July 19, 2012
We arrive in a very crowded Wuhan City, population 10 million with another 6 million surrounding the city. It has temperature extremes with hot tropical summers and snow in the winters. It is considered one of the furnace cities of China. Vicki has a friend here who owns a Citron. He works for the factory, he has company housing and can park his car on the roof of the plant. Here we see American brands everywhere, McDonalds, Michelin, Milky Way, KFC. People love KFC, Vicki tells us. Merchants here do knockoff designs, very smart Gucci bags, Rolex watches and other designer goods. If caught, they pay heavy fines. We pull into our Shangri La Hotel and police stop our bus. It seems Jacque Chirac, the President of France is in town and we had to by-pass the hotel and have the porters come to the bus. Secret Service all over the place escorted us up the sidewalk to a freight elevator, then to another elevator into the hotel. We could not take pictures and were asked to leave our cameras in our rooms. We had a great dinner and got to taste dishes typical of the area, a huge sea bass, some special potatoes in broth, a sticky rice with pork and eggplant, a marvelous juicy dumpling with tasty meat and vegetables inside. Cuisine from this area is considered one of the major cuisines of the world. We could see why. Everything was delicious.
The next day, on our way to the Wuhan Provincial Museum, we see a bride and groom in a bright red Volkswagen. People marry on even days. They pick a lucky day and a lucky time.
The revelers followed in a decorated open truck. Weddings have become westernized. The man proposes and puts a ring on during the wedding ceremony. The bride will wear a western type wedding dress and a cocktail dress for the reception. Old Chinese women wear rings but they have nothing to do with their marital status. Chinese joke: The groom used to jump over a broom. Now they say, we love each other but we haven’t swept together yet. Ha, Ha!
Vicki tells us that in the 1970′s a person wanted his own watch, his own bike and a sewing machine. A man had to earn 50 yuan a month before he could get married in Mau’s planned society. People needed a coupon for oil, pork, or cloth and most fairly basic commodities.
People in the 1980′s wanted TV’s, refrigerators and washing machines.
People in the 1990′s wanted a private telephone, a CB or Ham radio and they got mortgages starting in 1998.
Now people want cell phones, cars, houses and computers. The government controls TV and the internet. But, after the technician installs it, you hire another guy to unblock it. There are 10 provincial channels, 40 others from the government. Foreign TV is not allowed but you can pirate it easily, Vicky tells us. They will crack down and block the internet in the future, she predicts. It is just too much freedom and will give people corrupt ideas.
We arrive at the Provincial Museum. As always, everything is ornately decorated, though this 350,000 year old city, was bombed, and flooded and destroyed over many years of conflict including Japanese and revolutionary warfare of Sun Yat Sen. In 1911, the uprising led to the fall of the Quing Dynasty and the emergence of the modern Republic of China, right here in Wuhan City.
The area is noted for its intellectuals; poets, writers, and artists. They specialize in bronze and gold, interesting garden design, bridges and buildings, very contemporary. Our city guide, Harry, teaches us the word for cold beer, bing peejo. We would like to have a good beer here. It hasn’t happened yet. Mostly a weak rice beer that is wet. Ditto the wine.
The centerpiece of this museum is an ancient tomb unearthed in 1978.
The huge timbers covering it since 430 B.C. are incredibly intact. Inside was the remains of the Marquis Teng and 13 of his concubines. There were thousands of artifacts, much of them musical, zithers, flutes, drums, whistles. Bells that could produce two separate tones. Ancient musical scripts that are still used today.
The bronze work was extraordinary, very ornate and beautiful. Everything here is under glass and almost impossible to photograph with my meager skills and first digital point and shoot.
This is how the aristocracy served wine. From a vessel with dual handled dippers.
The dippers were made of bronze and gold.
Much talented ancient Chinese craftsmen made these intricate carved legs and decorations in bronze. This vessel has an inner bowl so that ice or hot water could surround the food to keep it warm or cool on the serving table. And we thought that was a fairly modern idea.
The ancients had developed a special lacquer ware then as well.
On this sophisticated triple bell, musicians can play Ode to Joy, by Beethoven and Adelweiss. Harry, our city guide, sings Adelweiss for us in a very silvery voice to demonstrate the versatility of this amazing bell.
I found it interesting that this ancient bell looks like those of later centuries. The pattern carried through many generations. Later in the evening, we attend a concert on a replica set of bells as those found in the tomb.
During the concert, the musicians played typical Chinese music, but also demonstrated classical music from Irving Berlin and other composers. What a trip to see another what is considered “8th Wonder of the World” this magnificent bell.
There is also a legend that got started about the tomb, Harry tells us. It was opened in the dead of winter with snow on the ground, and somehow the story got started that a couple of butterflies hatched and flew from the tomb when it warmed up.
From Vicki we got a list of movies about China considered very good. Balzar, The Little Chinese Seamstress, Raise the Red Lantern, Mostly Martha, Zellany. Also the book River Town. I thought Keys To The Kingdom was a fascinating look at China through the eyes of a priest. Also made into a movie.
Tomorrow, another UNESCO city.