Touch the Wonder Donkey

I had the day free from work today, but after yesterday’s strenuous sightseeing, I didn’t feel like another big expedition, so I just explored the neighborhood around the hotel, which is really not very far from where my apartment will be.

I’ve heard stories both ways about bicycles in Beijing. Some writers said with the proliferation of cars, bicycles were becoming less prominent. I don’t know what it was like twenty years ago, but to an American it seems like there are lots of bikes – way more than in any American city. And they come in quite a variety of design, two-wheeled and three, sometimes with a little motor, sometimes a weather cover.

Here’s a scene typical of the contrasts you see here. In the background is a fancy new complex. In fact, my boss JW lives in one of the buildings you can’t see, hidden behind the red and white one. CL lives in the new building farthest away. None of my coworkers lives in the foreground building, but it’s pretty standard Beijing accommodations, or a little nicer than most.

The Good Wood Coffee Company is on the street behind the hotel. I’m fascinated by words and how people communicate, so I just love things like this.

Across the street from Good Wood is the Bruce Lee Restaurant and one of many McDonalds locations.

A little further to the east you come to Alien’s Street. See? It says so right there on the sign. The aliens in this part of town seem to be mostly Russian.

Across the street from the hotel is the Dongyue Taoist Temple, which was first built in 1319. To quote the plaque outside:

In the history, the Dongyue Temple was built for offering sacrifice to gods or ancestors on a national scale. The folk sacred celebrations are more splendid, and now the Dongyue Temple, a valuable cultural and historic heritage site becomes the cultural activity center of profound cultural backgrounds in terms of folk custom. After its restoration, it is used as the Beijing Folk Custom Museum.

I proofread that paragraph very carefully. It is word for word exactly what is printed on the plaque outside the temple. Odd translation aside, it’s a very lovely spot, quite a haven of quiet in the midst of the bustling city. You step inside the gate, and suddenly the air is still and tension seeps out of you.

There are a number of ornate buildings. This is the central one, with a tour group. In the center of the doorway is a huge bronze urn with giant incense sticks burning in it.

All around the central area are little rooms with painted figures illustrating scenes from myth and history.

The courtyard is filled with carved pillars. In past centuries, the city’s trade guilds would commission pillars to commemorate their donations to the upkeep of the temple. That’s a turtle at the base, in case you’re wondering.

The most famous of these pillars is protected by a glass frame, and if you stand in just the right place, you can catch the reflection of a modern apartment building in it.

Here’s a close view of the base of one pillar. You can see how elaborate the original carving was, as well as how it’s cracked and crumbled over the centuries, plus some of the repair efforts.

There is also this life-size ceramic horse, which is called the White Jade Horse because people thought it looked like it was carved from white jade.

Opposite the White Jade Horse is the Bronze Wonder Donkey. In centuries past, it was believed that touching the statue could cure all manner of disease and ailment. They still touch it today – I saw it myself.

Dinner tonight was lasagna at JW’s place. KW wanted to try out her new oven. Their kitchen, for some reason, came without an oven. There’s a cooktop, but I guess a lot of Chinese people just don’t use ovens that much. When JW first picked out the place, he didn’t notice the absence – it’s not the kind of thing an American would think of. It took some wrangling with the landlord to get an oven installed. The experiment was a success, and the lasagna worked out quite well.

Must sleep now. Head keeps nodding over…

No comments:

Post a Comment