4/6/99 Tuesday – I woke up early and met Du Wei Min and my driver Mr. Wong at 8:30am. We had approximately an hour drive to the Ming Tombs and The Great Wall. It was morning rush hour, and the traffic of bikes is mesmerizing me. There are so many people all bustling about. I realized, as I’m so transfixed on all this culture, that it is not so different from mine. Really all these people were just going to work that day for the pump and grind that we all do all over the world no matter who or what we are. The same routines different days. As I was so excited about the Great Wall, Wei Min was like, “yeah I’ve seen it about 100 times.” I guess it’s like the statue of Liberty to me, something you see often but don’t think twice about.
We stopped at a jade factory on the way to see how the jade gets transformed into the carvings. It was a very quick tour, but they had miles and miles of store, of course;). I decided I needed my Foo Dogs, and this might be the place. I had this poor boy running all over, looking for Foo Dogs with a cub and a ball, one under each paw of the other. The Foo Dogs, used for protection at the entrance or back door, has the male always with the ball under one foot and the female with the cub. That’s how you know you have the Yin/Yang balanced, Foo Dogs. I needed them not too big, carved just right, and they needed to call to me. Found them; White jade and perfect….
On to the Ming Tombs, collectively know as the Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty. The site, which is on the southern slope of the Tianshou Mountain range, was chosen for its Feng Shui principles. I looked around at the Feng Shui of the whole place, it was lovely with the mountains surrounding most of it and the reservoir right next to it. There was a Pagoda on top of one of the mountains. Wei Min said that “the Chinese believe that demons/spirits are in the mountains and by putting the Pagoda there it contains them and keeps them up there.” Wei Min was great and always concerned about me getting a picture or seeing what I wanted to see. I couldn’t have asked for a better guide. His name means “protector of the people.”
I didn’t know what to expect really when I stepped out. I thought it would be very elaborate, but it wasn’t that grand. It was awesome to see because it was so old. The best part for me about the Ming Tombs was the stone animals lined up along the entrance. The main gate of the palace area is called the Great Red Gate. The Sacred Way is lined with 18 pairs of marble figures sculpted from one stone, some standing and some lying down.
They remind me of the Earth Branches, as we call them in Chinese Astrology, or the Animal Characters for each year. Legend says Buddha, who had called on all the Animals to come bid him farewell before he left Earth, had only 12 animals show up. Because he was so grateful of those that came, he named a year for each of them in the order they arrived to bid him farewell. Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Finally the Boar (Pig, the year we are in now, the end of a cycle).
I digress, I sat on the lying Horse and stood next to a Dragon like Dog…It was hard to believe I was sitting on a 540-year-old horse …
On to lunch…
I asked Wei Min to sit with me again and we chatted about our cultures. He said, “that in his opinion Westerners were overweight because they ate too much ice cream and drank too much soda.” He’s probably right 😉
On to the Great Wall…
We saw parts of it, Wei Min made sure, driving 20 minutes into the mountains. When we got there, you couldn’t see much from where we were. We took a cable car up to the top, almost the top, and walked the rest of the way…many steps, an automatic stair master. We got to the top it was awesome! The fact that it’s so old and still standing here is so cool. We took many pictures at every angle and then headed back down in the cable car. You could sit there all day and look if you were allowed but we took the pictures I wanted and left. On the way back Wei Min said we’d stop at this place famous for Chinese Medicine…I was transfixed!
They explained a little to us and then gave a free diagnostic exam. They said I needed some support in my Kidneys due to the white spots on my teeth and the ridges on my nails. I believed what they said, I still have Kidney imbalances, if money wasn’t an issue, I would have bought what I needed but it was over $100 US dollars and I had 6 ½ more weeks to go and this trip cost me half a year’s salary at the time.
On to the Zoo to see the Pandas…I asked if they could please stop especially for me. They obliged and Wei Min and I got out and ran into see them since the Beijing Zoo was closing soon. There were two tiny babies I couldn’t keep my eyes off them. It seemed like I took a whole roll of film (which I did and due to the lighting barely any came out) they were beautiful! I stared for a while and then next door was the Mom and she was pacing back and forth. I felt bad for her and wished she could be with her cubs. Then next door to her was the male and of course he was fast asleep on his back no movement at all. Hmmmm
Back to the cub’s pen, where by now they are wrestling with one another, and are so cute. I lingered longer. Then we went outside to see the outdoor pen with a teenager Panda bear also pacing back and forth in their semi-natural habitat. It was so great to see the Pandas. Wei Min said we were lucky because he’s never seen that many Pandas that young AND the Zoo was closing in a few minutes, we never would have gotten in. It was a wonderful day…the hour ride home in rush hour traffic was tough on all of us.
I kept thinking of my 7pm massage (when in China do as the Chinese, I got a Tui Na massage which is inexpensive in the Far East), at that point I couldn’t wait to relax and fall into bed. Once again, I found myself mesmerized by all the people scurrying home and wondered what all their lives were like. I’m a New Yorker after all, I’ve seen crowds and rush hour, but this is different.
When I got to the hotel, I had 3 objectives…ok well 4. 1.) Massage 2.) Eat 3.) Buy the Chinese Frock, as they call it here, that I had my eye on 4.) BedIt was getting late I figured I might as well go right to the massage and see if they could take me a little earlier so I wouldn’t have to eat so late. They could! They escorted me into a locker room spa area, and I took a shower then a sauna for about 10 minutes as they recommend…it was great I was looking forward to the massage. Then the woman brought me to lie down, and it was like in this hallway area, of course she didn’t speak English, so I wasn’t sure what was happening? She showed me what looked like a washcloth. Before you know it, I was being sandpapered down all over my body and it hurt! I kept a positive mind and thought let’s get the full Chinese experience. She preceded to loofah my entire body as I lay in this hall like area for about 15 minutes. I wanted to get to the massage part…finally I was able to put some robe like material thing on and go get my massage. The man came in that was to massage me and when it was all said and done it was very good (except for the rug burns on my back from the luffa ) Off to bed after that with dinner and a new Frock, as they call dresses here, under my belt.