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Friday, 01 January 2021

Fortunate Cookies: A Father-Daughter Adventure in China - Page 4

Written by Eric D. Goodman
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Not Your Grandfather’s Opium Den

How do you top a day that includes the Great Wall of China, intricate monuments of jade, and Giant Pandas? Seeing so many impressionable icons of China in one day can be stressful, so we took a break to sample ancient Chinese medicine.


Of all the busy streets in Beijing, perhaps the most bustling of them we saw was the famous Wangfujing Street—Beijing’s original shopping street. It was packed with shopping just like any other metropolitan city, with department stores and malls. But the most interesting part of the street was the most unique, and it was there that we discovered the Night Market. Just behind the food stalls, we visited the Beijing Tong Ren Tang Wang Fu Jing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine. (Say that three times fast!)


The ancient Beijing pharmacy we visited has been in business since 1699, and once served the Emperor of China. During our visit to the Imperial Pharmacy, we were treated to an interesting lecture on the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s all about balance: heat and cold, liver and lung. And everything can be brought into balance with herbs, powders, and consumables that have been concocted for thousands of years.


After the lecture, a Chinese doctor diagnosed us individually in the way that practitioners of Chinese medicine traditionally do: the doctor checked the color of the tongue, color of the eyes, took a pulse, and asked a few basic questions. After we were diagnosed (bill of good health, but a bit jet-lagged and sleep-deprived), a specialist treated us to ten-minute back massages. A great relief after our excursion of the day—especially up and down the Great Wall.


We were offered prescriptions to some beneficial herbs that have been successfully treating the locals for a thousand years. We opted to pass, but took their prescriptions with us in case we ever decide to look into the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine stateside. It turns out that it was probably a good thing we decided to pass. According to other reports, almost every tourist to the pharmacy is diagnosed with something and offered a prescription of approximately the same price (a little more than $100).


No opium pipe was passed around in this den, no traditional herbs purchased, but we felt refreshed and relaxed after the visit, just the same.


Scorpion, Squid, or Snake?

Invigorated by the healthful visit, the last excursion of the day was a stroll along Beijing’s famous street food market along Wangfujing Street. The Night Market bustled with people—locals and visitors alike—and the chants and calls of the people staffing the food stalls overtook the noise of the vehicles along the street. Vendors sold (and customers ate) scorpions, bugs, squids, snakes, spiders, pidgins, crickets, and all sorts of exotic animals and insects. I wondered whether some of Cricket-Leo’s second and third place contestants ended up here. Our adventurous spirits didn’t go that far—although we did eat jellyfish, lotus root, and snow plums.


Shops behind the street vendors and their makeshift kitchens sold everything from cookies and sweets to electronics and spirits. We picked up some candy and cookies and a bottle of rice wine with a picture of the iconic Temple of Heaven labeling the front—just a little something to take back to the hotel.


At Wangjujing Street’s Night Market, we found something sweet and new: green bean ice cream. We started the day with green jade and ended with green bean ice cream. No one can accuse us of not getting our greens in for the day. The Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors would be proud.



Heavenly Temple

The green bean ice cream carried us through the night, but in the morning we were hungry for another full breakfast of east meets west. Before leaving Beijing for our next destination, we went on a little adventure.


One more important piece of Imperial China called to us, and we just had to see it for ourselves. We hailed a taxi from our hotel and raced—not to the airport—to the Temple of Heaven.


Also known as Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven was built during the Ming dynasty and is one of China’s biggest temples. It was in the round palace that the Emperor would pray, make sacrifices, and communicate with the gods and ancestors.


The architecture and details were amazing, from the marble platform to the golden finial at the top—especially the blue circular roof symbolizing the sky, and the elaborately decorated interior.


The temple was constructed entirely of wood, with no nails holding it together. Inside, the beams and decorative boards were intricately painted in green, blue, red, and gold. At the center of the caisson ceiling was a gilded dragon and phoenix, representing the Emperor and Empress. The dragon well pillars—28 of them in all—were beautifully painted with red and gold. Inside and out, the style and the colors were similar to Forbidden City and Summer Palace. But something about the presence of this massive, cylinder building made it even more impressive.


An expansive park system surrounded the beautiful Temple of Heaven, and it was full of people doing their peaceful morning activities: walking, playing cards, Chinese chess, badminton, doing tai chi, dance, yoga, and meditation. People played music on interesting Chinese instruments, sang, and danced. A large Tibetan dance troupe did a sort of line dance.


We were only able to stay for an hour because we had to catch our flight. But the Temple of Heaven was an enlightening way to begin the day, so we could see why so many locals spent their mornings there.


©Eric D. Goodman with help from Nicole Goodman


Eric D. Goodman is a full-time writer who lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife, son, daughter, and Weimaraner. He is author of the new literary thriller, The Color of Jadeite, set in China. His other books include Setting the Family Free, Womb: a novel in utero, Tracks: A Novel in Stories, and Flightless Goose, a storybook for children. More than a hundred of his works of short fiction, travel stories, and articles about writing have been published in literary journals, magazines, and periodicals. When he’s not writing, Eric loves traveling, and most of the settings in his most recent novel, The Color of Jadeite, are places he has visited. Founder and curator of Baltimore’s popular Lit and Art Reading Series, Eric can be found at,, and


Nicole Goodman, daughter of the author, helped with the notetaking and daily journaling for this travel story. Sixteen at the time of the travels, she is now a graduate of Towson University’s Honors College and enrolled in Towson’s graduate program for school psychology.


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Last modified on Wednesday, 13 January 2021

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