By Larry and Joan Dolinski
Continued from update #49
The purpose of the wall was to protect China from the Mongol invaders. It apparently succeeded in its mission. Our guide "Bamboo" told us that, on average, 100 workers died per kilometer, during construction. If this be so, the Great Wall must be one of the worlds largest cemeteries. We hiked along one of the strategic sections of the wall at the Juyong Pass...involving a climb of 1891 steps.
Besides the Wall we visited the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven Park, Tiananman Square, The Summer Palace, a Jade factory and a health center where we were given a demonstration and lecture on Chinese (i.e., herbal) medicine.
[Tiananman Square] This is a huge square in the middle of Beijing which is paved with large stones and is the place where Chairman Mao reviewed up to a million people, and where in 1976 another million people jammed the square to pay their respects to him and where in 1989 army tanks and soldiers cut down a pro democracy demonstration.
Surrounding the square is the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the Chinese Revolution History Museum, the Great Hall of the People, the Mao Mausoleum, the Monument to Peoples Heros, etc. It was at the Gate of Heaven that Mao proclaimed the People's Republic on October 1, 1949. A huge portrait of Mao hangs over the gate entrance and is a popular backdrop for photographs.
In addition to our planned schedule, those who wanted to see the sunrise flag raising ceremony and the sarcophagus containing Mao's body had to get up around 4:00 AM. Because of that ungodly hour the two of us declined the opportunity. The half dozen of our group who made the effort were not disappointed. They were impressed with the reverence exhibited by the vast throngs of "pilgrims."
[The Forbidden City] This is actually the Imperial Palace and is the largest and most well preserved cluster of ancient buildings in China. The motion picture "The Last Emperor" was filmed in the Forbidden City. Our tour guide, "Bamboo", told us that his grandmother was a princess in the court of the Last Emperor, but alas turned out poor.
[Health Center] This was our introduction to Chinese (herbal) medicine. This center claims to work hand in hand with traditional medicine and boasts an affiliation with Harvard. Herbal medicine has a 4,000 year history dating back to ancient China. It targets chronic diseases and also focuses on prevention. We were given a presentation and demonstration. The key idea is to balance Ying (left/negative) and Yang (right/positive). The ultimate objective is to get those two in balance. According to the practitioners, properly designated herbs move the system into balance.
Herbal doctors came around and attempted to diagnose us. They break their diagnosis into four parts (observation, listening and smell, inquiry, and feeling the pulse). As one might expect, they then offered to sell us pills to treat whatever condition(s) they found. A few of our group bought "stuff"; we declined even though some of the claims were appealing.
[Summer Palace]This very large complex containing many temples, and located on a man made lake (Kunming Lake) was a royal summer residence. While there, we witnessed a scene very unusual from our western perspective ...more than 500 couples who had just been married that day arrived by the bus load. The tradition calls for them to come to the Summer Palace to begin their honeymoon. All the women wore similar (rental) white gowns and every manner of shoes from tennis sneakers to combat boots. The atmosphere was giddy with joy. Can you believe that a number of couples came to members of our group to ask us to pose with them for pictures to commemorate their celebration?
Continued on Update #51
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