I am catching up with my blog posts during our trip to China last week. The internet connection at the hotels was not very good.
I was very excited to see China. Because it is so large (3 times the population of the USA) and growing economically so fast (estimated that it will pass the USA as the world’s largest economy in 2028) the influence China has and will have on the earth is huge. All of us should understand the country.
We stayed inside the second ring in the center of Beijing at the Prime Hotel, located near the APM mall and walking street shopping district. It was a 4-star hotel and with Chinese management, was very Chinese and is still learning how to cater to foreign tourists. It was nice to walk to the mall and see all the expensive store fronts and electronic billboards. Our first night we took the kids to Pizza Hut after an almost 4 hour-flight from Osaka.
My uncle arranged a tour guide to show us around the city for three days. We first visited the National Stone Palace and watched the craftsmen cut jade into jewelry and large and small statues. The ancient Chinese valued jade, believing it brought fortune and health. There was a patio set (table and chairs) for $45,000 and statues for sale over $65,000. We bought a bracelet for Ocean and a series of carved spheres within spheres which represents good fortune through the generations.
We then visited the Ming Dynasty Tombs (1368-1644), a huge cemetery complex covering 80 square kilometers, one of the many UNESCO world heritage sites near the city. After visiting the tombs, the Forbidden City and Summer Palace during our stay, the power, wealth and egos of the rulers is truly awe-inspiring. The tombs are at the foot of Tianshou Mountains and we drove through them after leaving to visit the Great Wall of China.
China has a very long history and the country grew and shrank, depending on the strength and unity of its rulers. At times, warlords were fighting each other and chaos followed. Other times, a family was able to seize control of the country and make it strong. At the time the wall was built (approximately 700-200 BC), the Mongolians, who ruled China for a long time were driven out and the wall was built to keep them out. We walked a long section of the wall called Mutianyu. It is about 70 kilometers outside of the city in a rugged mountainous area. It was a beautiful, sunny and cool day and perfect for walking up and down the wall. It is one of the great iconic sites of the world and being there was unbelievable.
The amount of work that went into the fortifications is amazing. Much 8,000 kilometer wall is in ruins. It would be an interesting hike to walk the entire wall, which I am sure someone has done. There are some shorter hikes (2-4 hours) people can do and if I ever get back, I will try to do some of them. Every 500 meters or kilometer there were fortification towers to house soldiers. I wonder if the wall was effective in keeping out the invaders from the northwest. Modern times and tourism infrastructure have come and there was a sort of bobsled run you could take on the way down to the entrance to complex which was quite fun for the kids.
We finished the day by seeing the 2008 Olympic village, stadium (bird’s nest) and torch. China is an immense nation and the Olympic architecture matched it.