Page 5  Lots more to come



Outside of Beijing are the Ming tombs. The walkway to the tombs is flanked by huge stone animals and guardians. There are camels, elephants, lions, etc. In order to get into the tombs, you had to walk down flights and flights of stairs. That meant, of course, you had to walk up flights and flights of stairs. At the end of a busy day sightseeing, more stairs were the last thing I wanted to do.

We got on a train for Jinan, the capitol of Shandong Province. Shandong is the richest province in all of China. It has gold, pearls, ports, a booming silk and tea industry. It is also the agricultural center for the country. The train had small plastic tables bolted down with plastic chairs (two on each side) bolted down. Tea carts went up and down the aisles during the trip, selling different varieties of tea and snacks, none of which I could identify, so I just pointed, paid and smiled (smiles get you thru a lot of strange situations, I've found).

We enjoyed seeing the countryside as we rolled along. We saw numerous farming villages all surrounded by mud-brick walls; small ponds where bamboo-set ups were in operation for fish-raising, then all of a sudden, out of nowhere- high-rise apartment buildings!

After a 5 hour trip on the train, we arrived at our hotel where we were greeted by the entire staff playing instruments. We were almost too darned tired to be appreciative. There was a banquet set up at which the Governor of the Province made speeches and we were given tee-shirts. The food was excellent - just wish I hadn't been so tired - I could have "eaten all night" as they say.

The next morning, we headed out for a fresh water pearl factory to see how those were made. Fresh water pearl making is a big industry in China. Little bits of irritants (nichor, I think) are inserted in clams, then, like what happens in cultured pearls & oysters, the shell fish covers it over, and sometime afterwards, you open it up, and can find up to 5 or 6 pearls in there. They were the shape of rice grains. I never did find out how they made the flatter ones and the roundy ones.

Then, we trundled off to tour Confucius' home and tomb.

 

Confucius is back in vogue these days, after having been on the "outs" during Mao's time. He lived during the Warring States period. His home is a huge walled fortress-like compound where his descendants lived until the Revolution. The book advertised as an "Anniversary" book is a novel (?!), gilt edges, with a "jade" carving on the cover, and tipped in hand-colored plates. It cost $85.00. I took a "pass"  which I now regret.

Confucius' graveyard was quite interesting because every time an Emperor came to visit the tomb, a small pavilion to commemorate the visit was constructed. You can track the visits through time by the different architectural styles.

Confucius is buried next to his wife, and offerings are still left there daily. To the left of the tomb is a small house where some of Confucius' disciples kept watch after he died. Behind his tomb is the Kong family grave yard, full of magnificent tombstones. It's so large you have to take a golf cart to get around it. Anyone named "Kong" has the right to be buried there.

In the old days, no one was allowed to go into the graveyard, but now, local people are permitted to gather fallen branches for fuel in the forested areas. An entire town has been built around Confucius' mansion. The town is growing so fast, and there are so many people that the Government has taken away farmland to make apartment buildings. The farmers have been re-trained to carve "chops" for the tourists. They have been permitted to set up shop in the graveyard.

It's rather odd to see one "chop shop" after another, all offering pretty much the same "stuff", i.e., your zodiac sign (one of 12 animals) with your name rendered in Chinese characters. You can bargain the prices, but the quality of the carving is not particularly good. I was wondering whether the Government subsidized these ex-farmers anymore or not, now their lifeways had been forcibly changed. Never found out.



For some reason, wherever we go (I think it's because we look so typically touristy), we are asked to give interviews, or help students with their English as part of a school project, or pose with other tourists. Here, we were interviewed by CNN (China National News) about the differences we saw in China now compared to 1988, and what we thought of Confucius, his home, etc. 



Stores behind Confucius' graveyard. The local guides apparently get "kick-backs" from the shop owners to whom they steer tourists.  These bicycle carts are found all over China. They really are handy for transporting larger packages (why didn't I have one for my purchases?). The drivers are available for "rent" - sort of urban messenger services.

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