Kurt's China photos - Tourism - Summer 2004

crowded subwaysubway stationOn several days that I wasn't teaching in Beijing, we went to visit the typical tourist sites in and around Beijing.  To get to the center of Beijing, we rode the train.  As you can see from these photos, it can be pretty busy, but was actually less crowded than some eastern European city trains I've been on. 

Tiananmen Square

Kristen, Lisa, and Zach at Mao's tombOur first stop was Tiananmen Square (Gate of Heavenly Peace).  It's a nice square, with the old city wall gate on one end, a couple of big government buildings on the sides, and then the Forbidden Palace on the other end.  Chairman Mao Zedong's tomb is in the background here, as well as a nice statue paying tribute to the working people of China.  We waited in a long line and got to walk past Chairman Mao's preserved body inside the Maosoleum.  I'd expected seeing Chairman Mao's body to be borderline comparable with visiting a Ripley's Museum, but actually found myself pondering what a huge impact someone would have to have on a nation to inspire them to preserve their body like this decades later. 
Zach, Kristen, and Lisa at city gate in Tiananmen squareZach, Kristen, and Lisa posing in front of the entrance gate in the old city wall.  I often wonder why I, like so many tourists, insist on taking posed photos like this with famous landmarks in the background. 
Is it to prove we were there? 
Is it to prove that the landmark actually exists?
Tibetans in Tiananmen squareTibetans in Tiananmen squareWe met a group from Tibet there.  As you can see, they wore some unusual clothing, so they caught my eye and I'm not shy about talking to strangers (i.e., friends I have not yet met), so ... here we are hanging around with some Tibetans.  
Tibetans in Tiananmen squareTibet is known as the Xizang Autonomous Region.  China has 23 Provinces, plus 4 municipalities, plus five Autonomous Regions (also here).  Provinces are like provinces or states in any other country - they are smaller governing bodies that are ultimately under the jurisdiction of the federal government.  Municipalities are large cities that count as a state unto themselves - like Bremen in Germany.  The autonomous regions are, in theory, self governing, and so might be akin to the Native American Nations in the United States. 

Forbidden City

Zach, Kristen, and Lisa in Tiananmen squareZach, Kristen, and Lisa at Forbidden PalaceThe entrance to the Forbidden City (a.k.a., Palace Museum) is at the end of Tiananmen Square and boasts a nice big portrait of Chairman Mao. This was the home of the Emporer during the Ming and Qing dynasties (i.e., starting around 1400).  It's remarkable and beautiful.  Fei HongCia had spent some time as a tour guide once, so she tried to fill us in with all the little stories behind the place.  It can be pretty overwhelming if you're not at all familiar with Chinese history, but if you don't know something, then you can always learn!

Great Wall at Badaling

Great Wall at BadalingGreat Wall at BadalingThis is one of the most cleaned-up sections of the Great Wall, and definitely very touristy.  I didn't mind there being other people on the wall with me, but people seeking a solitary walk along the wall might choose to go to one of the other Great Wall access points.  As you can see, the wall was constructed along the ridge line for maximum security.  Imagine hauling giant blocks of granite up to the top of the hill without the use of mechanized equipment all day, every day, for your lifetime.  That's what I thought about, anyway.  Sure, the day's work would be tough, but what did the workers do in their evenings, etc.?  I'm sure the broke the work down into smaller projects, so I wonder if there was griping about how some people always seem to get the easier jobs, or if there was a sense of pride when completing something like a guard tower.  It made me think of my days cooking in a restaurant - the work was not particularly inspiring, so we found solace and significance in small day-to-day things.  The other thing I thought about was what it'd be like to be a sentry walking the wall on some cold winter night. 
Great Wall at BadalingThe hike from the access point is up hill, but it's downhill going the other way, so the round trip is just 50% uphill.  (I know that sounds obvious, but people seem to forget that kind of thing about life, so ...)
There are two schools of though concerning water.  (1) The cheap school (i.e., mine) says haul it all up yourself - you'll save a few yuan and you'll get a little extra exercise hauling the water up the hill.  (2) The other school of thought argues that, "yeah, the price of water sold in bottles by folks at the top of the hill is very expensive compared to what you can get in Beijing, but that's the price of luxury and it's comparable to the price of bottled water in America anyway, so why be a cheapskate?"  Whatever school you choose, be sure to drink a lot of water!!
Great Wall at BadalingGreat Wall at BadalingSome stretches are fairly steep and so provide an excellent stair workout.  The Chinese government installed hand rails along the sides for safety, which is a good idea because these are stairs that you definitely do not want to fall down!
Note the granite outcrop beneath the wall in the picture on the right.  There were several places where the wall was built around such large outcrops so that they are engulfed like a fly in amber.  There are a few studies of the granite (e.g., Wu et al., 2000; Wang and Zhang, 2001) indicate it originally crystallized "deep" within the earth roughly 130 million years ago, but was then uplifted to the surface quickly fairly recently by geological standards (6 million years ago). 

group on Great WallGreat Wall at BadalingStairmaster 1400! 

group on Great Wallgroup on Great WallSome obligatory photos with the landmark in the background.  Fei HongCai and Wang BingTing were excellent guides.  With Wang BingTing's eternally positive attitude, the trip could only be a happy one!
sign at Great Wall at BadalingThe Chinese are trying to be sensitive to the impacts of people on the environment.  Many of the students I've met are environmental geologists who are just as avid about protecting the environment as anyone I've met anywhere else in the world. 

Summer Palace

limestone with dissolution channelslimestone with dissolution channelsHave you ever had a teacher who makes a lesson out of everything?  Well, then you have a good idea of what it's like to travel with me!  Totally annoying, I'm sure, but good for you!  There were certainly some beautiful buildings and impressive views at the Summer Palace, but I liked the big limestone blocks, too.  These are very large blocks shipped in from somewhere to the south (without the help of modern machines, of course).  I was impressed by the importance of fracture permeability (and subsequent dissolution channels) on fluid flow through massive limestones like this. 
Zach, Kristen, and Lisa at Summer Palace... and the obligatory landmark photo...

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