Thinking back to Beijing

As I expected I didn’t end up having time to write about our much while I was in China.  It was my job to keep the posts coming for the Stellae Boreales blog and post new photos whenever possible.  Hopefully many of you dropped in to read the many perspectives posted there as musicians, parents and coaches wrote about our travels.

After our trip to the Great Wall we stopped off at a Cloisonne Factory and were able to see each step involved in creating the beautiful pieces made using this technique.  Each item is made from copper onto which is marked an elaborate design.  The craftsman then attaches wire to the item along the lines of the design making compartments into which coloured enamel will be dropped. The item is heated and the enamel process repeated until there is enough to fill each compartment.  Each item is fired, polished and then gilded along the original wire lines.  As you can see the process is time consuming and the prices reflect that.  We had a chance to try dropping colour into the compartments on copper saucers and quickly saw that a steady hand and an accurate eye was needed.

That evening those of us who could keep awake enjoyed the Peking Opera,  it was like nothing we had ever seen or heard!  The elaborate costumes and makeup combined with the carefully choreographed fight scenes made it interesting to watch.  The story lines, taken from ancient Chinese legends were a little hard to follow at times but when I think about it, the “separated lovers” tale and the “renegade warrior fighting off all attempts to quell him” are familiar story lines in any culture.

On the morning of our last full day in Beijing we were taken to a hutong, an old Chinese settlement, where we travelled by rickshaw and visited a Chinese family’s home.  L13 wrote about this here.  It was great to see the style of living once enjoyed by many Chinese extended families, which I had read about just before leaving Canada in Moying Li’s book Snow Falling in Spring.

One thing that struck me about Beijing was the neat and manicured look of the city.  There were people sweeping streets and picking up garbage everywhere we went.  All the freeways and main roads were lined with plants and each plant was covered in healthy green leaves.  From the bus we saw gardens everywhere usually featuring hedges clipped into the shape of Olympic or Chinese symbols.  Considering the amount of pollution in the air we were amazed at how healthy everything seemed.  Although the roads we drove down were always busy they were wide and the city appeared spacious despite its population of 17 million.  As we drove down the main streets we could see glimpses down alleys where the view was quite different, but we had no chance to wander there.

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