Travels in China

Birdjaguar

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this video was shot before we crossed the bridge and shows Longevity Hill and the Lake. Sequentially, it should be two posts up.


Link to video.
 

Birdjaguar

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Taking the boat back across the lake and the Marble Boat at the dock area.



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Birdjaguar

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We got to the Temple of Heaven late in the afternoon and the prime attraction Temple was closed so we spent some time walking around the 600+ acre park. I did not get to go near or in the buildings shown below.

The Temple grounds cover 2.73 km2 (1.05 sq mi) of parkland and comprises three main groups of constructions, all built according to strict philosophical requirements:
  • The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (祈年殿) is a magnificent triple-gabled circular building, 36 m (118 ft) in diameter and 38 m (125 ft) tall,[2] built on three levels of marble stone base, where the Emperor prayed for good harvests. The building is completely wooden, with no nails. The original building was burned down by a fire caused by lightning in 1889.[3] The current building was re-built several years after the incident.
  • The Imperial Vault of Heaven (皇穹宇) is a single-gabled circular building, built on a single level of marble stone base. It is located south of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and resembles it, but is smaller.[4] It is surrounded by a smooth circular wall, the Echo Wall, that can transmit sounds over large distances. The Imperial Vault is connected to the Hall of Prayer by the Vermilion Steps Bridge, a 360-meter-long (1,180 ft) raised walkway that slowly ascends from the Vault to the Hall of Prayer. The dome for this building also has no crossbeams to support the dome.[5]
  • The Circular Mound Altar (圜丘坛) is the altar proper, located south of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. It is an empty circular platform on three levels of marble stones, each decorated by lavishly carved dragons. The numbers of various elements of the Altar, including its balusters and steps, are either the sacred number nine or its nonuples. The center of the altar is a round slate called the Heart of Heaven (天心石) or the Supreme Yang (太阳石), where the Emperor prayed for favorable weather. Thanks to the design of the altar, the sound of the prayer will be reflected by the guardrail, creating significant resonance, which was supposed to help the prayer communicate with Heaven. The Altar was built in 1530 by the Jiajing Emperor and rebuilt in 1740.[3]
Ceremony

Panorama from the opposite view of the Imperial Vault of Heaven

Panorama of the three main halls

In ancient China, the Emperor of China was regarded as the Son of Heaven, who administered earthly matters on behalf of, and representing, heavenly authority. To be seen to be showing respect to the source of his authority, in the form of sacrifices to heaven, was extremely important. The temple was built for these ceremonies, mostly comprising prayers for good harvests.

Twice a year the Emperor and all his retinue would move from the Forbidden City through Beijing to encamp within the complex, wearing special robes and abstaining from eating meat. No ordinary Chinese was allowed to view this procession or the following ceremony. In the temple complex the Emperor would personally pray to Heaven for good harvests. The high point of the ceremony at the winter solstice was performed by the Emperor on the Earthly Mount. The ceremony had to be perfectly completed; it was widely held that the smallest of mistakes would constitute a bad omen for the whole nation in the coming year.

This wonderful image is of the inside of the The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests: the round building shown above. Like so many of the Ming and Qing buildings, the painting is spectacular.
 

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Birdjaguar

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Temple of Heaven

Some of my walking around shots.
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Birdjaguar

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Birdjaguar

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Assorted pics from Beijing.
Dinner one night in a Japanese restaurant near my hotel.

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Wiring infrastructure along a street.

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Carved Jade
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Birdjaguar

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More pics.


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Leaders of the Revolution
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Birdjaguar

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What's a visit to China without pandas! We made a quick stop late one afternoon to see pandas. We skipped everything else at the zoo as closing time was approaching. Bamboo is unbelievably tough and I cannot imagine what it must take in jaw strength and digestive action to eat that and only that.


Link to video.
 

Moriarte

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When talking, dealing with people in China have you noticed any differences to us westerners? Openness, willingness to help a stranger, optimism? Or the opposite? Something else catching an eye? I know these things are subjective and hard to measure, I’m merely curious about your feels, the impression they left on you. Growing up in the Soviet Union in the 80’ies, around the breaking point between two “ideologies”, it is apparent to me that those who lived in SU and those who followed are slightly different kinds of men. The security provided by socialism left a mark and “the socialists” were less inclined to “lock their doors at night” to generalise broadly. More willing to extend a helping hand. So I am curious if you noticed anything that made you think “hmm, we’re kinda different”.

Thanks for your work
 

Birdjaguar

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I left Beijing for the last leg of my trip. I traveled by train from there to Changsha in Hunan Province. That is about 850 miles. First class on a fast train was $150 and took 7 hours. I had a day in Changsha to visit with an entrepreneurial professor at Hunan University and my translator friend (you've seen her in other places up thread). I saw bits and pieces of Changsha. My real reason for going there was to connect to a train that would take me to Zhangjiajie. To make it more confusing the is Zhangjiajie City, Zhangjiajie village and Zhangjiajie National Park all close by each other. Zhangjiajie (hereafter Zjj) city has an airport with connections to all major Chinese cities. I would fly from there back to Beijing and then home. Since I like trains I road them from Beijing to Zjj.

Zjj City is about 30 Km from the Zjj village where i would stay while I visited the park. If "from the train" videos bore you, skip these. I took them on the ride from Beijing to Changsha. I have 7 others I will not subject you to. :)


Link to video.

Link to video.

This one I took as we crossed the Yangtze river and entered Wuhan. As I post this the Yangtze is in full flood and millions of folks along its banks have been inundated with water.

Link to video.
 

Birdjaguar

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When talking, dealing with people in China have you noticed any differences to us westerners? Openness, willingness to help a stranger, optimism? Or the opposite? Something else catching an eye? I know these things are subjective and hard to measure, I’m merely curious about your feels, the impression they left on you. Growing up in the Soviet Union in the 80’ies, around the breaking point between two “ideologies”, it is apparent to me that those who lived in SU and those who followed are slightly different kinds of men. The security provided by socialism left a mark and “the socialists” were less inclined to “lock their doors at night” to generalise broadly. More willing to extend a helping hand. So I am curious if you noticed anything that made you think “hmm, we’re kinda different”.

Thanks for your work
I met two groups of folks in my month long visit. First were the more business oriented people who hosted us and with whom we mostly talked business. The second group were just plain folks I met while traveling on my own. In both cases everyone was welcoming and helpful and understanding of the ever present language barrier. Business meetings were certainly more formal and focused and since we had translators around it made chatting much easier. Politics never came up. Our goal was to come to a better understanding of cultural differences and the various obstacles to finding ways to work together. I am still in contact with a few of the people I met. One of the waitresses who served us breakfast everyday in Baoji was learning English and made every effort to talk to our group as both practice and to ask questions about the US. She asked for my WeChat connection when we checked out and we are still in contact two years later. She is now married, has changed jobs and has a teaching position with preschoolers and still practices her English with me. Her parents arranged her marriage and I expect her to tell me she is pregnant soon. I keep learning new bits and pieces about how everyday life in goes.

Once I was on my own I had to make my own way through the language barrier. Almost none of the people I met in the second half of my trip spoke any English. Young children were often the connecting piece. They seemed fascinated by my height and beard. I usually respond to that interest with simple sign language or non spoken games, funny faces and the few Chinese words I knew. Their parents often joined in. Usually this happened on my train rides while we all were trapped together. Everyone was always helpful, interested and fun. This little girl sat in the seat in front of me on the train from Xi'an to Pingyao.

Xian to Pingyao new friend.JPG

On my second trip to China in June I was invited to a birthday party dinner by a business group and it was great fun we did discuss politics and Donald Trump. Never Xi. At one of my meetings with a City official on that trip I got into a long discussion about Taoism. He was a bit surprised that I even knew what it was, as was my translator.

Does this get at your question? If not, ask again.
 

Moriarte

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Yeah, thanks, I am curious about Chinese culture, there is so little information about them going around.

I met a young CCP official few years ago, who came to my town to facilitate business relations, he was in his 30-ies. We invited him for lunch, had a lengthy conversation touching on the subjects of philosophy, family, then some people at the table started cracking jokes about what they read on the internet the other day, things like that. Perfectly normal friendly exchange at the table. He later confessed to me that this is most unusual to him. He is more used to discuss politics and economy (the important stuff!) and hinted that touching on subjects that we discussed at the table are considered bad taste where he’s from, in his circles, perhaps. That left me thinking, since then, was it a broad cultural thing or something that comes with his profession.
 

Birdjaguar

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Yeah, thanks, I am curious about Chinese culture, there is so little information about them going around.

I met a young CCP official few years ago, who came to my town to facilitate business relations, he was in his 30-ies. We invited him for lunch, had a lengthy conversation touching on the subjects of philosophy, family, then some people at the table started cracking jokes about what they read on the internet the other day, things like that. Perfectly normal friendly exchange at the table. He later confessed to me that this is most unusual to him. He is more used to discuss politics and economy (the important stuff!) and hinted that touching on subjects that we discussed at the table are considered bad taste where he’s from, in his circles, perhaps. That left me thinking, since then, was it a broad cultural thing or something that comes with his profession.
In all my business meetings in China there was an unstated assumption that any political talk would make its way out of the meeting (told to me on the side) so Chinese politics never came up. When we were meeting with government officials the talk was all business unless they wanted to know about the US and Trump. Trump came up a lot. This was 2018 and they laughed about him. The few people with whom I am still in contact and who I consider friends, I usually talk with them via WeChat. WeChat is essentially a government spy tool, so we never say anything about the government or Xi. None of them express much interest in politics beyond how one has to go through the government to get money for projects. their interest is in how to influence the officials to get contracts for land and projects.

When my friends come to the US we can talk about anything but what interests them most is the US and how things are here and how things get done. I have found that jokes are difficult between languages and try to stay away from them. When they do happen, usually, lots of explanations are in order. My best friend, our translator from Baoji and Xi'an and the smart gal who helped me make my reservations, and I are in touch regularly and we pretty much talk about whatever is on the news or on her mind. She is pretty anti government but is not about to let that be known. She does a lot of contract work for businesses in Changsha and has lots of contacts for arranging deals. She arranged for my second trip there in June 2018. On that trip, as i said I was invited to birthday party and got to see how a group celebrated. I think I have some pics and maybe a video from it. It was all very casual and fun, but no politics except to talk about Trump.
 

REDY

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I hope for your friend that you use fictional names and dates.
 

Birdjaguar

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@REDY I am guided by what they tell me is important to not say when I talk about them.

My arrival in Changsha. Here is the train station, looking one way and then the other. The station is huge and well kept.

Train station Changsha 1.JPG Train station Changsha 2.JPG

In 2010 Changsha had just over 7 million people and is the Capital of Hunan province. Only 10% of the province population live in the capital. It is a province of 70 million people. For comparison, California has a population of about 40 million and Texas is at about 30 million. Germany has about 84 million people and France 65 million. Hunan is a second tier province for China.

Changsha has a history of more than 3,000 years.[5] Changsha was the capital of Changsha Kingdom in the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), and the capital of the Chu State (907–951) in the Ten Kingdoms period. The lacquerware and Silk Texts recovered from Mawangdui (2nd century BC) there are an indication of the richness of local craft traditions. In 1904 Changsha was opened to foreign trade, and large numbers of Europeans and Americans settled there. Changsha was the site of Mao Zedong's conversion to communism. It was also the scene of major battles in the Sino-Japanese War (1931–1945) and was briefly occupied by the Japanese. Changsha is now an important commercial, manufacturing and transportation centre.

Here is a short video of the cityscape from across its river taken from the entrance to Hunan University.

Link to video.
 

Birdjaguar

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Changsha was really just a stopover on my way north to Zjj. I had a slow train ticket from Changsha to Zjj City, a trip that took most of a day. OMG! More videos of riding on a train..... arrggghhh!

From the city....

Link to video.

to the country....

Link to video.
 

Birdjaguar

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Zjj fun facts

2011 visitors: 30 million annual visitors (10 year old data!)
13 million overnight guests
1.8 million foreign visitors

Walt Disney World for comparison
2019 visitors 40+ million

Zjj is a very popular place especially for Chinese. I was there in late March and it wan't crowded at all, as you will see. As it turned out, the weather was perfect and there was no rain.
 

Birdjaguar

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From Zjj City I had to take a taxi the 30 Km to Zjj village.

EDIT: You will notice the road construction in these videos. There was construction everyplace I went in China. In every city, along most roads, just everywhere.

Arriving in the village:

Link to video.
Arriving at my hotel: I had a note in Chinese, in my phone, that told the driver where I wanted to go.

Link to video.
My hotel room. This was a $40 a night place and included a big breakfast of several different items. No one at this hotel spoke any English.

Link to video.
 

Birdjaguar

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I planned for two full days at the park and because i really didn't know much about how one would go about exploring it, I hired a guide. She would escort me though the huge park and get me from place to place easily so that getting around time was minimized. My guide's name was "Cathy". She spoke excellent English and knew everything about the park. She was a compact ball of energy and not afraid of wandering off the trails to see what we could find. The park is a huge area filled with dramatic scenery. You cannot see it all in a single day or even two. On the first day we went to the top of a plateau and walked around much of the perimeter, took a few short bus rides to new places, did more walking and finally descended. Off the plateau there are lakes, caves, streams and other hikes to take. I did some of those on day two. In my evenings, I explored the Zjj village. This place is hugely popular among the Chinese, but in late March it wasn't very crowded. Cathy told me that in summer the lines are long and waits tiring. I'll post my trip to the plateau first, then my visits to to the village and end with my second day adventures.

In 1982, the park was recognized as China's first national forest park with an area of 4,810 ha (11,900 acres). Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is part of a much larger 397.5 km2 (153.5 sq mi) Wulingyuan Scenic Area. In 1992, Wulingyuan was officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was then approved by the Ministry of Land and Resources as Zhangjiajie Sandstone Peak Forest National Geopark (3,600 km2 (1,400 sq mi)) in 2001. In 2004, Zhangjiajie geopark was listed as a UNESCO global geopark.

The most notable geographic features of the park are the pillar-like formations that are seen throughout the park. Although resembling karst terrain, this area is not underlain by limestones and is not the product of chemical dissolution, which is characteristic of limestone karst. They are the result of many years of physical, rather than chemical, erosion. Much of the weathering that forms these pillars is the result of expanding ice in the winter and the plants that grow on them. The weather is moist year-round, and as a result, the foliage is very dense. The weathered material is carried away primarily by streams. These formations are a distinct hallmark of the Chinese landscape, and can be found in many ancient Chinese paintings.

One of the park's quartz-sandstone pillars, the 1,080-metre (3,540 ft) Southern Sky Column, was officially renamed "Avatar Hallelujah Mountain" in honor of the movie Avatar in January 2010. The film's director and production designers said that they drew inspiration for the floating rocks from mountains from around the world, including those in Hunan province.

The park entrance and a view of the elevator that takes you to the top of the plateau. The elevator rises 1,070 feet in 2 minutes.
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Birdjaguar

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Cathy and looking up at our destination.



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