Before we left Beijing, we visited the Lama Temple. One walks through several courtyards and through several large buildings, most often in red and gold, the sacred colors. In the first courtyard there is a small corner window where a helper passes out free boxes of incense sticks for the devotees.
You can see gorgeous paintings, statues, nasty monsters being crushed, banners and parasols. In the courtyards people stand in front of a kind of low iron oven in which they poke their incense sticks after lighting them. They bow low in all four wind directions pronouncing holy phrases. It gives you a sense of peace just watching them. Most Chinese follow Daoism. As far as I have understood, it makes most of them friendly, peace-loving citizens.
The temple figures in the Guiness Book of Records, since one of the longest and largest trees ever was used to build one of the buildings.
Xian is a town with an impressive defense wall all around the center and lovely gardens with multicolored light effects at night. Many Chinese go for a walk of an evening and children are delighted with lanterns and other glowing toys. The fountains change their lights and dance to different music pieces.
For lunch we were led to a specialty restaurant to try Chinese dumplings in creative animal and plant forms, filled with vegetables, mushrooms or meat, each dumpling formed so you could guess what was inside. In Germany we would call them Maultaschen.
On the top of the defense wall you can buy tickets for a small train going all around the main area, as the walk is rather extensive. From the top there is an excellent view.
In the downtown area you can buy all sorts of food, tea and berry juice, or visit a mosque and look at city gates and statues. Sometimes it is fun to try and guess at the signs, but it was helpful if the people knew some English, which was not always the case!
The mosque and the gardens with the Wild Goose Pagoda are peaceful which is why many visitors come to spend some time there. One thing that we noticed was that hardly anybody owned a dog on a leash as pet, also very few cats. Peking was the only city with dog-owners.
At the end of the day we visited a workshop for writing and drawing with ink and brush. First there was a demonstration, then each one of our group was allowed to look at the works of art.
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!