The Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce recently returned from China, the first ever trip sponsored by the Chamber.
After another great breakfast at our hotel, we started our last full day touring Beijing. Our day started at the Pearl Market, where we learned the many varieties of pearls, including fresh water and rare golden pearls. Weather is a bit overcast again with light sprinkles, but not enough to slow us down! Our next stop was at the Summer Palace, another UNESCO World Site. First built in 1750 as a summer resort for the emperors, the area was largely destroyed in the war of 1860 and then restored on its original foundations in 1886. The Summer Palace is beautiful, with natural landscaped hills, pavilions, halls, and palaces surrounding Kunming Lake. Highlights include a Marble Boat, built in 1755 in the hope that the governance of the Qing Dynasty would be impregnable under any circumstance, the Seventeen Arch Bridge, and the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity where Emperor Guangxu, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, conducted official business during his stay at the garden.
Upon leaving the Summer Palace, we traveled to old Beijing for one of the highlights of our trip. We visited the hutongs, which came into existence in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) when Beijing became the capital of China. This is a residential area of closed courtyards, and the hutongs are the lanes or alleyways to get to the residences. We visited a family in old Beijing and were served a wonderful lunch in the courtyard of their home. The lady of the house then entertained us with music from a guzheng, a 21 stringed instrument. After lunch, we toured the hutongs in pedal rickshaws. Lots of street vendors – a “rolex” watch could be purchased for under $5!
After lunch, we traveled to Tian An Men square, the largest square in the world. This famous square features the Monument of People’s Heroes, constructed in 1952; the Great Hall of the People, erected in 1959 and is the site of the China National People’s Congress meetings; Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao; and the National Museum. On the north end of the square is Tian An Men Tower, constructed in 1417 and is the front door to the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was home to 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and has a total of 90 palaces and courtyards and 9,999 rooms, spread over 178 acres. It was “forbidden” for the common people to enter the gates. We walked through the outer court, where the halls were used for grand ceremonies, banquets, and other state affairs conducted by the emperor. We saw the Dragon Throne and many brass statues and marble carvings. The inner court consisted of a number of halls and palaces, including the emperors’ sleeping quarters, the Palace of Union and Peace, where the imperial seals were stored, and Hall of Terrestrial Tranquility, the emperors’ wedding room. In addition to the three main buildings, there are six eastern and six western palaces that the emperor used to handle everyday affairs, and was the living quarters of the emperor, empress, and concubines. The inner court led to the Imperial Garden, with many trees, flowers, sculptures, and rock features among the twenty or so structures. After a walk back to our bus, we headed to dinner and back to our hotel for rest and relaxation. Some of our group explored the nearby Walmart and Starbucks, while some of us gathered for social time in the lounge.
Our last day in Beijing started with breakfast and checking out of our hotel. We traveled to the Imperial Pharmacy, located at the Beijing Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine. We learned about TCM and were offered the opportunity to be examined by the doctors there, who took our pulse and looked at our tongues to discover any aliments. The diagnoses were correct for several in our group, some were judged to be very healthy, and some were a bit off target. Some of our group did purchase a supply of herbs for their aliments, and look forward to hearing about results! After lunch on the way to the airport, we checked in for our two hour flight to Shanghai. After arrival, we met our new guide, Ivy – who I had the pleasure of meeting last year. We loaded into our new motor coach and headed for Suzhou, with sandwiches on the bus for dinner. One thing that occurred while leaving Beijing – one of our group accidentally left a carry on bag at security in the airport. When we arrived in Shanghai, our new guide Ivy contacted our Beijing guide Richard, who was picking up a new group that afternoon at the airport – and recovered the bag! The next group coming to Shanghai brought the bag with them and returned it to the owner safe and sound. Don’t know of many countries that would have happened! Next time – Suzhou and Hangzhou!
Bobby Todd is director of the Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce.