blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Day 6 in Beijing: on the Jiao Tong campus and up the Jingshan

Written May 15th, 2015

Entrance to Jiao Tong University
Today, Chris was finally able to relax after the completion of his assignment here. The people he's been working with left a box of expensive and beautifully packaged guan yin tea at our hotel--we found it on the bed just now when we came in.

Graduates of Jiao Tong Da Xue
While Chris was conferring with Prof. Liu and his colleagues and students this morning, I had a leisurely start, though I'd been awake since 5:30am, and a fascinating walk around the university by myself, observing the life on campus. I struck lucky because it was graduation day today and many of the students were proudly wearing their robes and taking photos of one another around the pond and in the garden near the Chairman Mao statue. I saw some proud parents in attendance too. The girls wore traditional Maoist tunics of pale blue cotton with black piping round their high collar and wide sleeves, over a demure black, knee-length skirt. Some had their hair in pigtails, which made them seem even more demure, but to my amusement I did notice a few had pleated their tunics with a safety pin at the back to give them more of a waist. The young men were in smart, new, black tunics.

Reading outdoor newspapers on the campus 

The graduates were celebrating, in their robes
Old lady walking through the campus
Chris' place of work,
with soldiers running
The campus doesn't appear to be confined to the students. I saw many young mums with their little ones again as well as some old people strolling around, one gentleman pointing with his stick at the characters on a stone as he mouthed the poem to himself. On the sports field, some young men and women 20 years old or so were jumping over skipping ropes in giggly groups, like 10-year-olds in a British schoolyard. Some other young men, extremely disciplined and dressed in army fatigues, were jogging round the racetrack in unison under the supervision of a sergeant major. As usual in outdoor Beijing, uniformed workers in conical straw hats with a broom and a dustpan on a stick kept coming along to sweep the pavement. I felt I was seeing little vignettes of Chinese life on this campus. It is a lovely place to walk around on a fine May morning, under the avenues of leafy trees and past the fragrant flowers.

Chris orders a coca cola
Chris met me back at the hotel; we lunched at the street round the corner from the Gaoliangqian Xiejie, returning to the comfortable restaurant where we'd dined on our first evening here and were served a bubbling bowl of chicken remains, including all the bones and the feet, with whole garlic and a sort of dumplings, kept hot by a small flame, and another tasty dish of beans and other things in strips. I've no idea what were were eating or what it was called, or what the restaurant was called, but it was a decent meal. Our visa card didn't work in their credit card machine so we had to resort to cash, as is often the case in this country.

No worries about supper because Howard and Henry had offered to treat us. We were to meet them at the junction of Lines 6 and 8 at Nanluoguxiang station (a bit of a mouthful to pronounce), which is so new that it does not appear on my map, but we worked it out from first principles, and realised that, once there, we'd be within walking distance of Jingshan park. Chris wanted to relax on park benches again this afternoon, so that's where we headed after coming up to ground level at Exit B. This area, remarkably popular with non-Chinese tourists, is also not far from the Qianhai and Houhai Lakes and Beihai Park, so I didn't think we'd get too lost.

Western couple on the slopes of Jingshan
The park was at the end of another leafy avenue--I was really grateful for the shade, even though today was cooler and fresher than yesterday. Then, because there was the inevitable big red wall round the park, we had to ask where the entrance was and continue round the corner. This park's name means Mountain with Landscape View, or something like that, and when we went in, it was idyllic, with graceful dark cypresses round the base of the mountain and rocky steps up the shady side. We encountered a non-Chinese couple here who asked us to take a picture of them; I think she was American and he was British. He was preparing to run a marathon tomorrow ... along parts of the Great Wall! Anyhow after chatting to us for a few minutes, they climbed the Jingshan nimbly enough. We sat and rested on the ascent, where it was quiet, and again at the top where it was not quiet; crowds of other people stood pointing at the formidable view of the great city skyscrapers to the north, similar to our views from high places in Tokyo, and on the other side of the roofs and whole extent of the Forbidden City.

This is a very famous view. It strikes me that the similarly extensive, strictly guarded Zhongnanhai compound behind the long red wall on Fuyou street today is not so very different from what this Imperial compound of old China used to be. The earth and rocks from the moat excavation around the Forbidden City, by the way, were used to create Jingshan, this "mountain" on which we stood looking down.

There's a gigantic golden Buddha in a temple at the summit of the Jingshan, to whom people were being encouraged to pray after the purchase of incense sticks and rosary beads. One lady I watched refused to pay for the extras but having stood and muttered with her fingertips together and having dipped her forehead to the cushion at the Buddha's feet, did slip him a 10-yuan note under one of the boxes of offerings. People of many different nationalities were sitting on the wall and benches or chatting in groups, including a large group of people who were Asian, but definitely not Chinese. I'm guessing Burmese, all the ladies in identical long golden, lacy dresses, some of them also wearing Mandarin hats bought from the gift shop. They and their menfolk were in a cheerful mood.

As we climbed back down the mountain we stopped to listen to a musician on a saxophone accompanied by an accordion player, entertaining a group of American and European students with a medley of music of their countries. He had an impressive repertoire, from the Marseilleise to Funiculi-Funicula.

Typically chaotic afternoon traffic near Nanluoguxiang zhan
Supper with Howard and Henry
We took our time wandering through the bottom of the park then walked back to Nanluoguxiang station to wait for Howard and Henry at Exit B. They showed up dead on time at 5pm and we set off walking again: supper was at a Korean restaurant on Qianhai Lake. We ate at an outdoor table under the willow trees, the Beijing men doing the ordering, fortunately. We shared all the dishes. My drink was a surprisingly good, frothy tomato juice and Chris got two bottles of the beer he likes. While we dined, lines of tourists went by in groups following their leader who held up a flag. Howard said he could “feel” that some of them were southern Chinese. After the meal we did a slow circuit of the lake, past the street vendors selling massages, kites and so on, constantly offered rickshaw rides and seeing the sunset over a distant mountain. Before it was quite dark a taxi ride with Howard and Henry took us back to the hotel, past Ping'anli and under the intertwining Xizhimen road bridges.

Sunset and tourists at Houhai Lake

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