As soon as I walked in, I noticed it felt like chill hang-outs. So, I sat down on a boulder and worked for an hour on macramé. I’ve been making friendship bracelets for everyone on the trip, all sorts of different patterns, and this one was a thin chevron box, so it was taking a while. (Instead of a regular flat bracelet with a chevron design, which goes by moderately quickly, the box has four sides, so I have to do all of them at once. Kinda adds on to the production time.) There I stayed till I heard American voices, instead of a multitude of Chinese and the occasional European; and, lo and behold, ’twas my friends! Liz, (blonde) Rachael, coupla other girls, and Tiffany Scott (our Olympian ice skater slash trip TA) had come up, too, so I joined their party and meandered about till it was time to go home.

Back at the Ranch

Dinner at home was pretty standard, followed by free time to hang out, play games out in the front courtyard, write journal entries, play chess or Uno, etc. Good Times, Good Times. A nice end to a full day.