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Friday, 01 January 2021

Fortunate Cookies: A Father-Daughter Adventure in China - Page 3

Written by Eric D. Goodman
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Our guide and the museum and shop curators showed us a multitude of items made out of jade, including huge monuments and carved statues and small paperweights and intricately carved statuettes. The pictures and large wall hangings of inlayed jade, depicting historic scenes and landscapes, were a marvel, as was the process of carving multiple items within items within items. Of course, the jade jewelry was popular with visitors. And not all jade is green—the rainbow of colors in some of the inlayed jay pictures was all natural jade. We marveled at pieces carved out of orange and red and purple jade. Now that’s a jade of a different color.


Jade comes in different grades as well, and are rated by how hard they are. Jadeite, a form of high-quality jade, is the second hardest substance in the world. A diamond is the first. After the jade tour, we exited through the state-operated gift shop.


After all of the sights, our favorite jade remained the traditional, deep green.


I’ll bet Mom would like one of these,” Nicole said.


I don’t know. It’s a little pricy for something she wouldn’t wear very often.”


I could wear it too, sometimes.”


Not exactly two for one, but . . .”


We ended up buying a traditional jadeite bangle for them to share, figuring there would never be a time when they would each need to wear one at the same time.


World’s Greatest Wall

Locals in Beijing say that if you look to the sky and see blue, you should play your lottery numbers. Pollution has made air conditions harsh, and the forecast on most days—rain or shine—is smoggy.


That wasn’t the case on the morning that we left the busy city of Beijing for one of the most visited tourist attractions of China—and the very symbol of the ancient nation’s resolve to protect itself from the outside world.


The Great Wall of China was as great as we imagined it would be—and we only saw a tiny portion of it. “Tiny” didn’t seem like the right adjective at the time, however, as we approached and proceeded along a portion of the great stone walkway.


The full wall snakes through the mountains and valleys of foliage and desert for thousands of miles. The wall originated as a series of individual walls, but between 221 and 210 B.C., a unified China unified the wall, fortifying the smaller walls already there and connecting them with more wall. Today, it continues to stand as the largest man-made structure in the world.


The genius of the wall was not that it was so tall and strong. It’s that every single section of the wall is within reach of a bowman’s arrow from a tower, meaning that no part of the wall went unprotected—and that the towers also served as beacons, so it made for an easy and fast way to send an alert from one part of the wall—or China—to another. Messages could be sent quickly from one tower to another by fire, smoke, flares, drums, and bells.


Like an ancient instant-messaging app,” our guide offered, cell phone in hand.


The wall also offered a means of base and protection for troops traveling from one part of China to another. Camp always remained permanently set just beside them.


We felt something like troops ourselves as we sweated our way up the wall at Juyong Pass, perhaps the most popular section of the wall for tourists due to its proximity to Beijing. We climbed narrow and uneven stairs built centuries ago. We made it up through three towers, the crumbling stairs extremely steep and uneven. The railings were so low that only the smallest children could take advantage of them—unless you decided to crawl. It took a lot of effort and energy to walk the wall, even just for a couple hours. It’s a good thing our guide reminded us earlier that morning to wear good footwear (hiking shoes), and gave us water bottles to carry with us as we went. Those bottles were empty by the time we made it back down the wall.


We climbed to the top of one of the watchtowers. To get to the top, we had to navigate extremely narrow stairs that were so steep we had to use our hands and feet at the same time, balancing ourselves as we went up and down. They were more like stone ladders than stairs.


The most trying part of the wall hike was coming back down. It seemed dangerous, and the slightest slip could send you tumbling down what looked like an endless decent.


The view from atop the Great Wall was absolutely alluring and made it worth the risk and effort. We took in the blue sky, the mountains in the distance, trees and nature surrounding us. The wall took advantage of the natural terrain of the hillside, meaning that wherever you stood on the wall, you got the best view in the area. The best view of all: the snaking back and forth of the wall itself through the mountainous distance. Even the birds chirping in the breezy trees above us would probably agree with the panoramic views offered by the Great Wall of China. As a bird landed on the wall’s stone edge, I imagined their calls to one another from one watchtower to another—a love song spreading for thousands of miles.


More Cat than Bear

Giant pandas are the most popular animal in the Beijing Zoo, so we were thrilled to get to meet them. The Zoo in Beijing was different than the ones we’re used to in the United States and other western nations we’ve visited. You have to buy a ticket to see the animal you want to see. Tickets are for one animal, or one small group of animals. If you want to see more than one area, you have to buy additional tickets. We were here to focus on one unique species: China’s giant pandas.


Perhaps we arrived at naptime, but the pandas appeared to be lazy when we visited them, rolling around and munching on bamboo. We tend to think of pandas as bears, but we learned that the giant panda is more related to a large cat than a bear. We exited through the gift shop and marveled at the numerous Giant Panda souvenirs almost as much as we marveled at the animals themselves. Almost.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 13 January 2021

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