28 January 2011


After Beijing we headed west to Xi'an, an ancient capital of China at the eastern end of the Silk Road and now most famous for its terracotta warriors. Each statue is unique and larger than life size -- Daniel doesn't quite measure up.The terracotta sculptures from 210 BC depict the armies of Quin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. About 8000 warriors are estimated to be here, and we were impressed by how much is yet to be excavated.
Xian's city wall is the oldest and best preserved in China. First construction was 194 BC, although the current city wall was started by the Ming Dynasty in 1370, almost 14 km around and 12 m high. We wobbled around the wall on bikes, admiring the spring festival decorations. The caption reads "White Glazed Porcelain Pillow with Dark Design of a Beauty" -- beauty not comfort. Prosperity is a theme for the upcoming Chinese lunar new year, so Starbucks offers up green tea as well as espresso tea lattes. Longevity is also a big theme in China, especially for the new year Spring Festival celebration, and traditional Chinese calligraphy is a fine art form in Xi'an. It's working for this artist who was eager to explain his one-stroke creation.

23 January 2011

A Wedding

We attended our first wedding in China. One of our teaching colleagues was getting married close to Xi'an, so we were excited to be there. And everyone was very kind to the special foreign wedding guests. Weddings in China combine elements of the west (white gown, exchange of rings) and east (red for good fortune, paying respect to parents). Here's the first bridal outfit, completed with a sash from fabric that matches their wedding quilt.
The bride arrived at the groom's home with her head covered, harkening back to the traditional custom of a groom not seeing the bride's face until their wedding day. All the lion statues on the procession route had their faces covered in red as well to prevent them from seeing the bride, and of course we drove to the sound of firecrackers (to keep evil spirits away).
The courtyard of the groom's family was transformed to an enormous kitchen where women from the village prepared food for the guests. The coal-fired cauldrons were steaming.
Diane sharing the kang with some of the older relatives; the kang is a family bed heated by an outside fire piped under the platform, and a very cosy place to be.
About two hundred guests were served in a couple of settings. The wedding meal was elaborate, with about twenty different dishes served in a tent put up for the occasion.
Bride and groom make their bows to the guests with with their parents watching on the right. The woman on the left is the hostess who presides over the ceremony, and the symbols on the wall are double happiness representing weddings.
The happy couple circulate among the dinner guests to serve a celebratory drink and receive red envelopes containing money. Congratulations and best wishes to Li Ye and Zhang Huifeng!

17 January 2011

Burr in Beijing

We took a 12 hour train ride from Baotou to Beijing at the start of our winter holiday to find the crowds light but the weather chilly.
After watching the sunrise flag ceremony at Tiananmen Square we filed by Chairman Mao's mausoleum (where he's been on view since 1976) and spent the day in the Forbidden City, accompanied by one of our students, Xue Jiao (Nicole).
Forbidden City detail, the largest and best-preserved cluster of ancient buildings in Beijing and home to the Ming and the Qing emperors.
The Summer Palace, a short trip on the new and efficient underground, is full of palace temples, gardens, pavilions, lakes and corridors.
Daniel even took a stroll on the now frozen Kunming Lake that occupies three-quarters of the park.
Climbing the steps to the Temple of Heaven we wrapped up our days in the capitol after enjoying the Peking acrobats and sampling the Peking duck.

08 January 2011

End of Semester

Our first semester of teaching of teaching is over and we're looking forward to some sight-seeing. Teacher Johnson says goodbye to students at class party.
Baotou's first Walmart just opened in a new downtown shopping center; it's one of their almost 200 stores in China.
We enjoyed the first real snowfall here, so finally have some white fluffy stuff to go with the cold weather.
We'll be traveling over the winter holiday (Beijing, Xi'an, Hong Kong, Hanoi) and look forward to celebrating the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rabbit.

01 January 2011

A New Year

Happy 2011! Don't let the sunny grasslands and blue skies fool you -- it's cold (-25 Celcius) in Inner Mongolia.
So we bundled up and went sliding; Diane's on the tow rope on her way up the hill of artificial snow.
At the top with one of our teaching colleagues, Zhang Hui Feng (aka Hilary).
And down we go! Skiers are being towed up the other side of the hill.
Tired but happy, we enjoyed a wonderful New Year's Day dinner. We can now literally say, "Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr" -- Wishing you a good slide into the New Year!