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