Posts Tagged With: china


The Summer Palace sits majestically over a lake. It is still used by the Empress Dowager and we didn’t go into the buildings but it was the favorite place of  Empress Cixi Putz, pronounced sissy-putz, who died in the late 1800’s.

We were ferried over the man-made lake by dragon boat to a landing where we waited in line to cross the seventeen arches bridge.

I am guessing that later construction in China did not obey the multiples of nine as in older buildings. The Summer Palace,  while still used officially, is a huge tourist attraction with boat rides of all types on the lake, beautiful gardens and in short, a lovely way to spend a day and picnic.

You enter through this beautiful gate.

As always, I had to take a picture of the ornate roof of the gate.

Our group stopped for a picture in front of this beautiful gate. The site is now designated a UNESCO site for its unique beauty and features.

The side of the gate is lined with the stone lion guards. Peeling paint is being scraped; the site repainted in preparation for the Olympics to be held in China for the first time in 2008.

Two  interesting  features of the Summer Palace are the Marble Boat, seen only in the background behind these people and the Long Hall which is not a hall, but a long covered walk way for the Empress to use.  On the Marble Boat, the Empress entertained guests  with a banquet as though they were actually traveling to some exotic place.

The Long Hall is also beautifully decorated. You can see the roof trusses beneath the picture.  The hall has many pictures depicting Chinese History, or famous storied fables to entertain her and her guests. It is lined with benches to rest often since the Empress, (and all women then,) had bound feet. The royal Empresses of old were confined to their Peaceful Garden and Long Hall since it was difficult for them to move about.

It would be fun to hear some of the stories these pictures represent. We were free to wander around the gardens and lake.

There are many bridges of great beauty. Chinese tourists love boating here.

Every bridge is guarded by those marvelous stone lions.

When we first arrived on the Island, we saw workers disembarking from a boat. This woman carries her own big metal “dust” pan and straw broom. The thermos we expect is her lunch. The dust pan can obviously hold discarded paper cups, napkins and other large debris dropped on the walkways and gardens.

These two little girls were well dressed and obviously having a good time. The one child per family edict resulted in more surviving males, by design. Women would line up to have sonograms and abort girl babies. Men grew up and couldn’t find a wife and had to go to Korea, Viet Nam, Indonesia,  or elsewhere to import brides. The sonogram “factories” have been closed and now, through education, people revere and prefer girls, especially in the big modern cities.  Farm families are allowed two children.

Since we couldn’t read Chinese script, we have no idea what significance this beautiful sculpture of a cow had.

At lunch, Viki explained to us that her own grandmother had bound feet, the cruel tortuous practice instigated by the Emperor’s favorite concubine who had tiny, tiny feet and danced for him on a drum. He considered them so beautiful and dainty, that aristocratic women made their own daughters emulate that beauty by binding their feet.  Vicki called it five hundred years of cruelty and crippling of women. Her grandparents were political, meaning outspoken, and were banished to the high country of China near Tibet. She remembers as her grandmother aged how painful her feet were and her inability to walk properly or very far.

All restaurant meals  are served on this giant turntable that takes up the complete center of the table.  We had delicious meals in China  that typically  included sea weed, cabbage, always bok choy, chicken, beef, cucumbers, soup, little meaty hors’ dueovres. Meat is in small quantities with many vegetables none of us recognized; always fish, normally cooked whole with head, eyes and fins attached. Everything came in a tasty sauce. Rice in good restaurants and affluent Chinese homes, is served last. It is only to fill you up if you didn’t get enough primary foods. We all wanted rice WITH our meals and of course, we were accommodated.

For more information about the summer palace, click the following link:

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With my first digital camera, I visited China in 2006 , when China was in the middle of changing from a Socialist/market economy to a capitalistic economy. As a child, I watched a neighbor dig a deep hole in his lawn. Every few minutes, he’d say, “Look at this?  He’d hand me a penny he’d supposedly found, and tell me “We must be getting close to China.”  He regaled me with fantastic stories about dragons and castles and magic, all happening on the other side of the earth.  Simple things that fostered a dream.

We whizzed through Beijing with 300,000 vehicles in a city of 13 million people. Fifteen percent of families now own cars that intersperse with weird motor driven carts piled high with goods,  and 8 million bikes, motor cycles carrying whole families  and buses and pedestrians all mingling  in a way that you are sure someone is going to get killed at any minute.  I saw a man carrying a baby high above his head as he squeezed between two moving buses. You just have to turn your head away. We stop at Tiananman Square, so huge it defies the camera’s ability to capture it. A flag pole so tall the flag can be seen all over the city.

Just like us, Chinese tourists, something new for China, have their picture taken at their seat of government,  much like us having our picture taken outside of the White House. Sixty per cent of the citizens of Beijing work for the government just like the greatest percent of people in D.C. are under some kind of government employ.

The grounds around the building are beautiful where once there was a forbidding wall around the buildings and the whole city. Chairman Mau tore down the old city walls and built what they call ring roads to replace the  feudal walls of China’s  cities.

This is “modern” China. We were very quickly dispelled of the notion that we would see Chinese men and women in black sack pants and shirts wearing straw hats. This is the infamous square that led to student deaths in 1989, forever giving China a black eye over their aggressive policies. We are mobbed by vendors selling post cards. Capitalism is grasped very quickly.

We move on to the Forbidden City which was built, or finished anyway, in 1420. Eleven Emperors  have lived  in this multiple complex of 980 buildings between 1419 to 1911. It has 9,999 half rooms in the palace. Nine is the supreme number. Nine gates, each gate measures nine x nine. Our guide tells us that the Last Emperor,  the movie, is very accurate about what happened to their last Emperor.

This is one of 18 water pots around the square, (a multiple of nine). They represent the 18 provinces. All must be in harmony.

Soldiers still guard the palace and live here. Notice their boots and shoes  lined up next to their “barracks”. The living quarters of the Emperor  is approached by a series of stairs and nine gates to pass through.  Each gate is a palace with marvelous gold, jade carvings, incredibly fancy decoration as part of the building, with real gold leaf.   The rooms that store antiquities are  not lighted, tall columnar rooms, no windows. Pictures don’t reflect  the glorious treasures inside.

It seems as though every inch of the building is exquisitely decorated like this mantel above a doorway. The complex is a UNESCO site.

My traveling companion, Michal Houston and I posed before this Chinese guard lion. His left foot is crushing some small creature, I think.

His right foot is balanced on this ball. I’ve forgotten the significance of this stance, and its meaning, but it is the same wherever these lions are seen. And, the dog-like face of Chinese lions was rendered by artists who had never seen a lion. They only had a description of lions from explorers/travelers  who passed through China.  I always wondered about that. Now I know and so do you.

The roof of the palaces are  protected, as you can see. It seems a bit strange to us that the superstitions of old are still, if not believed, at least respected and revered. Visiting China  helps to understand many mysteries about the Chinese people’s beliefs that hang on.

This little boy knows nothing of the Ming Dynasty, 1420 to 1644 or the Ching Dynasty, 1644 to 1911, or the turbulent  history of  the gate he is crawling through. Notice you step over the deep thresh hold as you move from one gate , then palace,  to the next.

And I got to see many dragons. This gives you an idea of the size and scope of these carved wall panels, nine of them in all.

Aren’t they gorgeous?  They are depicted along the walk to the Palace of Tranquil Longevity.

We see so much, it is difficult to take it all in and remember it all. The Palaces all have beautiful names, like the Palace of Heavenly Purity, and so on.

More tomorrow.

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This Christmas, the  three gifts I bought for my grandkids I would have bought no matter where they were made. One was from Japan, the others were from Taiwan. From the giving tree, you choose a name and buy a gift for a  child in need,  which was a request for a robe, I absolutely could not find a robe in any store that wasn’t made in China.

Just before Christmas, I wanted to buy a picture frame. Small town shopping choices  are limited.  After realizing that every frame in every store came from China,  I went to a custom shop and had it made. Certainly not a choice for people on a limited budget.

At the grocery store, I bought an off brand of pumpkin for pies and much to my irritation, it too, came from China.  I’ve received emails about buying in America and then I received this one from my cousin Karen.  This job producing video was a real eye-opener.

Imports and trade are not all bad for our country.  I’m picking on China for a reason. My neighbor, Jan, had two teachers from China staying with her for a short time on an exchange program earlier this year. They bought a camera made in China. When she questioned their choice  they told her it was cheaper to buy it here than in their own country. I’ve read where China is manipulating money,  doctoring dog food, selling knock-offs illegally, pirating music and other shoddy business practices.  So, visit the Made In America Website after watching this video and see how much power our purchases have.

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Chinese Get Into RVing…

Here’s an interesting RV story…

All original material Copyright – Jim Jaillet 2011
For more information about my three books, click this link:

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There are four famous cultural things in China according to our guide.  Calligraphy, majong, opera, and acupuncture. I thought that list was quite short remembering their  lions, the abacus, their dragons, lanterns, and myriad other fascinating things we see in our travels.  In any case, Beijing has the traditional Opera. But, first, the Summer Palace.

It is  October of 2006, and it rained a bit the morning of our visit. We spot this imposing building from the bus as it sits next to the river. Our guide tells us this will be our only chance to catch a picture of  the entire building, which we obediently do.

There may be other ways to get to the Summer Palace but we are treated to a ferry ride across the lake in a replica of a boat  used in the days of Empress Cixi, (pronounced Sissy-putz.)

The lake has both modern and replica dragon boats plying tourists around the lake to support china’s newly burgeoning tourist market.

We enter the palace grounds through this exquisite gate.

Our group pauses for a picture.

As we cross over the bridge, I see the lions guarding us and notice the peeling paint.  (It will be gone soon.) The Dragon Lady Empress Dowager used the Summer Palace, which is the largest royal garden preserved in China.  The royal empresses of old were  confined to their “Peaceful Garden” and Long Hall, which is not a “hall” but  beautifully decorated covered walkways with many benches for resting because of their bound feet.

The wooden ceiling of this covered walkway is beautifully painted. And, about every ten feet or so is a painting like this one for her to enjoy. This walkway is probably a half mile long with many benches for the Empress to sit and rest her feet.

Her guests  would be entertained at a banquet on a marble boat in the Grand Canal as though they were traveling to some exotic place. In 2006 I had a brand new digital camera and didn’t use it to much advantage.  The marble boat, which obviously didn’t float is in the background of this photo. We were not allowed on the boat.

A majestic lion guards every corner of the bridge and smaller ones decorate each bridge support.

We walked all over the area and enjoyed this beautiful park. One of the buildings, the “Big Hall”  is reserved for visiting dignitaries and is still used by the government in that way.  The Empress’ personal quarters were not open to the public  as the Summer Palace is undergoing refurbishment in readiness for the first ever Olympics to be held in China.

We did not learn the significance of this carved ox because everything was written in script. Our guide told us that before the Olympics, all signage will be printed in other languages for the benefit of tourists.

People on the street don’t seem to like having you take their picture. I surreptitiously caught this of a Chinese worker carrying her thermos?  The brooms they use seem quite crude but they do the job.  Workers are distinguished by their deep blue costumes.

Lunch was a typical Chinese “private”, meaning not government owned, restaurant.  The best food so far with great sea weed, cabbage, always bok choy, chicken, beef, cucumbers, soup, little meaty hors’ duevres. Meat is always small quantities with many vegetables and usually a tasty sauce and rice that is traditionally served last. It is only to fill you up if you didn’t get enough of the primary foods. We all asked for our rice with our meal the way we are used to it and, of course, we are accommodated.

At lunch, Vicki, our guide, explained that her own grandmother had bound feet, the cruel tortuous practice instigated by the Emperor’s favorite concubine who had tiny, tiny feet. He considered them so beautiful and dainty that aristocratic women made their own daughters emulate that identified “beauty” by binding their feet. Vicky called it, “Five hundred years of cruelty and crippling of women.”  Her grandparents were “political”, meaning outspoken and were banished to the high country of China near Tibet, but Vicky remembers her painful feet.


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These first two days in Mt.Vernon, I’ve swam, walked the grounds, rested and re-oriented myself to life in a motor home. Today, we will Ferry to Orcas Island and explore. In the meantime, I’m enjoying my pictures from China that I rescued from my old Mac.

As we approach the Temple of Heaven, we see street scenes like this, mobs of bicycles. From our bus we notice tired commuters trying to catch up on their sleep. The Chinese people work very hard under difficult conditions.

Entrance to the grounds is through several gates; an openness the Chinese people  treasure after the ring of three  feudal system walls, the Mongolians erected, were torn down by Chairman Mau. He replaced them by three ring roads, in all the cities that had the walls.

The grounds surrounding the temple is a huge complex with squares, grassy park areas and woods. The first square we come to is filled with ballroom dancers. This is early morning, and nearly all Chinese exercise in the morning, together, in public areas like this. Our guide invites us to join the dancers if we like. One man asked me to dance and I did. Like us, a senior with gray hair, but  strong and muscular. You rarely see a fat person in China.

Michal joined the single dancers on the next square over.

Part of the joy of visiting the Temple Of Heaven was strolling the beautiful grounds and watching the people. Here exercisers perform a  swirling banner dance with graceful ballet like movements.

At this square the people were clapping their hands and changing positions in a very rhythmic  fast-paced way. We enjoyed several groups of  typical tai chai movements.  One group did tai chai while holding balls and paddles. Amazing. Here houses are small so big body movements are only possible  in the parks. They don’t appear to have gyms as we know them.

And, finally, the temple itself. Everything here is so huge, it is difficult to get a picture up close, at least with my camera. This temple is a UNESCO (World Heritage) site. At one time, animal sacrifices were done here and the meat cooked and eaten in the “great” kitchen. The temple is the tallest round building in the world.

Carved column and rail as on the temple stairs.

In the vast interior of the temple, your flash is almost useless. Instead, we were astounded at the beauty of the building; the priceless labors from ancient times that went into building and designing it.  Some things are enjoyable but do not translate to a camera such as mine.

The outer facade of the temple. Not difficult to understand why it is a world-class heritage site. The Temple of Heaven was the province of the Emperor, his family, consorts and servants. The public did not worship here.

And the long hall is really, really long.

A roof corner decoration detail.

We repaired to a Chinese restaurant for lunch.

No matter where you are, the appeal of little children is the same.

But only in China will you find a roof  like this.

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