First on the cultural tour of China is The Tang Dynasty Show. An interesting if not confusing combination of beautiful and graceful Chinese dancers with long flowing sleeves. They are accompanied by an orchestra with unique clangy and twangy Chinese instruments. Following that is a bemusing performance entitled ‘Ducks Argument’ where a soloist performs on three different trumpet type instruments one of which is completely invisible inside his mouth. The musician interchanges his instruments making what sounds like angry duck noises but it is doubtful as to whether the audience understands Duckese.
Next on the tour is the Beijing opera. A screechy rendition of the story of Emperor Qin losing a battle and his wife committing suicide ensues. Emperor Qin does a lot of shaking. His hand and sometimes his whole arm trembles in rhythm to the rattling instrument accompanying him as he tells his wife of his day on the battle field. His wife shrieks comfortingly at him in an agonizing din and a dubious translation of their howling appears on an LCD screen at the side of the stage.
The Chinese are great believers in things bringing them luck or good health. They love rocks in their garden, jade on their wrists and houses with a mountain behind and a river in front. At the Great Wall, a dirty but well fed lucky white cat wanders about in the snow demanding fuss from the visitors. Not all their wildlife is so lucky, for the poor sparrow is considered a delicacy and very hard to find. However, the magpies are abundant, either because they are considered lucky or perhaps because they taste vile.
Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City
Tiananmen Square has a feeling of emptiness and eeriness despite being visited by hundreds of tourists every day. Its area is immense; about the size of eight football pitches surrounded on every side by cold looking grey dominating buildings.
The soldiers’ choice of weaponry, a fire extinguisher, is a sobering reminder of the protests that still take place there, it is a site for regular protests and often the method of demonstration is for the protestors to set themselves on fire.
When you and the rest of China have fought your way round every gold and red temple in the Forbidden City and are totally palaced out, head for the oriental calm of a Chinese Tea Ceremony.
Here you will discover a haven of tranquillity in a cool room away from the crowds and the heat. You will also find, sitting in front of you, a set of terracotta miniature tasting cups that resemble a mushroom standing on an oval terracotta saucer
The tea ceremony begins with all the reverence of a formal dinner. The waitress in a traditional Chinese silk dress quietly explains and demonstrates the art of making, serving and drinking teas. The experience is pleasant and relaxing but quite serious too until she pours hot water over the head of an ornamental terracotta boy which has the effect of making him wee. Suddenly all the formality of the tea ceremony falls apart and the sale of 7cm Terracotta Pee-Pee Boys in the adjoining shop reach another peak
The city of Beijing is changing so fast, a difference can almost be seen in a week. The Chinese are very resourceful and hard working. Everything is done by hand, even parts of the road building. Slipways to new roads have their rocks cemented into the side walls by hand and when a truck breaks down, they get out and fix it with whatever spares they are carrying and are back on the road.
The next time something is labeled ‘made in China’; perhaps it should be thought of as hand crafted in China.
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