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Monday, August 08, 2011

Beijing - a contradiction at every turn

Temple of Heaven
Olympic stadium
Gardens along every road are well maintained, beautiful and used by the Beijingers
The older buildings are rapidly being replaced by high rise modern buildings
Di TAn Park - playing cards
Dancing in the streets Beijing style. Very nice way to spend an evening with the gals
I know I have been around for awhile now, but I had never in all my years considered using a chair in this fashion. Silly me !! I thought the legs went vertical to the seat ?
Turn a corner and another intriguing vista . . . though Brianna is quick to point out that we are in an area of some affluence . . .which is different to the ones with more effluence!!!!
On this outing I stumbled across Beijing’s most spectacular temple complex, The Lama Temple. This has 5 main halls flanked by numerous smaller very ornate buildings that were constructed during the 17th Century and converted into a Tibetan Lamasery in 1744. The highlight is the 55ft statue of Mailtreya, the future Buddha. The idea that impressed me is the fact that this 17m high structure (with another 6m underground) was carved from one single sandalwood tree. The tree was a gift from the Tibetan people to the Emperor and took 3 years for numerous Imperial carvers to sculpt the single gold covered statue. I can’t help but wonder if trees of such magnificent height and girth even exist today.
Bri is back and we intend on doing some more girl things . . . .guess!!!!!

Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China is one of the world’s largest cities with a population of over 14 million. It is a microcosm of modern China and all its contradictions. A bustling city of affluent shoppers, trendy youth, and beggars that rub along with a myriad of outlets with diverse cuisine, 6 million bicycles and 20 thousand new cars ( that win their place on the clogged roads through a national lottery with over 100,000 entries each month)

Expanding in concentric rings from the Forbidden City at its core, the grid-like layout of modern Beijing still echoes its Ming dynasty blueprint. Old Beijing survives in its temples, palaces and old alleyways ( hutongs) that crisscross the city outside the second ring road, which itself charts the loop of the demolished City Wall. Within this ancient outline are towering skyscrapers, shopping malls, huge avenues, vaulting flyovers, ancient structures of cultural significance and the vast expanse of Tian’anMen Square.

While Bri was away I took a taxi to Di Tan Park, an ideal place to relax amidst the trees where the city does not appear to intrude. This was the venue for Imperial sacrifices, with an Alter dating from the Ming Dynasty. Wandering around watching people play cards in the ancient renovated structures, walk their babies in modern strollers, play musical instruments or dance is a great way to spend a hot Beijing day. I was still there at dusk to see the modern young couples stroll hand in hand or sit smooching. . . I could not help but wonder if the Ming imperial worshippers ever imagined such a use of their Fangze Tan (temple of earth alter)

I spent another day wandering around the Hutongs of Dongcheng. Many of the shops were under construction but I found some interesting enough to spend time rummaging.When I encounter these chaotic collections I feel avidity or greed or liberated excitement. It is hard to explain what it is like to have something so alien in your hands for the first time, to pick up a snuff bottle, a lacquered box or a exquisite cup - or a netsuke - in a material that you have never encountered before and shift it around, finding its weight and balance, rubbing a finger along the raised decoration of a stork in flight through clouds? There are objects that can only be described as 'play things', small carvings of animals that roll in your hand- 'plus gras, plussimple, plus caresse' . . . . .very rich, very simple, very tactile. . . . . . Seductive Things