THE FORBIDDEN CITY – BEIJING CHINA
If you want to attract crowds, just say the word, ‘forbidden.’ It all started in the book of Genesis in the Holy Bible, where we read about the ‘forbidden fruit.’ Mankind has been in search of the ‘forbidden’ ever since!
With this thought, I begin, telling my story with photos and narrative, of my visit to Beijing, China and the ‘Forbidden City. ‘
Traveling to China, is not easy. To visit Beijing and the Forbidden City requires a long tiring flight for the U. S. visitor to this Asian city. A flight over the frozen wilderness of Alaska and Siberia.
(CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE)
We are now flying over Alaska. It is beautiful. The mountains are covered with Snow and we can even see huge glaciers between the mountains stretching toward the sea.
It is fascinating the way the Alaska’s rivers twist and turn as they sprawl across the flat lands and between the mountains.
When we cross the Bering straight, the day will change from Sunday to Monday, even though it is broad daylight out.
INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE BETWEEN ALASKA AND SIBERIA
We are fast approaching the Bering straight, and will soon be over Siberia. When we cross the straight, the day will change from Sunday to Monday, even though it is broad daylight out. The sun is following us all the way to Beijing. We will have a day with 22-23 hours of sunlight, assuming the sun rises at 6 and sets at 6.
APPROACHING BEIJING CHINA
- ARRIVAL OF PASSENGERS AT THE BEIJING AIRPORT TERMINAL
- Travelers have an opportunity to exchange their currency for Chinese currency (yuan) at the airport terminal, near the baggage pick up area.
- In the same area, near the restrooms, is a kiosk to purchase a SIM card for your unlocked GSM phone. The cost is only $33 for 100 minutes of call time to the U.S. My MOBAL Sim card costs $2.50 a minute, so the Chinese SIM card is a bargain.
Steven Lu Jin Li, our tour guide, speaks very good English and is very personable. He never visited the US. Before his marriage, he tried to get a visa, but US officials were concerned that he wouldn’t leave the U. S. so his visa request was denied. He hopes to visit the U. S. with his family some day. He and his wife, Tracy Hu have a 19 month old son.
Steven has a website on which tourists can choose individual tour guides. The site is www.reliabletourguides.com and is full of interesting information about travel in China.
Steven is 36 and has an interesting story. His father’s Red Guard unit was defeated early during the Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976. His family was sent to the countryside in 1976 for ‘purification and re-education.’ When he was 2 years old his family was allowed to return to their home town. The government realized that some had been unfairly punished due to the excesses during this period of time. So the government reimbursed his father for lost wages during their exile to the country side. He used this money to purchase a home, and his former government job was restored.
Steven has lived in the countryside on a communal farm, in a small town, and now the big city. He speaks English and Mandarin. When he visits Hong Cong, he feels ‘foreign’ because he must speak English, since only English and Cantonese are spoken there, and he doesn’t speak Cantonese.
Steven discussed the good and bad of the Cultural Revolution. It got rid of the good and bad in their culture, and wiped the slate clean for China. The purging process allowed the government to implement many changes that would not have been possible under the old rules, but they also lost a lot of their ancient traditions.
In 1995, due to housing reform, housing was privatized. When the government embraced capitalism, it privatized government owned and run industries. Government officials decided who were the new owners of these industries. Corporations were quickly created, sometimes by relatives of the government official. As a result, the former the industries were transferred to many government official’s’ families, thus family wealth was quickly created. This is seen as corruption.
Prior to government reforms, everyone worked for the government. Now only 5% of the people work for the government.
Steven does not work for the government. He works for a private company called Destination China for the last 13 years as a tour guide.
His wife Traci works as a tour guide too and as an English tutor. They have a nanny to help care for their 19 month old son.
They are compliant with China’s one child policy. If they have a second child, they would pay a $17000 fine. If they lived in south China, (Shang Hai area) the fine would increase to $34,000. If the fine is not paid, then the child would have not have any rights as a Chinese citizen.
When a couple is married, they are given a certificate which allows them to have one child. Exceptions are made for twins and triplets, and for couples who are children of parents having only one child. Children born out of wedlock have no rights as citizens.
NEXT STOP – THE BEIJING ZOO.
- Toy Panda Exhibit Sign at the Beijing Zoo Entrance
TH WORLD FAMOUS GIANT PANDAS. THEY EAT AND SLEEP, AND …. EAT AND SLEEP.
DAY TWO – THE GREAT WALL – NEXT!!!
But first, let me discuss a little about what we have learned about China’s political system. As you know, China has a one party system. Well that is not quite right right. It isn’t that simple. China has a number of officially recognized political parties which have the role as ‘advisors’ to the government. Their constitution mandates that they each are represented in their congress, according to the number of votes they receive. But they cannot vote, only advise. the Communist party is the ruling party, and representatives are elected by the people. Voters chose the person best suited to do the job. There are no ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ candidates as in our elections.
Land ownership in China is interesting also. Land in China belongs to the government, but the government allows citizens to use the land for 70 years. They can ‘buy and sell’ this right, and its value decreases as the 70th year approaches. No one knows what will happen on the 70th year. The Communist regime has been in control only 50 years, so there is about 2o years left before they have to decide what to do next. They pay no property tax on the land they use. In the U. S. we may buy property, but we pay property tax, which is a form of ‘rent’ paid to our government. If we don’t pay the property tax, the government will sell ‘our land’ to someone else, to pay the unpaid tax (government rent).
And now to the Great Wall of China, built between 2800 years ago to 1500 AD. Much of it is in disrepair or completely buried by sand storms. Much of what survives has been repaired and is made of bricks and rock. The original wall was not all made of rock and bricks, but of earth, gravel and wood, subject to deterioration.
It is an urban legend, or myth that the Great Wall can be seen from the Moon or outer space. To see the wall from the Moon would be the equivalent of seeing a human hair from 2 miles away, which requires eyesight that is 17,000 better than 20/20 vision!
We traveled by bus to a portion of the Great Wall which was a few miles north west of Beijing. As we approached the mountain we could see the walk ways and guard towers in the distant. Guard towers on the high points, were used as signal towers. One smoke signal would alert the army that they were under attack by 500, two smokes signals indicating 1000 enemy were advancing, an so on, so that military reinforcements could be sent to counter the attack effectively.
A very steep and challenging climb awaits us!
With great difficulty we climbed to the first watch tower on very slippery, steep, uneven stone steps. On the right in the black overcoat and black cap, Hans climbs the Great Wall.
Hans – far left – pauses to catch his breath.
We are greeted by a ‘NO CLIMBING’ sign on the watch tower!
Inside the watch tower we can see the Great Wall in the distance!
CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE.
The left side of the steps were covered with snow making it difficult and even dangerous to descend. The right side was full of tourists climbing up. So I hung onto the railing and slid down on the snow packed steps on the left.
She gives me a relieved smile, having successful reached the bottom of the steps without falling!