Jade, Great Wall & Summer Palace
I started the morning at about 4:00 today. While mom worked on her web page, I took a shower and got ready for the day. Once mom was done with her page, I started working on mine and didn't get the full day done before we had to go to breakfast, but I was at a good breaking point. We had the breakfast buffet at the hotel again. They had a few different things like bread pudding and french toast, but mostly it was the same as yesterday. Joe met us in the lobby at 8:30 and we were on our way for another fun filled day.
On the way to the Great Wall, we stopped off at a Jade factory. They explained to us how they carve the Jade stones and then polish them. As she explained we got to see them actually working on pieces as well. She also explained some of the different types of Jade including Cat's Eye. The Cat's Eye Jade is my favorite type. It is translucent if you look at it fromt he side and not if you look at it from the front. I think it's a very pretty type of Jade and it comes in a lot of different colors.
After the explanations, we got to look around the showroom. They have hundreds of pieces carved into a lot of different things. The pieces ranged from as small as earings to statues 6' or taller. The detail in both the smaller and the larger pieces is amazing when you consider that this is a stone that they are carving. They even have what they call family balls. This is a ball with large holes in it. Through the holes you can see the multiple layers of more balls inside. Each of these turn freely of each other and it is all done out of a single stone, so these inner balls are carved and freed from the other layers within each outer layer. I guess that one is hard to describe, you may have to see that one to understand it.
Once we were done looking around the Jade factory, we were on our way to the Great Wall. On the way, we drove by the beginnings of an amusement park. Joe told us that they started to build a Disneyland Beijing, but the company doing it went bankrupt. Now it just sits there unfinished. The entrance wall looks neat as well as the landscaping in front, but that is about all there is. It looks like they had the framework of a couple more buildings up, but no rides and no finished buildings. Once we got to the Great Wall, Joe led us in and told us we could go to the west for the harder way, or the east for the easier way and told us to meet him back at the bottom in 2 hours. He wasn't interested in climbing the wall again since he has been there hundreds of times. We, of course, chose the hard way, we're always up for a challenge. :)
The very beginning of the section of the Great Wall where we were is just a flat slope, but steep enough that it wasn't real easy to climb anyway. Before very long at all, we came to the start of the stairs. As we had heard, the stairs are very irregular. Some are only an inch or two high, others are a foot or more. They also varied from about a foot wide to three feet wide. There were two areas along the way up that off to one side there were several steps that only came away from the wall about 6 inches, but they were also between 2 and 3 feet high. I think that these were probably the original steps, but to make it easier for the tourists, they made smaller steps over the rest of the width of the wall. The wall was probably as wide as about 8' in some places and as narrow as 2 1/2' or 3' in others. In 2 of the 7 lookout towers, they also had stairs to climb to the top of the lookout tower, the very top lookout tower being one of the two. All of this is made out of stones, you have to wonder how they could haul that many stones up and build this wall through the mountains so many years ago. The wall itself was originally 3,000 miles long before one of the emperors had another 600 miles built on. Today, much of the wall is deteriorated and gone... they can only afford to keep certain sections maintained well enough for tourists to climb it.
It took us 1 hour and 5 minutes to climb all the way to the top of the section we were on. The 'easy' section in the west looked like it only went about a third to half as high as the one we were on, and we actually didn't see anyone climbing it at all. The section we were on had a lot of climbers at the bottom, but the higher you went, the fewer there were. If you think you're in shape, come try to climb the wall without stopping and resting at least a few times! We were wore out by the time we got to the top. We looked around and took pictures for a little bit while we were at the top, then headed back down the stairs. Going down is much easier. As we were coming down I noticed that if I stopped to wait and just stood, the muscles in my legs would twitch from being so tired - how annoying, I kept moving as much as possible. Also on the way down, I decided to count the stairs..... we climbed up and back down 1,622 stairs plus probably about 500 steps of flat areas, some inclined, some not. Our house has 16 stairs between the two floors. Using that figure, it would be like climbing over 100 flights of stairs, except these aren't all spaced the same.
After climbing the wall, we were getting hungry and it was 12:15, so Joe took us to Yulong Friendship Store & Restaurant. Walking through to go to lunch, we walked by where they make the cloisonne vases out of copper. Joe quickly explained each step as we saw them working on them. We could see the detail and work that goes in to them. Lunch was, once again, very good. We had several differnt things to choose from and we all tried everything. This is the first place that they didn't refill our coke, but we had plenty of hot tea. Once we were done, we looked around the Friendship Store to see all the different things you can buy. The Friendship Store is a government run store, so there is no bargaining like there is in the smaller Chinese stores, so this gave us a little bit of an idea of what things should be worth. They had all of the things we had been to the different places to see made, jade carvings, silk, cloisonne vases and so much more. It was really neat to see all the different chinese items.
Once we were done looking around the Friendship Store, we were off to see the Summer Palace. This is the area where the Emperor, Emperess and a few concubines would stay when they weren't in the Forbidden City. Here is China's largest man made lake, and it is very large. There were also a lot more trees and grass here than in the Forbidden City, the buildings themselves looked about the same though. A lot of the buildings were covered up being renovated so they would look their best for the 2008 Olympics. We saw a large rock, about 20' long by 10' tall by 5' deep in one of the areas and Joe told us a story about it. One of the Emperors found this rock about 50 km, 31 miles, from where it sits today. The Emperor wanted here at the Summer Palace, and what the Emporer wants, he gets - if he doesn't, you die. Hundreds of years ago, they had no way of moving a rock this size the way we can today. The way that they moved it is to wait until winter and pour water in front of it all the way to the Summer Palace, making an iceway for it to slide on. I found that to be interesting. The one thing that disappointed me here was that we didn't get to go out on the lake or get to see the building that was out on the lake.
We got done at the Summer Palace and went back to the hotel. It was about 4:30 and Joe told us to meet him in the lobby to go for dinner at 5:30, so we had an hour to rest. At 5:30, we met Joe in the lobby and were ready for dinner. He took us to a restaurant that served Peking Duck. We've heard that there are only a few places that serve this and that you can also only get it in Beijing. Joe showed us the proper way to eat Peking Duck and it was good. We had several other things to choose from as well. This is the first time that none of the three of us tried something put in front of us - none of us were interested in the chicken feet. No problem though, Joe ate most of them anyway.
After dinner, we came back to the hotel. Mom and I went out for a short walk to take a few pictures. While we were walking around, a group of students, 2 girls and a guy, stopped us wanting to 'practice their english'. We talked with them for a little while and then they took us to show some paintings and tell us about them. For talking with them, they gave each of us a paper with our names written in Chinese Calligraphy.
We had one more night to sleep in Beijing. We were going to have to meet Joe in the lobby of the hotel by 5:40 the next morning to check out and go to the airport to fly out to Fuzhou.
I'd like to welcome you to come along with us by checking out this site every day for updates. You can also visit my mom's web site at http://www.rainbowhorses.com/tyler.html, and I strongly encourage you to join us at our forum to ask questions, post comments or anything else.
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