Sunday, November 25, 2007

Chinese English Teacher

Chinese Teacher, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

This is the same classroom as the picture used earlier. An English lesson is written on the front blackboard. On the left side of the picture you can see my wife and one of the American students dressed in school shirts that had been given to us as a gift.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Teacher in Computer Lab

Teacher in Computer Lab, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

The teachers at Beijing Middle School #22 shared a computer lab with full internet access where they could research and make lesson plans.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Classroom Blackboard

Classroom Blackboard, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

We were given a tour and we visited this English class where one of the students gave a greeting. All the students study English. The light blue colors on the school uniforms show that they are the younger students, probably the equivalent of 8th grade.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

School Courtyard

School Courtyard, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

This is the central courtyard of Beijing Middle School #22. Middle school is the equivalent of high school in the United States. The school was very old and the administration was very apologetic about the condition. They were planning to build a replacement building the next year.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Student at Recess

Student at Recess, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Since our trip to China was part of a school exchange program we spent one whole morning shadowing students at the school. This girl is one of the host students. Despite the very hot weather, she is wearing the long sleeve track suit style winter uniform. The students prefer this because they can wear street clothes under the jacket.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Picking a Pomegranate

Picking a Pomegranate, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Pomegranates in the Xian region are as abundant as apples are in the northeast United States. This fruit that is a delicacy in the United States were everywhere including the medians of city streets. These pomegranates were at the Hot Springs and looked almost ripe enough to pick.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Huaqing Hot Springs

The terra cotta soldiers aren't the only archaeological treasure in the Xian area. The Huaqing Hot Springs go back at least to the Tang Dynasty and further. They sit at the picturesque base of a nearby mountain. The site has been heavily restored with pagodas, ponds and fountains.

The original baths are large swimming pool sized pits that are now dry to preserve how they looked in the ninth century, but the hot springs still run through the site.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hand Made Noodles

Hand Made Noodles, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

The restaurant at the Terra Cotta Soldiers complex was buffet style, but they had an area with chefs making fresh noodle soup from scratch. And that included the noodles. They would take patches of dough and stretch and toss it like a pizza maker, except they were stringing it out thinner and longer. Eventually they hand sliced it into tiny slivers and boiled into noodles for the soup.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Snake Wine

Snake Wine, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

The terra cotta warrior complex has a buffet restaurant for the visitors. One of their ways of getting a few more sales is that they come around with a beverage cart. They include the choice of snake wine. The wine is really 80 proof rice alcohol with a snake in the bottle. It supposedly has medicinal and virility enhancing properties, but nobody in our group was willing to try it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Terra Cotta Soldier Replica

Terra Cotta Soldier Replica, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

The terra cotta complex has a huge gift shop where all sort of replicas of the terra cotta soldiers if you don't want the trinkets the street peddlers sell.

Here is an actual size replica of the soldiers to show that they truly are life size. The gift shop is also where the farmer that found the soldiers hangs out. He autograph books and poses for pictures. He wants ten bucks a shot, so we passed.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Xian Fur Vendor

Xian Fur Vendor, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

The area in and around the terra cotta soldier complex is stately and elegant. Just outside the main gate to the parking lot is a gauntlet of souvenir vendors. Most just approach with sets of figurines or books or post cards. If you refuse, they keep lowering the price until you get curious enough to look. The going rate for a set of five clay or brass miniature figures is one dollar. I paid double that and felt I got robbed.

Others have booths set up with clothing or crafts or pomegranate wine. This vendor was selling animal pelts. I have no idea what I was expected to do with one, but now I know where to go if I ever want some.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Emperor's Front Wagon

Emperor's Wagon, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Two replica funeral wagons were found near the terra cotta soldiers. The first one is open air with a parasol indicated life and birth. The second one is closed and symbolizes death.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Emperor Wagon

Emperor Wagon, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

In addition to the terra cotta soldiers, other archaeological artifacts were found in Xian. This bronze model of a funeral wagon is on display in the adjacent museum. It stands about two feet tall. All the accessories have rotted away but the cart and horses remain will preserved.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Terra Cotta Soldier On Display

Terra Cotta Soldier, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Most of the sculpture figures at the Xian terra cotta warriors complex are kept within the pits where they were found. Many of them have even been reburied to preserve them.

A select few are on display at the main level in glass cases so that visitors can see the exquisite detail in these finely crafted clay pieces. Here is an army officer holding a weapon that has rotted away long ago.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Terra Cotta Horsemen

Terra Cotta Horsemen, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

In addition to the famous pit where 8000 terra cotta soldiers were found, there are two other pits with fewer but more "senior" soldiers. Here is a grouping of warriors with battle horses.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Terra Cotta Faces

Terra Cotta Faces, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

At first, the claim that each of the eight thousand terra cotta soldiers buried in Xian is unique defies belief. To prove the point, the display inclues a large photo montage of a couple of dozen of the sculptures so that the faces can be compared side by side.

Sure enough, each picture shows different facial features, hair styles and expressions. The craftsmanship and detail is astounding.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Terra Cotta Soldiers

Terra Cotta Soldiers, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Each of the 8000 terra cotta soldiers is unique with separate features, clothes, hair, and facial expressions. As seen in the front figure in this picture, many held wooden weapons that have long rotted away. The original paint and glazing has faded over the past 18 centuries, but the figures remain.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Olympics For Sale

Olympic Store in Xian, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

The Chinese have a deseveredly bad reputation for violating intellectual property rights. It's not that they can't enforce them, it's that they don't. Take for example, the very cute mascots for the 2008 Olympics. You would think they would be everywhere. But you can only buy licensed Olympic items in select Olympic stores. There is not a knock-off to be found anywhere.

This picture is just outside the Xian Terra Cotta Soldiers complex. Most tourist areas have an Olympic store in or near them.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Countdown Clock

IMG_4007, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

All over Beijing there were signs big and small with these countdown clocks saying how many days remained until the Olympics. The sense of pride in hosting the Games is overwhelming. The Olympic Spirit is overwhelming.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Water Sports

IMG_4236, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Besides the Birds Nest Stadium, the other architecturally unique building being built for the Beijing 2008 Olympics is the aquatic sports facility. The entire exterior of the building is clad in a material designed to look like reflective bubbles.

As you can see, the building was pretty far along, but there was plenty of site work to still be done.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Olympic Mascots

IMG_4227, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

One thing the Chinese do well is cute. The five mascots for the Olympics are each one of the colors of the Olympic rings and each has a special theme and group of events they represent.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Terra Cotta Soldiers in Pit One

Terra Cotta Soldiers in Pit One, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

The terra cotta soldiers in Xian are a major tourist attraction. They were made and buried around 200 AD and only discovered a couple of decades ago.

The building was built around the pit where the soldiers were discovered and is bigger than an aircraft hangar.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Xian Drum Tower at night

Xian Drum Tower at night, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Just off the center square of the old city part of Xian is the Drum Tower. The tower has a large colony of bats and at night you can see and hear them as they fly out of and around the tower eating insects.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bird's Nest

IMG_4253, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

The premiere venue for the Beijing Olympics will be the stadium known as the Bird's Nest. Here I am standing at the construction entrance to the site. Even from this short distance, the Beijing haze obscures the view of the stadium.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Making Dumplings

P1000459, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

One of the great benefits of my son going to China as a cultural exchange was that he stayed with a Chinese host family. One evening we all got invited to the host student's grandparents house for homemade dumplings. And by "homemade" that meant made right in front of us.

People in Beijing love dumplings and eat them with nearly every meal.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Long Corridor

IMG_0259, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

One of the more spectacular features of the Summer Palace in Beijing is the Long Corridor. Over 800 meters long, it is an open air covered walkway that connects the east side of the complex with the area with the Marble Boat.

What makes it so amazing is that the entire length of the hall is covered with murals and pictures on every surface. Many are depictions of courtly life in the Ming Dynasty.

Painted Panels

IMG_0248, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

The Summer Palace was completely renovated last year in anticipation of the tourism influx for the Olympics. This picture illustrates the very bright colors that have been restored. It gives the entire place a very bright look despite the palace being over a hundred years old.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fungus Rock

IMG_0291, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Empress Cixi was also fond of large fungus shaped rocks. They are a feature in most Chinese gardens or parks. This one was brought to the Summer Palace form the far north at great expense. It is considered one of the largest rocks of its quality.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Marble Boat

IMG_0265, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Empress Cixi was warned to use the imperial taxes to build a navy to defend against the French and British. Instead she used the money to restore the Summer Palace from when they burned it down to the ground.

As an inside joke, she had this large marble replica of a gunboat made. It was the frequent site of royal parties. The lack of a navy eventually led to the downfall of the dynasty.

The Empress's Barge

IMG_0267, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Our host student's father remembered when you could walk out onto the concrete barge. It is now being preserved as an antiquity.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Parents in Love

IMG_0282, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

This couple are the parents of the host family that my son stayed with. He is the head of the science department at the school. She is a former teacher that now works with the government.

They spoke very poor English and usually had a translator for when we were with them. The two were always very affectionate as you can see here because they are sharing an umbrella on a very misty day at the Summer Palace.

Music By The Bridge

IMG_0281, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

This flute player had set up in a pavillion at the shoreline end of the seventeen arches bridge. He had drawn quite a crowd but I don't know whether he was playing for tips or not. In the background you can see colorful umbrellas of people crossing the bridge to the island.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Seventeen Arches Bridge

P1010019, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Nine is common number in Chinese architecture. This bridge connecting the east side of the Summer Palace in Beijing with the island in the middle of Kunming Lake has seventeen arches total. That way there are nine arches from the center of the bridge to either end.

Bridge Lions

IMG_0276, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Along the seventeen arches bridge are a serious of lions. There are 544 of them in all and each has a slightly different position or expression.


IMG_0277, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

The gargoyles at the ends of the seventeen arch bridge are considered some of the finest stone carvings of their type. In the mist is a pagaoda on the far side of Kunming Lake.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Water Recreation

P1010026, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

The Summer Palace in Beijing was a retreat for royalty during the hot months. Analogies to Versailles in size, beauty, and historical significance are all appropriate.

Today is serves as a tourist attraction and recreation area. These paddle boats set amongst the willows and landscaping are normally for rent, but the soggy weather that day kept them at dock.

Water Lilies and Pagodas

P1010027, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

The Summer Palace is a place of serene beauty. This pavillion is set on a mini-island in the lake amongst a bed of enormous water lilies.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Morning Warm Up

One feature of Chinese high schools (or middle schools as they call them) is the morning exercise routine. The entire school files out onto the play yard and does several minutes of music choreographed calisthenics. If you look carefully, most of the kids seem pretty disinterested. Also, out of some misplaced fashion sense, many of them wear the winter track suit uniform even though it was over 90 degrees F the day this was filmed. Still, I can't imagine an American school even attempting this.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Meat Wagon

IMG_4295, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Trucks are not allowed in Beijing, so a lot of deliveries are by van. This van is a traveling meat wagon with a load of beef in the back for delivery to the restaurants. There wasn't anything special about the van (particualarly not any refrigeration) except the cardboard in the back to collect the juice dripping.

Meat Cycle

IMG_4294, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

A lot of deliveries to restaurants are by bicycle or motor cycle. This motorcycle has a load of fresh meat in the back for the morning delivery.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Honey Puff

IMG_0185, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Right next to the meat on the stick grille was this franchised snack store. A honey puff is a small ball of dough like a donut hole but a lot lighter. They had several different flavors and the ones we had were sweet and honey flavored.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Meat On The Street

IMG_0187, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

I was determined to eat food from a street vendor even if I couldn't talk my wife or fellow travelers to. Right next to the McDonalds were several store front vendors of different dishes. The one that kept catching my eye was the kabob or satay vendor that always seemed to have a crowd.

His booth was dingy and grease stained but the meat always smelled good and there was usually a line. There was no seating indoors or outdoors, so people would just get their skewers and stand on the sidewalk and eat them right off a plastic plate. The finished bamboo skewers would be thrown into a nearby trashcan or just dropped on the sidewalk for the street cleaners to sweep up the next day.

Meat On A Stick

IMG_0186, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

The meat on a stick vendor had two different bins. Stuff from the first bin sat in a little tub of hot water and I couldn't tell if the skewer was meat or not. Some of them may have been mushrooms or vegetables. Those skewers cost 1yuan (15 cents) each. I had three of them and none were particularly tasty.

The bigger grille had losts of skewers of meat satay or kabob style. To reheat the meat, the cook held it down in the grille in front of some sort of electric heater for a while. These sticks cost 3 yuan (about 40 cents) and were very tasty. The meat was very firm but not stringy and covered in a reddish spicy rub.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Fried Dough

IMG_3874, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Back in the alley neighborhoods called hutongs, there are a wide variety of food vendors. This store sells fried dough. It tastes a lot like the funnel cakes you would find at a fair, but without any powdered sugar all over.

Best of all, it was super-cheap. Each piece only costs 50 yuan (about 6 cents). It was a very filling if slightly bland morning snack.

Bad Eggs

IMG_3892, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

Food safety in China has been in the news a lot lately. Many people still get meals from small restaurants and stalls in their local neighborhood. Air conditioning and refrigeration are not common.

This stack of eggs was just outside such a vendor. I don't know how much volume they do, but that is a lot of eggs to be just sitting in an alley. The plate next to the eggs was a dog dish for the owner's pet.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Home Grown Fast Food

IMG_3729, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

The concept of franchises is evolving quickly in China. This very new building looks to be one store in a chain specializing in soup. If it weren't for the entirely Chinese signage, it wouldn't be out of place in a US outparcel.

Breakfast Menu

IMG_3804, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

This is the window menu of a Chinese fast food chain. All the items are for breakfast and each costs about a dollar. The choices include at least two soups, which is a meal anytime in China.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Mickey Dees

IMG_0188, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

McDonalds runs a distant second in the imperial franchise wars. The stores are as brightly lit and squeaky clean as their US counterparts. The posters in the window are for a fruit float drink.dessert that isn't available in the US. They have ice cream and one of four flavors, coffee, strawberry, pineapple, and watermelon.

Special Sauce

P1000860, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

The China version of a Quarter Pounder (and I have no idea what they call it since they are metric) is very similar to the American version with two differences. The special sauce is not mayo-based and is much spicier. Also, instead of pickles, they use sliced raw cucumber.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Kentucky Fried China

IMG_3837, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

KFC is the number one US fast food chain in China. This very large store is in downtown Beijing very close to the Forbidden City.

While we tried to avoid chain food, we were at the main train station and I needed a snack. The food choices were KFC and some large dirty looking soup counters. The soup place menus were in Chinese and I had no idea how to order, so I went to KFC. They had a picture menu and the manager spoke enough English to take my order. I ordered a Twister, but I don't know whether I got the Dragon flavor or the Mexican version since they were on the same box on the menu. Whatever it was, it was spicier than the American equivalent. I also got a ice cream with some sort of fruit topping that I have never seen in a US store.

While I usually go out of my way to avoid KFC in the US, I at least reassured myself that the Chinese version is no worse than American version.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hot Pots

P1010175, originally uploaded by yellojkt.

A popular style of Chinese cooking that is not popular in America is called "hot pot". It's a little like fondue, but it uses broth instead of oil for the cooking. It can be done with large communal pots or small individual ones like in this picture.

Vegetables and thinly slice meats are put in the boiling broth and then removed when they are cooked. You mix your own sauce from a tray of condiments like soy sauce, ginger, garlic, peppers, etc. It's a fun way to make a meal.