In addition on our busy first week in the hospital wards in the mornings we also went and checked out the city in the afternoons and looked at some of the famous sites around.
On Tuesday the group of us caught a long warm day sunset bus to Tiananmen square. Having our Chinese professor on the tour, Xiang Xin, meant not having to think about direction, stops and bus numbers. I slid the window open and stuck my head out to observe all the slow rolling traffic, seeing the occasional “A” number plate official black car (all Audis) buzz through the gridlock impatiently.
Tiananmen square is vast and impressive. We arrived on the flag ceremony and people crowded behind the line of soldiers. Even more impressive was the fact the square was on lock down due to the official beginning of the Asia games. Red and blue lights and heaps of military everywhere. Opposite to where the perfect Chairman Mao’s face looks out from a giant poster were the largest , longest and clearest outside plasma TVs (most flat TVs in Australia are plasma) showing tanks and marching soldiers. My favourite being the red mini skirted white machine gun holding soldiers.
Wednesday afternoon and we crowded in to a small Chinese medicine store our professor showed us. Here we could by electro machines, blood pressure monitors, needles and everything. All expensive to the Chinese, but cheap to the Aussie dollar. Highlights were half a metre long acupuncture needles and pig acupuncture models. Vowing to come back to buy more stuff I have no memory of where it is…Afterwards the professor took us to a restaurant she knew near by that had great dumplings. We feasted for cheap and drank beer and toasted our great tour guide and revelled in being in China and at the end of a long degree. Gumbai!
Thursday we went to Wangfujing shopping area. Again impressive. Pitt street mall times a lot wider and add three blocks long. Here we checked out where we could get camera stuff and buy western stuff maybe a little bit cheaper. Also we found the foreign language book store for TCM titles. I got a book on glass cupping techniques, palm reading and the I Ching and TCM. Later, when speaking to a Chinese woman, I mentioned this book. Awkward pause. I ching can be pronounced to mean I love you!
Later the China Japan Hospital treated us to a cultural evening. This was a cabaret restaurant. I was impressed by the face changing dancer, kung fu guy who threw a needle through a pain of glass and the girl who spun a huge 100 kg barrel on her legs. Then she got a member of our group to climb in it and spun the both of them. Later as more food arrived a delicacy turned up which turns my blood cold just to think of it. Pork or beef thigh bone cut mid way and cooked. Presented standing on the bare knee joint, meat and sinew in strings along the bone, with a plastic drinks straw stuck in it for sucking the liquid marrow from within. The gurgle slurp at the end, as though drinking the end of a satisfying milkshake, really was too much for this vegetarian and my innards loop at the memory of it: a round table with ten people gurgling down bone juice!
On the weekend we went to the Great Wall and Ming Tombs. The Great Wall is the correct use for the term “Great”. All I have to do when things are difficult is remember this structure. I cannot believe the cleverness, length, breadth and construction of this true monument made so long ago. Hilly, scrub that goes on forever in the middle of nowhere and bang you build a wall. A wall that’s high, massively thick, follows the hill and continues beyond further than the eye can see. So impressive and great!
Ming tombs. This is where the Ming emperor was entombed. I was impressed by the nature of it and it’s purpose. The scale and idea. Afterlife looked after with gold and objects needed. Such as a chariot. The whole place was empty though and then the details become relevant. The pattern on the walls, the imposing lion heads on the giant doors, shiny after thousands of hands rubbing it.
Where the emperor was buried a pile of money was swept up. As soon as this was done more Chinese began enthusiastically throwing their cash there. Amazing.
Outside we looked at the top of the hill like tomb and the structures placed there. A giant obelisk, now stained red during the rise of communism, marked the top of the tomb and lined up perfectly with a mountain some distance in front and behind. Interesting how great nations like Egypt had similar ideas and ways of doing things. The afterlife and it’s power to shape the Earth and it’s people.