Monday, October 1, 2012

ni hao, once more

Once again we've been blessed with the chance to travel to China for business.  This time we arrived in Beijing for a few days, and then traveled down to Shanghai for the medical conference.  We were picked up at the airport by our English-speaking Chinese guide and driver who took us around to some of the most famous sites in the area.


The first day we started with Tian'anmen square, which is right across the street from the forbidden city.  The largest building on Tian'anmen square is Chairman Mao's mausoleum.  There was a 10 hour wait to see his decaying corpse in its crystal coffin.  We opted to skip that. =)

As we crossed the street to pass through the Meridian Gate and enter into the Forbidden City we were amazed at the HUGE 1.5 ton portrait of Chairman Mao hanging above the gate.  The Forbidden city was beautiful (albeit crowded) and made us want to watch The Last Emperor again.  Our guide was very knowledgeable and shared a lot of fascinating history and detail with us.

Next was a visit to the Temple of Heaven where the emperor used to go twice a year to offer animal sacrifice and pray to God for a good harvest, peace, and health for his people.  The Chinese believed that heaven was round and the earth was square.  So any buildings used in relation to humans' connection with the Divine (ie where the emperor prayed or offered sacrifices) were round in shape, while normal buildings (used only for preparations, etc) were built either square or rectangular in shape.

That night we went to dinner with some friends of ours that Derek worked with at UAB.  The husband worked as an electro-physiology fellow in the US for a few years, and then he and his wife returned to China where he now works at a hospital in Beijing.  We haven't seen them for 6 years, so it was good to see them. They treated us to a delicious Peking Roast Duck dinner.  Yum!

The next day we started off with a climb up one of the steepest sections of the Great Wall, about an hour north of Beijing in the mountains.  I had no idea what people meant when they said, "I climbed the Great Wall of China."  Now I know.  They built that thing straight up and over the mountains!  I'm not sure how many thousand feet we climbed, but we were on about the tallest peak we could see in the area.  Pretty amazing.  (And quite the workout.)

Then we toured the Summer Palace with its beautiful man-made lake and long corridors, enjoyed a rickshaw ride through the narrow alleyways of old Hu Tong village, and ended the day with a visit to Olympic Park to see the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube.  That night we flew to Shanghai.  The next day Derek gave his talk at the conference and we enjoyed a dinner party with some interesting Chinese entertainment.

For our last day in China one of the English-speaking fellows took us to the Bund (French-built part of town) for a walk and Huang Pu river cruise.  Then we went to the Oriental Pearl tower, to a 13-story indoor mall for lunch (roast pigeon), and to a Chinese acrobat circus show in the evening.

As always, we are amazed at the deep history and humble people of China.  Our hosts are so generous and accommodating.  But we always come home so grateful to live in a land where our freedoms are protected and secured by our great Constitution.  God Bless the USA!!


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