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Tag Archives: The Great Wall

Better Late Than Never: Hutchinson Visit

27 Jul
Better Late Than Never, Right?  Here is a very tardy post of our wonderful visit with the Hutchinsons last November.

What a treat it was to be able to spend time with Brett’s parents, his brother Cory, and beautiful Kara here in Beijing.  There are just some things that cannot be expressed through words or photos – which is why we love visitors.  It actually enables us to really show what our life is like in this crazy, polluted, overcrowded…but still pretty fascinating foreign land.

Unfortunately, their visit fell on an extremely busy week for Brett (which I think the majority of you, through deductive reasoning, will be able to tell by the absence of him in the photos below) which left us all missing him and forced the Hutchinsons to see China through the eyes of a Blonde in Beijing.  I am hopeful that a good time was still had by all!

In addition to celebrating Brett’s Big 4-0 at Maison Boulud, we were able to show them quite a few of the sites  – The Olympic Village, The Great Wall, Temple of Heaven, Wangfujing Snack Street, Tea Street, and The Forbidden City.  And of course – we made sure that they tried all the top foods – Beijing Duck, Din Tai Fung dumplings, and don’t forget the street meat.  (Okay – I don’t think Donna actually tried this…but Cory & Kara braved a variety of interesting delicacies – i.e. scorpions, silk worms, etc.)

As their tour guide for the week, I did my best to document the trip for them (a service I only provide for true VIP visitors!)  Here are some of my favorites…

This would be a fantastic Christmas card if Cory was their only son! The Great Wall Mutianyu – November 2011

Tom & Donna Hutchinson. The Great Wall – November 2011

How cute are they? Seriously. The Great Wall – November 2011

Tom with his D-in-L’s. The Great Wall – November 2011

Kara & Cory – The Great Wall.

Perhaps I got a little camera happy with the happy couple….

Up, up, and away! Riding the chair lift to the top of the wall.

Kara cruising down the slide. The best part of visiting the wall at Mutianyu!

Quite possibly my favorite picture of the trip. Clearly, Cory is not pleased with Tom’s choice of speed. His face is the physical definition of boredom.

Tom and Donna in front of The Bird’s Nest. Olympic Village – Beijing.

Brett finally makes it! Family dinner at Mao’s Red Capital Club. This restaurant, hidden in an ancient hutong alleyway, serves tasty food – but the main reason to visit is to step back in time and soak in a bit of “Mao’s China”.

Walking into the gardens surrounding the Temple of Heaven. We were so lucky to have such a beautiful Beijing day. A rarity to say the least.

Donna, Cory & Tom at the Temple of Heaven. Beijing – November 2011

Temple of Heaven – Beijing

I would say I was trying to be artistic…but perhaps Cory is just too tall! I still like it though. Temple of Heaven – Beijing, China.

A tiny Donna at the Temple of Heaven. It is terribly difficult to capture an image with no other tourists. I didn’t crop the original for this very reason. I love the emptiness of it. Temple of Heaven – Beijing, China

The beautiful and extremely old Cypress trees in the grounds that surround the temple. Temple of Heaven – Beijing, China

Tree Gazing. Temple of Heaven Grounds – Beijing, China

Another potentially great Christmas card if Tom and Donna only had one son and also decided to adopt a random blonde from Murray, Kentucky… Temple of Heaven Grounds – Beijing, China

Old school online dating?? We stumbled upon a mass of middle-aged, local Chinese men and women in the gardens surrounding the Temple of Heaven with dozens of papers like these taped to the ground. After chatting with a few of them, who were actually willing to talk with me in Chinese – I was able to learn that they were all there to find mates for their children. These “papers” are actually dating profiles including personal details such as height, age, and occupation. Some even go so far as to say if they are home or car owners. Amazing!

Okay…so this is obviously Cory, not Brett. But for those of you who truly know Brett…you know that this is an impersonation of his “intense face”. Complete with the drumming of the fingers. Nice tribute, Cory.

The Forbidden City – Beijing, China

Kara & Cory – Forbidden City, November 2011

The Forbidden City – Roof Tile Detail.

The Forbidden City – Beijing, China

Tea Tasting on Tea Street. Somehow I didn’t snap a picture when they put Kara to work separating proper tea leaves from the bad ones…what a missed opportunity. I have a feeling that her daily wage might be more than they are used to paying.

This is the coup de gras of photos from the trip. Apparently, my harassing comments to Tom about the fact that of all things to bring to Beijing, he packed his “Turkey Trot 1997” t-shirt hit a nerve. His response to my torment was to jokingly wear it under his sport coat for Brett’s birthday dinner and party at Maison Boulud. Loved it. He did change – although I think I would have preferred him like this.

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Xi’an, China

18 Dec

Dont' be fooled - these are not the "real" terra-cotta warriors. Although they may have worn oversized sunglasses.

I think it is fair to say that all of us hope to leave our mark on this earth.  Many do this by raising a family and carrying on their family name.  Artists and authors become immortal through their works.  Some offer endowments to their alma mater in order for a building that bears their name to be built.  Recently, I discovered one person in particular who left 2 incredible legacies behind: one above ground – The Great Wall – and one underground (and therefore less well-known) –  The Terra-cotta Soldiers of Xi’an. Known as the First Emperor in Chinese History  (or to me as one of the most arrogant men to ever walk the earth) Emperor QinShihuang decided to have his “people” craft an estimated 8,000 life-size warriors and horses to be buried along the perimeter wall of his tomb in order to protect his corpse in the afterlife.  A reasonable request, don’t you think?

Because Emperor Qin believed that life under the ground after death was a continuation of life on earth, he constructed (or rather had his people construct – over a 40 year period) a huge mausoleum for himself including 3 palaces and a resting hall with all the necessities of daily life, as if the emperor were still alive.  And although a grass-covered mound stands 76 meters high today (originally 115 meters high during its completion in 221 BC) and about 35 kilometers from the city of Xi’an, it wasn’t until 1974 that local farmers discovered large pottery fragments while digging for wells in search of water.  This discovery led to the revelation of 3 pits housing the emperor’s underground army spanning over 22,000 square meters.  It should be said that the farmer who discovered this amazing national treasure (often referred to as The 8th Wonder of the World) became the first Chinese millionaire!

The Warrior "Hospital" - Where restorations continue daily

After 5 years of government approved excavation, Emperor Qin’s Terra-cotta Museum opened to the public on October 1, 1979.  In the last 20 years, the terra-cotta museum has become the largest on-site museum in China, and it receives over 2 million tourists each year.  Upon entering the first pit of the museum, all of us (my mom included who was visiting us for the first time) became speechless.  Something very difficult for both Brett and Mom to do I might add!  The sheer magnitude of the soldiers is bewildering – but upon closer look, we realized that each soldier carries a different facial expression, its own unique hairstyle and stance.  These outstanding figures were not replicated in bulk, but created with time, care, and unprecedented precision.  Even more remarkable – each figure would have been 3 times its current size before cooking it in the kiln to achieve the finished product.

Restored Warriors in Pit 1

Honestly, I can’t even wrap my mind around it – but I suppose there was a bit more free time before television and Facebook.  It is estimated that over 2 million craftsmen worked to build the emperor’s tomb and the terra-cotta warriors. Sadly,  thousands of them were buried alive at the death of the emperor to keep the tomb a secret.

It is truly something one must see to believe.  I had seen a documentary on them before moving to China – but nothing but your own eyes can truly do them justice.

Small Terra-cotta Figures from Emperor Jingdi's Tomb

Xi’an was actually the original capital of China, and because of this it has a plethora of other historical treasures.  In fact, just a one hour drive from Emperor Qin’s tomb is the Tomb of Emperor Jingdi which houses over 50,000 doll-sized terra-cotta figures in a new “under-ground” museum which opened in 2006.  Known as the Hanyangling museum, this modern space creates a unique perspective with glass floors that allow you to literally walk over the remains.  While the life-size warriors of Emperor Qin’s tomb are mind-boggling because they represent his complete domination over the people, the figures of Jingdi’s tomb embody his way of thinking as an emperor of the people.  The 2 emperors had quite different regimes to say the least.

Laughing at the Large Wild Goose Pagoda

We also visited the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, built in 652 AD during the Teng Dynasty to hold Buddhist materials collected from India. Although, my mom opted out, Brett and I climbed to the top to check out the views of Xi’an.  Unfortunately for us, the visibility that day pretty much sucked.  If only we had thought it through before climbing the 7 stories of rickety and extremely uneven stairs…

Xi’an is a true treasure of China, and the residents take great pride in their city. I thoroughly enjoyed our time there, and I highly recommend it as a stop during any visit to China.   I am also incredibly thankful that we got to share the experience with my mom.  I mean look how cute she is dressed as a terra-cotta soldier!

Warrior? Or Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland?

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