The Retirees Invade China – Day Two – The Jade Factory, the Great Wall and The Forbidden Palace

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The next morning was an early start. One thing we were learning about this tour was that the itinerary was flexible according to Eddie which meant what you expected rarely happened. So, we were expecting to go to the Great Wall but Eddie wanted to go to the Jade Factory firstly. Eddie is very fond of Jade in all its shades and hues and was very chuffed that China included Jade in all the medals awarded to athletes in the Games and the Disability Games.

So, he took us to the factory that made the medals. The factory was nothing to look at but inside we were warmly greeted by Monica (not her real name) who showed us the cubicle where the craftsmen carved the jade to time honoured patterns. Then she took us into the showroom to see their wares and put the bite on us tourists. It was very interesting to hear the reason for the popularity of jade amongst the Chinese, how to distinguish the real from the fake and what a good investment it was. Monica chased us around the show room until she finally got the idea we were not buying. As we were departing I noticed a forlorn group of Chinese and went to visit them. No wonder they were forlorn there was a bear amongst them. Buddha was happy though.

The bus chugged out the gate and slowly climbed to the tourist stop for the Great Wall. Now I had been to the Wall (but at a different location) in 1998, so I knew what to expect but still I was surprised by the steepness of the hills then some of the segments of the Wall along the way and finally the section we were going to climb and looked at it wondering how far I would get on that hill. We gathered at a coffee shop below Fortress No 7. We commenced our climb and Kerry had to turn back – her left foot still troubles her. In the photos, you can see Fortresses 8,9, and 10. Fortress 7 can be made out in one photo in the bottom left hand corner. I made it to Fortress 9 and the photos will tell you what I saw going up when I got to Fortress 9 and coming down – note the ice on the steps and that some fool put a pagoda on top of the opposite hill.

Returning was quite difficult due to the ice and the steepness of the stairs but I made it in one piece. I met up with Kerry at the coffee shop talking to fellow tourist Polly. A chance to sit down and take in a hot cup of coffee. Some of the younger ones made it to Fortress 10 and beyond but I was very happy with my achievement.

The morning was not finished yet. Eddie had line up the Cloisonne workshop and restaurant. Cloisonné is an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects. The decoration is formed by first adding compartments to the metal object by soldering or affixing silver or gold wires or thin strips placed on their edges. In antiquity, the cloisonné technique was mostly used for jewellery and small fittings for clothes, weapons or similar small objects decorated with geometric or schematic designs, with thick cloison walls. In the Byzantine Empire techniques using thinner wires were developed to allow more pictorial images to be produced, mostly used for religious images and jewellery, and by then always using enamel. By the 14th century this enamel technique had spread to China, where it was soon used for much larger vessels such as bowls and vases; the technique remains common in China to the present day, and cloisonné enamel objects using Chinese-derived styles were produced in the West from the 18th century. Eddie arranged a guided tour for us before shuffling us upstairs to another Chinese banquet.

Our appetites sated, Eddie determined we would return to the Forbidden City to see what we had missed out on. Along the route, we passed at speed an unusual building which I photographed poorly but which I have included here because of its strange appearance. We were dropped off a few streets away from the Forbidden City due to the parking problems, and after walking for 15 mins arrived back at the moat and the southern gate to the Forbidden City – Gate of the Divine Might. Of course, we could not enter there but has to walk around to the Eastern Gate – East Glorious Gate where we had left off yesterday.

Inside the inner walls, we encountered the Hall of Supreme Harmony where the Emperor held court received envoys and important persons and generally lorded it over everyone. We followed the meridian through to the Palace of Heavenly Purity where the Emperor resided, spotted the Buddhist White Pagoda where Marco Polo was first received in the 12th century, into the Imperial Garden and then out the gate and onto the street from where we could see the temple where the last Ming Emperor hung himself as the Manchus pillaged and burned Beijing before taking the throne and creating the last dynasty, the Qing Dynasty.

I thought we were at last going home but wait there is more. Another “5 min” walk that turned into 15 or 20 mins to the Chinese Academy of Medicine where we were treated to a lesson on herbal remedies a 20-minute foot bath followed by a massage and the hard sell to buy some of the remedies. Kerry was not fairing very well and had sat out the revisiting to the Forbidden City and desperately wanted to go the hotel. So after travelling to the restaurant for dinner we persuaded Eddie to call us a cab and we travelled back to the hotel and room service.

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