Sep 6, 2008

Taylor in China! letter 2

Today was amazing! It was Saturday today here. (I realized this after I called Jodi wondering why she wouldn’t answer only to realize it was still Friday in Santa Barbara and she was still at work) I met three girls from our Dr. Pan’s research group and we rode our bikes to a subway. We then took the subway downtown to the Forbidden City and Tian’ amen Square. It was so sweet, the subways here really are such a great way to get around! A full trip including transfers only costs 2 yuan (40cents) so it’s super economic. Once we got there we met up with a really nice guy from Tokyo who the girls seemed to know somehow. One of the girls either paid for me or must know somebody but it was free to enter.

The Forbidden City was amazing! I can’t begin to explain how awesome it was to go there. First off, it is enormous. It must be like a mile long and a half mile wide. It is so big you can’t even grasp the dimension of a palace that big unless you see it and spend 5 hours walking through it. The walls are huge and red and the architecture is amazing. China has been around forever and they said the palace has something like 2000 years of history to it. Each dynasty used the different parts of the palace for different things and made slight changes.

There are 9,999 and ½ rooms in the palace. The God, the sun, they believed had a palace with 10,000 rooms so the Chinese emperor had to have a palace with slightly less. It’s unreal, the whole forbidden city is cut down the center by a really nice stone walkway about two sidewalks wide which only the emperor was allowed to walk on.

The city is symmetric on either side of that walkway. The main chambers were so sweet! Only the emperor was entitled to the color bright yellow so his throne and chambers could have that color but other areas couldn’t. There were so many huge buildings that I stopped taking pictures in front of them all.

They believed that the Emperor was the Dragon so there are dragon symbols EVERYWHERE. seriously, I wonder if you could count all the dragons that are either carved or painted how many you would have. There must be hundreds of thousands. They are covering the place. Literally.

The Dragon emperor had 9 dragon children which were actually other animal shapes kind of meshed together with dragon features like this killer dragon turtle beast or crane monster. Here’s a picture of the emperor followed by his 9 dragon children and then a carving of what appears to be the emperor riding Valcor from neverending story. I never realized china liked movies from the 80’s so much.

On a side note: check out these sweet golf cart police cruisers! Can you imagine some US cop trying to apprehend some drunk redneck in that baby!? There were man made rivers going through the city-palace with tons of cool fish. And the bridges, like everything else, had intricate carvings all over them. Seriously, even the bricks and stairs you walked on had these sweet dragon murals and things carved on them. They had cool sun clocks all over too and the palace runs perfectly square to North-South.

Probably the coolest part of the whole palace-city was the garden though. This place was amazing! The trees were way beautiful and had been shaped and trained to grow in certain ways.

There were huge elaborate carvings and metalworks.

They even brought in immense mountains of natural rock which had crazy shapes and holes running through it. There were stalactites and stalagmites and coral pieces brought in from far off places as well. They all are arranged in the garden.

There was this crazy building with circular holes in one of the side walls which cats all of the sudden popped out of! We looked inside the holes and there were even more cats living inside. It was great.

We then toured one of the sides of the forbidden city (having reached the mile long end to the center stretch). The side was a giant museum of ancient jewelry and opera houses and the like. There were massive boulders of Jade carved with tiny intricate details of different events. There were crowns and scepters, weapons and jewelry like you can’t even begin to imagine. All made of the most beautiful gemstones, ceramics, pearls, jade and gold I’ve ever seen- and I don’t even like jewelry!

They had mats made out of ivory because they keep cooler. That’s right, you read correctly, mats made out of ivory. They cut it so thin you can roll it up, weave it and everything.
The emperors private opera house was way sweet. They could put on really elaborate shows with all sorts of effects.

The wall of the 9 dragons was mega awesome.

Here’s me giving my hillbilly approval to 5000 years of culture.

The girls were super nice and took me out to eat afterwards. We ate in a really cool restaurant. In the picture if you look on the plate to the left you’ll see a strange site. What kind of meat looks like that you ask? Well I’ll tell you, it was pig’s ear. That’s right, they sliced that baby into little slices and made it into a delicious treat: cartilage, fat, skin and all. I’ll admit it was actually pretty good if you could get past the chewy cartilage parts. We also had meatball things and these dumpling things filled with seafood, pork and veggies. The dumplings are sorta like empanadas from argentina but they aren’t fried, they’re steamed, and they come together at the top like hershey’s kisses sorta. Street vendors sold us some kick butt cooked chestnuts afterwards.

here’s some crazy roads…

Crazy buildings and shopping malls. A really old well… The girls also helped me buy tons of trinkets and stuff. They even bought me a cool jade necklace. They are so nice! I love it here. People are so friendly and fun to be around. And everything is very inexpensive. I bought a few different types of fruit teas and things too. I’m pretty sure I’m breaking the old word of wisdom daily. I can never tell if they tea they serve me is herbal, fruit or other. Oh well, I’m tryin.

We had an entertaining subway ride home- it was like 4 o’clock and getting close to rush hour so it was sorta crazy. I took a brief video to show you how bad they smoosh you into there.

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