China 2005

Before leaving for Chengdu this morning we had the opportunity to visit a Hutong and experience what is was like living in Beijing in the old days. A hutong is a unique form of community that exists only in China. Hutong means a small street or a lane between two courtyards. There are thousands of hutongs in Beijing. Most of them were built in the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasty (1271-1911). Every hutong has a name. We toured the Shichahai area. We boarded our pedicabs and off we went. Our guide Kitty met us and took us through the area explaining the people and then we visited a local family and heard their story. I took a photo of their stove used to heat and the picture of the grey rounds are charcoal, the heating fuel for the stove. A very nice couple. The area that they lived in was quite large and rectangular in shape with the front being for the servants, then a courtyard, then another set of buildings for the owners, then a smaller courtyard, then at the back is the building for the parents...this is where they live. Their children lived in the bigger building. This property by the way is worth a great deal of money. Then a quick visit to Beijing's Bell Tower. Now this bell was impressive both in size and in weight as noted by the picture. Then another quick visit for a taste of teas at a local tea shop. I loved the lychee nut tea as well as the jasmine. Here you see a tiny tall cup and short cup. When you pour in hot tea it changes from the black to the red. You first pour into the tall and put the short on top of it, then flip it over and drink from the short while using the taller one to warm your hands. After this we had lunch in one of four local homes. They broke us up into groups because of our size. We each got to try their local food and it was delicious!

Off to the airport to board our flight to Chengdu and the Jinjiang Hotel. Chengdu has a population of about 4 million with the surrounding area another 6 million. After checking in we headed off to dinner and a face-changing show at Shufengyayun Tea House. The ancient art of face changing is a national treasure and there are very few left who can do it. It is mysterious and the secret will never be shared except by those who practice it. Face-changing first appeared in Sichuan Opera during the reign of the Qing Dynasty Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795). It was a beautiful evening as Chengdu turned out to be much warmer than Beijing.





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