Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Two days in one: summer home, monks, warriors, and dumplings

The last attraction we saw in Bejing was the Summer Palace.  Depending on who's story you here this is either the summer vacation home of the Emperor and his family or a place to put the child-Emperor's meddling Buddhist mother when she was getting in the way of the government. 

The walk was plenty enjoyable though.  I talked with our tour guide as we walked through these painted archways.  Each meeting point gazebo, as I have pictured here, represents a season.  The rest of the walls and ceilings tell historical stories.  

The local guide explained that a majority of people didn't go to school so the middle class artists made it a point to get in as much history/education talking points into their work.  Especially if they knew there would would be viewed.  Here in the summer palace the staff and staff's family would be able to see these stories and become learned.

The art was practical.  The marble boat pictured here on the right, seems a little less practical.  Seeing as marble doesn't float and all.

The last picture we took together in Beijing was here in Summer Palace, looking a little less summer-y.  From there we headed out to the airport to catch a place to Xian.

Xian is poorer, more farm-based community.  The history though still runs very rich.  The real claim to fame here in Xian is the Terra Cotta Warriors.  But we had nearly two days to spend in Xian so we started with visiting a monk's temple.  Da Yang Ta (the big goose pagoda).  The pagoda itself was not all that picturesque. 

So... here's a picture of Marissa and Kiana with a more modern built building designed to look like the ancient buildings.

Currently there are about 30 living monks who still reside here.  It was a nice peaceful place, despite the tourists and all.  I snapped some photos of a Fudog (half dragon half dog protector of the home).  Our guide walked us up to a pair of them and asked if we could tell the gender of the Fudog.  I hadn't a clue.  

They looked exactly the same.  So here's a lesson for you just in case it even come up in conversation, the female Fudog stands upon a baby Fudog.  The male Fudog stands atop a ball.  The ball represents power.  This of course begs for more comment but I am leaving it at this-- male Fudogs play with power-balls.

Rubbing the head of the Fudog also gives luck.  Different though than the Buddha belly-rub luck the Fudog gives protective luck.  Like protection against bad spirits.  The Buddha luck is more like prosperity luck.  

Inside the Big Goose Temple was an incredible jade wall hanging representing the Buddha of the past, present and future.

Again this felt like one of those places I could have gladly spent much more time in. We entered an art studio and gift shop and I saw several postings with buddhist guides. One in particular spoke to me. It was the guide to simple living.

We had in that studio a mini-lesson on the two types of Chinese paintings. There's the freehand stuff (which I prefer) and then the more monotonous painting.

I forget what they called it but the process is intense. A picture is drawn and then retraced on to rice paper (which is actually like a pulp mixture with rice stalks and bamboo). The sketching on rice paper is then colored by adding several layers of paint to fill in each panel.

There was one particular piece that had birch trees and cranes. It reminded me of Alaska. But when I asked about it, I found it to be way out of my price range. I snapped a photo of a large cherry blossom piece contended to not actually be able to afford anything in there. But in the end I found a pair of paintings with love birds on bamboo that I did end up purchasing. After the haggling over the price of course.

After we left the Big Goose Temple gift shop with more luggage and a smaller wallet, we went to another jade factory. Oh, by the way, the Big Goose Temple was founded on the tale that Chinese monks went to Tibet to study. Historically in Tibet the monks were strict vegetarians. I guess now, they are looser, and only the monks from China remain vegan, but at the time they were vegetarians. One monk accidentally had some roasted goose he asked for forgiveness and it was immediately granted. But this Chinese monk felt so guilty he honored the goose by building a temple where others could train in a more stringent environment then those in Tibet.

Anyway... this second jade workshop was pretty nice. I didn't spend nearly what I spend at the first place of course, but there was a lot of neat things to see. On display was a piece of unrefined jade. It looks, as you can see, like a boring old rock, but inside... ooo... emerald and yellow jade throughout.

Leaving the jade museum I snapped a picture of a guy who had to stop on his bike for our ginormous air conditioned bus to pass by.

So this brings me to the Terra Cotta Warriors. Which sounded like buried Chinese Walruses every time our local tour guide said it. These Terra Cotta Warriors were found by a farmer in 1976. Randomly he was digging a well when he came across a terra cotta body part. The Chinese government offered the farmer 40 RMB (less than six dollars) and excavated 8000 Terra Cotta Warriors which is now one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country.

The farmer has been compensated since then though. He now hangs out in the museum and signs books for a government assisted income.

There's a story that goes with him. Several years ago Bill Clinton came to China for a visit with Hillary and Chelsea. The farmer was told he had to learn English because he was to meet and shake hands with the president of the USA. Now, this guy is near 80 and it's hard to pick up the language, you know? So his teacher told him you just need to learn to phrases, "how are you?" and "me too." He was instructed to shake Clinton's hand and say the first thing and then when Clinton answered he should sya the second phrase.

When the time came the farmer mumbled his words and asked, "who are you?" Bill Clinton thought he was being sort of cheeky so he answered, "Hillary's husband." The farmer answered, "me too." Bill sort of laughed it off and then asked to take a picture with him. At the time he was not given an income straight out for his signature and instead he charged people 10 RBM (70 cents) for his picture. So the farmer agreed to the picture with our former president ONLY after he paid the fee.

So anyway... the attraction is a huge underground army that was built over 500 years ago and buried five meters below the surface. As you can see from the in-progress photo on the right, not all of the warriors held up under the weight of the earth. It has been quite and ordeal piecing together the warriors.

There are three separate pits. The first is the largest and the one actually found by the farmer. The second is the smallest with only a couple of hundred warriors. And the third is in progress. It is expected to be about 2000 warriors. All officers. Unlike in the first pit where all of the warriors are facing east and wearing little armor, this pit contained warriors facing one another.

While there, my dad and I got our faces photoshopped into Terra Cotta Warriors. My dad is an officer and I am an archer. I'm not going to post a photo of a photo but just trust me when I say I make a damn realistic male terra cotta archer warrior.

Before turning in from a very long day we ate dumplings at a special Xian restaurant. There were 18 courses of dumplings and each one looked like a piece of art.  I love dumplings.  
The Olympics decoration did not fade once we left Bejing, by the way. As you can see the Chinese are pretty proud to be hosting. I snapped these two photos as we were driving to our hotel.


Anonymous said...

More, more!!! What's with all the teasing "incomplete, check back later" stuff?! Ah well...

Interesting about the Fudog. I know some people that could use a couple of rubs on a Fudog head! And, yes, the whole male Fudog/power-balls thing is just too ironic. Or is it coincidental? I still don't get that right...

Looking forward to more!!

~ Nick (who can't remember her login info...duh)

Christina and photography by Buddy said...

Awesome stories and photography about:
*paintings on the wall telling stories of history
*the marble boat
*the rice paper paintings
*the jade story
*the humorous Bill Clinton story and the chinese walrus:)
Awesome work, the whole world should see your work, very excellent, I am surprised more people haven't commented on your awesome blog!!
Way to go Christina!!