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Monday, August 21, 2006


Now we are MEN!!!

"One is not a true man until he (or she) has climbed the Great Wall" - Mao Zedong

Its actually very interesting to see how aspects of China's communist past manifest themselves differently in the New China. For example, we went to a contemporary art space the other day. It is an old military factory that has been converted into multiple artist lofts. Now these artists are actually creating art that subtley mocks red China. This statue has a traditional Chinese worker prototype, but wielding a brush rather than a hammer.

We also saw paintings of the Tiananmen massacre, as well as art that points out the ironies of the Cultural Revolution. They sell Mao's Little Red Book (a book of his famous quotes) as tourist kitch items. This is the book that the Red Guards used as justification as they suppressed China's intellectuals. At dinner the other night, Jason made a joke using a Mao quote. Mao's quote was "People work for the betterment of society" and Jason said the same thing but just replaced society with money. Jason had a hearty laugh. Capitalism has toppled communism.

Still, it is considered a big deal to climb the Great Wall, which we tackled yesterday. It was a splendid day, and we made the right choice to go to a more secluded section of the wall. Still, the chinese were well afoot in making it a commercial venture. There were vendors every 100 feet, even at the highest peaks, selling ice cream, water, and hand carvings. There was a cable car up if you didn't want to walk, and a zip line down if you wanted some adventure (I did, Kim opted out).

We said
goodbye to the Fei family and Felipe. The Fei's were incredible hosts - cooking elaborate breakfasts and dinners and sharing their Chinese traditions. They clearly were doing this because they wanted to interact with foreigners (rather than make a buck). They would tell us about a Chinese delicacy and the next day we would have it. We were talking of cheese, which Jason imports and likes, and he told us about Chao Daofu - Stinky Tofu - which tastes like foul blue cheese. Beijingers love it. The next day we came home to find a table set up on the balcony so we could taste this delicacy without smelling up the house. I almost vomited. They got a good laugh.

We were touched by how they opened their home and traditions to us, and highly recommend this homestay for those traveling through Beijing.

Tonight we head to Pingyao, a city with traditional Chinese architecture and city walls protected by UNESCO from the everpresent Chinese bulldozer.

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