Our trip to China with Studiosus began in Peking, known as Beijing. We were brought by bus from the airport to a hotel in the center. Luckily, as one of us had lost his suitcase key and had to run to the shops to replace it. Our first visit was to the Great Wall, of which only a few segments remain. Walking sticks are recommended, as many parts go up really steep to the next tower post where they sell “medals of achievement.” At the bottom there are countless souvenir stores and restaurants. The views are breathtaking. One of our meals was the famous Peking duck, a bit dry though, and schnapps made of barley.
The hutongs are the small streets with small traditional houses near the “Forbidden City”. Unfortunately, there are plans to tear down this area and erect high-risers instead. We were booked for a riksha ride and afterwards for a privately cooked meal in the lady’s tiny abode, it was delicious. Crickets and birds are kept in cages for good luck. The next day we watched a Kung Fu show with fusion music in a large red theater, fantastic fighters in colored lights.
Getting there through Peking’s traffic and back, however, was horrid. There are too many cars and each year there is a lottery for the license plates, even though cars cost a fortune. When they park in a narrow side street, they must park in and out the way they entered to ensure everybody can get to work on time.
We visited the “Forbidden City” and also the “Heavenly Temple”. At times so many people were jostling for photos that you would have needed a selfie stick to look inside. Many men sit in the shade of the arcades playing games.
As with many Chinese temple sites, you walk through one temple, then through a courtyard and to the next temple, several times over. In some there are wonderful buddha statues or display cases with silk robes, masks, jewelry, staffs, all made of precious metals, stones and stuffs. Red and gold paint are signs of the Emperor and his family. Sadly enough, some wives were cast aside and lived a secluded life behind high walls.
The buddhas hold their hands in different gestures, pointing to Heaven, to Earth, or in a gesture of prayer or peace. The prevailing religion is either Buddhism or Daoism. Every courtyard has oven shrines where you can burn incense, often dispensed for free, as in the Lama Temple.
All the people were smiling and friendly, often some asked for a photo with us Europeans. In China you may not own an appartment, but lease one for 70 years. If you want to own several appartments, you must get a divorce, which one lady did four times, and then remarried her husband!