Art, architecture, history, travel

On to Beijing 1979

Saturday

The flight to Beijing from Nanjing took 1 ½ hours. We landed at Peking Capital airport PEK/BJS on CAAC   after lunch; we had a box lunch on the plane. Again this is the old airport of Peking opened in 1959 and not the one opened for the Olympics in 2008. The thing about the planes is they let them sit on the tarmac for hours without turning on the AC until the plane starts moving. They do hand out cute little fans. By the time the flight starts you are boiling. This is the domestic Chinese airline.  (CAAC) It is under the control of the air force.  Air China wasn’t formed until 1988. Climate of Beijing. Beijing has cold winters and winds from the Gobi dessert.  The summer is hot.  A campaign to plant trees to cut down on these winds was begun in the 1970’s.

Once in Beijing 北京 we were taken to the Forbidden City.  one of my top 12 favorite places and the first one for this trip This time we have two female guides. They are cute but immature. They are giggling all of the time. They seem to like David. The Forbidden City was beautiful—even more impressive than the Topkapi palace in Istanbul. Beijing replaced Istanbul as the world’s largest city at the beginning of the 18th century (~1710) I would also compare it to the Kremlin as an ultimate seat of political power. The best piece of artwork was the Lapidarian commissioned by the Empress. It is a sculpture in many semi precious stones. The jade carvings of the Southern Mountains and Eastern Sea were also superb. The entrance to the forbidden city is though the meridian gate. This is one of the top ten things I’ve been to in my life. We also got our chops or Chinese seal today. We also saw Tiananmen Square and all the monuments including Mao’s mausoleum and the Great

Symmetrical Out line of the Forbidden City

Pat Nixon visits China 1972

Hall of the People (and interesting building built-in 1959). After leaving the Forbidden City we went to our hotel which is very far outside of the city. Tiananmen Incident triggered by the death of Premier Zhou Enlai. People protested when a memorial to the beloved Premier was removed. Not the same as the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989.

At dinner we met some Japanese. They shared their whiskey and Saki with us and later we had a party with them. Today was a very exciting day.

Sunday Peking

Another exciting day. We saw the Great Wall in the morning. We went by train from the main station.  It is huge and very crowded.  I have never seen so many people.  Unlike the Airports which are virtually empty. The special tourist train took a long time to get out to Bataling.  The great wall was simply fabulous. We walked up the steep side and go the view. Ate lunch on the train saw one of the Ming tombs of Changling.  (Shisanling to the NW) Ming tombs in the afternoon and went to the Central Philharmonic after dinner. After dinner we went to the Philharmonic. They played Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. It was very good.

The Peking dialect or Putonghua is the official language of the PRC. Excitement is building after the introduction of Pinyin or Romanization of the Chinese script after 2500 years. You can bet there is lots of resistance on this. Two books The five Chinese brothers and School in the sky sparked my interest in China when I was 9 years old. At that time, I never I would get to visit China some day. We cooked this whole trip up at the Maifest in Hermann, MO.  David found a travel agent named Beth at Thomas cook in Clayton while looking for a parking place. He went in and asked do you have any trips to Red China and she said yeas we do. It took a lot of discussion and planning to agree on a five-week itinerary. We initially we going to fly to Manila but that had to drop out. We came up with a complicated ticket plan which allowed us to fly only so many thousands of miles, including Hawaii on the way back and open jaw in Japan. Similar to a continent pass. Frequent flier miles unfortunately hadn’t been thought of yet. I think the ticket was $1800 to 2500.  We flew out from the old south terminal in SFO on Pan Am 005 to Hong Kong.

This flight often continued on to Bangkok or Singapore. Pan Am 001/002(Pan-American World Airways) were the first commercial transpacific flights starting in 1934 with a stop in Honolulu and Guam. Also stopping to refuel in Midway, Wake island and Manila.

Roof tiles Forbidden city

Last year was the year of the Peking Spring.

Monday Peking

This morning we went to the Arts and Crafts factory. It was interesting. We saw the workers carving jade figurines with electric drills. Others were carving ivory, painting snuff bottles and making cloisonné. At the end there was a gift shop which most of us avoided. Afterwards we went to the summer palace, which was used by the Ching emperors. It was situated on a manmade lake. There are many Chinese style buildings as well as a temple a top a manmade hill. Most of the group skipped the boat ride—something we all thought we could do at home.

After lunch we had a free afternoon. Jim and I set out together. First we went to democracy wall to watch the Chinese reading the big character posters. Then we walked back to Tiananmen Square. There were many soldiers and police around as the National People’s Consultative Congress (CPPCC) The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference http://www.china.org.cn/english/archiveen/27750.htm
全国政, 全國政協, Quánguó Zhèngxié)was in session. Also the National People’s Congress (NPC). There were also many cars and busses in the square especially limousines. National People’s Congress (simplified Chinese: 全国人民代表大会; traditional Chinese: 全國人民代表大會; pinyin: Quánguó Rénmín Dàibiǎo Dàhuì; literally “National People’s Representatives Congress”), abbreviated NPC (Chinese: 人大; pinyin: Rén-Dà). This body meets in the Great Hall of the People and the western side of Tiananmen Square. Built in 1959 it is home to one of the largest legislative bodies in the world. Rénmín Dàhuìtáng Seating over 10,000 (9700) members at one time. Richard Nixon dinned there with over 5,000 people during his historic visit to China in 1972. It is a really big building. The National Museum of China is on the Eastern end it was close for “repairs” another big disappointment. Museum of the Chinese Revolution and the National Museum of Chinese History reopened 2003. Many objects of Arts and crafts and other things were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Books and records were burned. Intellectuals were beaten and sent to the countryside to perform manual labor.

Chinese Art date accessed 1/25/09

After walking around the square and photographing the gate of heavenly peace, National Hall of the People, National History museum, Hero’s Monument, Qianmen Gate, and Mao’s mausoleum we rode on the subway. It was very clean and efficient but lacked the grandeur of the Soviet subways. We rode out to the telecommunications building by ourselves then back as far as the train station, the end stop. A drunk on the train made some threatening gesture, but we ignored him. The other people on the train were quick to shut him up. It’s the first time we have felt threatened in China. The subway in Beijing is brand new and there are twelve stops in all.(begun in 1965 opened to the public 1977) Many parts of Beijing were torn down for its construction including the old city walls. From the train station we walked back to the Peking Hotel the to the international bookstore where we bought some books by Mao Tse Tung, Lenin and Lu Hsun as well as a picture book about China itself. I think Jim and I decided to split the cost about $20.00 that was a big expenditure for us in those days. We walked through the hutongs of old Peking. Beijing metro date accessed 1/29/2009

After all the shopping we were picked up and taken to the Qianmen restaurant for Peking duck. It was good. The duck is served in a meal of about ten courses some of which include the feet, liver and head. Nothing is wasted. The feet are sort of rubber crunchy. I wasn’t sure what to do about the head. The duck is rolled into crape like things with brown sauce and then eaten. Duck is one of my all time favorite meals.

Tuesday Beijing/Kwangzhou

Here is a modern guide to Beijing this was nothing like the Beijing we saw.

Beijing Guide Overview

Beijing Destination Guide

Beijing is still looked over by the famous portrait of Mao Zedong, as though he’s guarding communist austerity and discipline. But the Beijing he stares out upon is hardly the city he left behind.

Change is everywhere—in the clothes (you could wear them to the office in any cosmopolitan city); in the increasingly paralyzing traffic (more and more foreign- and Chinese-made automobiles jam the streets); in the electronics (mobile phones, mobile phones, mobile phones); and in the construction (high-rises, high-rises, high-rises). If you scrub off the Gobi Desert dust, which is glued to everything with diesel exhaust, you’ll find Beijing’s true patina—a mixture of old and new. It may surprise you that you can still catch the glimmer of an ancient, lacquered temple or a traditional jadeite bracelet contrasted with the machine-made gleam of chrome and glass.

No doubt it’s a calculated gleam. The Chinese government wants Beijing to be recognized as a modern world capital—modern enough for foreign investment, modern enough to host the 2008 Summer Olympics. Beijing is a huge, burgeoning metropolis, with bulldozers carving the way to its future.

Our last day in Beijing. This morning we went back to Tiananmen Square with the group to see Mao’s tomb and body. It was raining; fortunately we didn’t have to wait outside too long. Next we went to the Temple of Heaven which is really a compound of several building, temples and alters all used by the emperors at assure a good harvest. Our next stop was the friendship store where we finally got ours Mao badges-I also bought a cashmere sweater. It was not very expensive. It’s blue and is a cardigan.

After eating lunch in a small but good restaurant in which they tried to sell us the glasses we went to the airport for the flight back to Kwangzhou. Beijing is more commercial than the rest of china. We are still enjoying those big beers.

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