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by Nathaniel Philbrick

"The Jewel in the Crown"
by Paul Scott

"The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Reformation & Protestantism"
by James S. Bell Jr. and Tracy Macon Sumner

July 24, 2010

Seven six-layer days
Day Three

We started our day with the huge breakfast spread. There is breakfast for every taste and one can request special eggs, etc. It easily holds us until lunch. Brian collected us and we began our third day in Beijing. Brian has encyclopedic of knowledge and information. He also wants us to know things so there is often a quiz about information he has given us previously. Our first stop today was the Temple of Heaven. This was the temple where the emperors came to pray to heaven for good harvests. I am always so grateful for the fact that I am a Christian and that I do not need to pray in a specific place or have to placate an angry god. The temple was built in 1420. It is hard for us Americans, whose history is relatively short, to even imagine how sophisticated and advanced the Chinese were. The Temple of Heaven was entered into the world cultural heritage list in 1998.

Temple of Heaven – China 2010

From that stop we went to the Pearl Factory. As with any tour, we are ferried around to various places that want to sell us goods and souvenirs. Some of the group bought pearl earrings or other things. I am resisting all temptations thus far.

For lunch we went to the old part of Beijing called the “Hutong”. First we piled into rickshaws and were pulled around a few blocks. Our rickshaw puller was a very wiry middle aged man. I felt embarrassed by the fact that we were being pulled around by a man as an interesting cultural experience. We paid him, of course, but only a couple of dollars. Our rickshaws weren’t as fancy as this picture and the area wasn’t as picturesque either.

Rickshaws – China 2010

We were besieged by vendors who wanted to sell us a number of items. Brian said they were called Mosquitoes because they were so annoying. When we pulled away in rickshaws, the vendors hopped on bicycles and kept up with the rickshaw pullers, still hawking their wares. We stopped at a very simple home and had lunch there. It was very good and it was interesting to see what a home was like in the middle of this area that was being kept as a cultural site. The home was two small rooms with a lean-to kitchen. The food was hearty and filling.

Hutong – China 2010

Following the meal, a man came in, set up a table and showed us pictures of himself winning prizes for his fighting crickets. He showed us crickets and grasshoppers. The man was so animated and excited that it was a show in itself to watch him. Following lunch we walked to the bus and from there we went to tour the Summer Garden of the Dragon Lady. The Dragon Lady was the title applied to Empress Dowager Cixi, who was the power behind the throne for both her son and her nephew. She became a concubine in her adolescence and climbed the ranks of the harem and had a son who became the emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in 1861, as a young child. She was also the regent for her nephew who was installed as emperor in 1875. She died in 1908. The garden was lovely, although she came in the summer, not the winter. We even had a few snow flurries. During this part of the tour, my camera informed me that its battery was exhausted! I am beginning to feel that too. I asked Doris to take pictures for both of us. I bought some post cards and here is a picture of the Empress. Note the long fingernails. It shows that she doesn’t work or even dress herself.

Dowager Empress Cixi – China 2010

There were many impressive sights in the garden in spite of the cold, such as the The Long Corridor. It is over 700 meters long winding along the Kunming Lake. It is a shady walkway to protect the Empress from sun and rain. Along the corridor, there are four pavilions representing the scenes of spring, summer, autumn and winter. There are beautiful paintings on the underside of the roof. Support posts are brightly painted with traditional Chinese colors of red and green. The Long Corridor ends at the lake, where you can explore the amazing Marble or Stone Boat. It is a solid marble palace built in the shape of a two-story paddle steamer. The empress liked to have tea here and admire her gardens.

Stone Boat – China 2010

There was also the Seventeen Arch Bridge that ends in an island as well as Longevity Hill, from the top of which you can see Beijing spread out below. We didn’t see all of these things because we were too cold to walk all that way.

Seventeen Arch Bridge – China 2010

We probably felt as though we needed it when our next stop was a Chinese medicine/pharmacy place. They diagnosed us by feeling of our pulses. Apparently we all have a problem with our kidneys and need Chinese medicine. Those who wanted to, were treated to a neck and shoulder massage. I passed. When they came to talk to me, they asked how old I was and if I had any illness. I said “no” except for high blood pressure and they didn’t advise me to get any medicine or anything, for which I was thankful.

We went to a dumpling place for dinner. We had many different kinds of filled dumplings plus other things but none of us could remember what they said the dumplings were filled with. So every helping was a surprise. We were brought home and will leave the hotel at 5:30 sharp to catch our flights to either Singapore or Xi'an. We will miss our guide, Brian. He is outstanding.

And it was morning and it was evening the third day

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