slice of watermelon

06 (Beijing)
December 29, 2008, 2:04 pm
Filed under: China | Tags: , , ,

Another 5am morning. Not fun. The drive to the Great Wall was around two hours. This particular part of the Great Wall that we visited had eight towers. $30 bought us a right to the fourth tower and we were free to pursue the heights of the highest eighth tower. But Grandma only got about three hours of sleep the night before, and the road isn’t exactly feet friendly. We only reached the sixth tower, but the photo ops were still great.

Next was the graves of thirteen of the Ming Dynasty emperors. The place is huge, so we only visited the biggest one, Emperor Zhudi’s grave. He was the first emperor to move the capital city to Beijing. Previously the capital of China was Nanjing.

Caption: This entire place is built without using a single nail. It is all pieced together like a jigsaw.

Caption: Statute erected by Zhudi’s successors to honour him.

If you’ve ever been on one of those cheap tours around China (or maybe it’s anywhere?) then you’ll know that they always take you to ten million shopping places. Usually these places sell particular goods that are unique to the area. China is famous for its jade. Beijing is famous for some type of jade that isn’t worth particularly much. 😛 Anyway it was just an excuse to bribe us into visiting Jin wei si aka jade galour owned by Deng Xiaoping’s son. The place does sell pretty cheap jade because apparently disabled people don’t have to pay tax in China.

Next stop: OLYMPIC VILLAGE! I was only a little excited to be there. We didn’t actually go in because no one thought it was worth paying $50 to see an empty arena.

Caption: Me in front of the Birds Next.

The big red things that looks like Breast Cancer appeal logo is actually the AIDs day logo. I was replaying the opening ceremony on fast forward over and over in my head. ARGH! WHAT IF WIMBLEDON HAD TURNED OUT DIFFERENTLY!?!?!?! / end angst.

Caption: Me and grandma in front of the Water Cube.


We got told a random story during the long bus rides. Apparently Chairman Mao used to love to visit a Monastery nearby where he lived and converse with the monks there. The monks there recommended that Mao go talk with some other high ranking monk. (I know, I’m so ignorant when it comes to Buddhism.) Said monk told Mao that he could have a long life and avoid danger if Mao would assign a group of personal bodyguards the number 8341. The monk wouldn’t say why but Mao heeded the advice. No one understood the meaning of these four numbers until Mao died. He died at the age of 83 and he was leader of the Communist party for 41 years. Coincidence?


05 (Beijing)
December 14, 2008, 6:14 pm
Filed under: China | Tags: , ,

We headed out to the CBD at 7am. First we went to Chairman Mao’s memorial tower. I spent ¥3 on a rose for the dude. The place is a haven for communist brainwashers. I could feel the nationalist pride coursing through my veins as I stepped foot into the place. No cameras/bags/video cameras allowed. So no photo of the frozen dude sorry. But I can tell you the guy’s shrank lots. The lower half of his body seemed non-existent and his face looked scary. For some reason I walked out of the place humming the Chinese national anthem. I didn’t even realise this until I was about 200m from the exit. It was both horrifying and amusing. I can already see the look on you right-wing fanatics. 😀

Next stop was Tiananmen Square, which is only a few hundred metres away. The temperature at the time was around -5C, so I was quite busy freezing my ass off. The significance of the place did finally slap me in the face. The place is literally a big empty square. To the north, there’s the big red wall with Mao’s picture hanging over the entrance to the Forbidden City. Chairman Mao’s memorial lies directly south. On the west side, lies the Chinese Parliament House. The Chinese national museum lies towards the east. (The museum is undergoing major reconstruction at the moment.) Photo taking was pretty much all we did, because it wasn’t like the tour guide was going to talk about anything significant that occurred there. I ran around the square a little trying to warm myself up. 😀


• Grandma and I at Tiananmen Square.

Next stop was the Forbidden Palace. Random fact: Back in the days when it was occupied by Emperors, trees in the palace were never higher than the palace walls. This is to prevent assassins from climbing the walls of the palace and hiding in the trees.


• Me all wrapped up and standing in front of the entrance to the living quarters of the emperor.


Where the emperor’s royal ass sat.


“Golden” pots.

There are eighteen of these pots throughout the Forbidden palace. Back in the days Emperor Qianlong wanted to display the wealth of China to everyone. He thought the best way to do this would be to have eighteen large pots made of pure gold. This occurred during the later years of Qianlong’s reign, and given the nature of the task, he ordered his most trusted official Heshen to carry it out. More on this Heshen dude later. But basically he thought it would be such a waste to turn all this gold into pots, and decided that copper/bronze weighed roughly the same as gold, and decided to simply coat the pots with pure gold. He kept the actual remaining gold for himself. As you can see behind me, the pots aren’t actually gold. Heshen’s lie was finally revealed during the Boxer rebellion when the rebels came into the palace and used their swords to carve away the gold coating.


Wall of dragons.


Tower made of pure gold.

This gold tower was made on orders from Qianlong, who was known for paying his respects to his mother and his grandpa, Emperor Kangxi. Qianlong never allowed the servants to throw away his mother’s hair. Instead he placed these strands of hair into this tower. When his mother passed away, he would come to pray to his mother’s hair on a regular basis.

After exiting the Forbidden palace, we went to Jing Shan Hua Yuan. It was pretty much the backyard of the royal family. The place is pretty small, but there is one significant place.


The tree where Emperor Chongzheng hung himself.

Emperor Chongzheng was the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty. This tree isn’t actually the original one. The original one was either cut down during the Boxer rebellion or during the Cultural Revolution.

We had “lunch” next. It was worse than pig food. So I bought lots of snacks instead. After lunch, it was Gong wang fu. This was by far the most intriguing place of all. This large property has been the living quarter of two important people: Heshen and some brother of an emperor’s. Obviously the former is the interesting one.  The story goes that when Qianlong was a young’un he accidentally stumbled into the room of one of his father’s concubines. He soon developed a fascination towards this concubine. When his father found out, he had the concubine killed. The incident left a deep impression in Qianlong’s memory. During the later years of his reign, he came across a bodyguard who worked for him who reminded Qianlong very much of the concubine. Buddhists believe in reincarnation, so Qianlong believed Heshen was the concubine reincarnated. Heshen rose from a mere bodyguard to the prime minister of the state within a span of three years.

Heshen himself was an extremely corrupt and greedy official. His job was to check all gifts which were brought into the palace. Instead he ended up taking the good ones and giving the rest to the emperor. After Qianlong’s death, his son Emperor Jiaqing conducted a thorough search of Heshen’s place. Heshen’s total assets are equivalent to ¥360 billion in today’s currency. That would make him the richest guy in the world at the time.


Just a small portion of the large and magnificent mansion.

See the ice? It was freezing. The bridge you see on the left-hand side was not originally there. Heshen used a boat to reach middle thingy.


Lots of these man-made rock-y structures around the place.

Jiaqing took all of Heshen’s assets except for one. The only thing Jiaqing would not, or could not, remove was a giant “fu”(福) character. Heshen designed it such that the character was carved on a large piece of jade and then placed under a small rock mountain with two dragons mounted on either side. Dragons represented the royal family, ergo the dragons themselves could not risk being toppled. To this day, the character is still there. No photos of the actual carving because it’s been ‘enlightened’. The character is only one of three remaining characters that is personally written by Emperor Kangxi.

They have lots of sayings in China, and I’m sure at least one of them involves eating duck in Beijing, specifically Quan Ju De duck. I’m not actually clear on the history etc, but it’s hella famous. So we had it for dinner. I still drool in my sleep when it pops up in a dream.


Foyer of Quan Ju De.

The writing you see on the wall is written by none other than Chairman Mao. It says Quan Ju De needs to keep existing.

04 (Beijing)
December 11, 2008, 4:03 pm
Filed under: China | Tags: ,

We arrived by train at around ten in the morning. It was “free time” on the first day, because the rest of the group were yet to arrive. Twas not the season for travelling in Beijing. The maximum temperature for the first day was -1°C. Grandma and I, along with another family we met on the train took the time to visit Yonghe Temple. Turns out the youngest daughter of this family does furniture design at RMIT, hence, the both of us were stuck with the fortune of tasting how cold “north-west wind” can get.

It took us about two hours to work out how to get there from our “hotel”. The dodgy place only has hot water from 8pm onwards for a brief couple of hours. The mattresses are so crap you can actually feel the metal digging into your back as you sleep. Sleeping is further made more difficult because I was sharing a room with my grandma, who snores quite loudly.

Beijing is beautiful. Polluted as hell but I love it. There are random historical looking buildings just floating around! It makes me feel like I’m in one of those olden day TV shows that I so love.