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The Magical China Trip 2012

Nanjing – 30 September to 03 October 2012

CHINA | Thursday, 4 October 2012 | Views [15043] | Comments [2]

Mid-Autumn Festival Full Moon, 30 Sept. 2012

Mid-Autumn Festival Full Moon, 30 Sept. 2012

The trip to Nanjing took only about an hour and a half from Shanghai on the high-speed train, though I don’t believe we topped 298 kph.  On the way, we must have passed at least ten nuclear power plants (based on cooling towers I observed).  When travelling up I-5 in Washington State I have seen the one nuclear cooling tower, so seeing so many so close together reminded me of how many people there are in China, all of whom need electrical power.  (Think high-rise.)


When we boarded the train, Gloria went to Car No. 2; I was in car No. 14.  Chinese high-speed trains are LONG.  In my car, I found someone in my seat, part of a family traveling together, so I traded seats with them, taking a seat behind them.  At one point, their daughter placed one of those gooey, gummy plastic critters on the window.  I laughed because children are the same around the world.  Although I didn’t catch the toy itself, I did capture a picture of the child’s hand mushing it against the window.


As we neared Nanjing, the landscape shifted to low mountains, the track ultimately taking us through several tunnels to the city.  I saw a man and boy fishing from a boat on the river (or canal).  I was also impressed with the green of the vegetation.  Being from Idaho, green vegetation always impresses me; Idaho is green only in the early spring – provided we get rain.  No one who visits Idaho from someplace green will appreciate Idaho’s moment of spring green.


Gloria’s father met us at the train station in Nanjing and drove us from there to Tangshan, a mountain town of about 150,000.  The experience of riding with the family on holiday with millions of other families on holiday reminded me of the primary [my perceived] rules of driving in China:

  • Don’t stop at corners; just swing around into the new street
  • Keep the wheels rolling, going as fast as possible, using the highest gear possible (without killing the engine completely; lugging is okay)
  • Aim for the pedestrians
  • Honk to tell everyone what you are about to do, to get the cars in front of you moving, to pass (on the left or right), to warn pedestrians, bicyclists, and scooter drivers you are aiming for them, or, sometimes, just because you feel like it
  • Use lane markers as guidelines (keep the line centered beneath the car)
  • Ignore traffic lights where possible
  • Squeeze through tight spots wherever possible; 1 to 2 inches on either side is good enough clearance
  • Have confidence and be aware of what everyone else is doing




Tangshan is like most other Chinese cities with fairly narrow streets (2-3 lanes wide), many shops in tiny spaces, designated bike, e-bike, and scooter lane.  It has the wonderful smell of many good things cooking and the busy look of prosperity as people joggle their way through the crowds.


The Huangfu family home is located about five minutes outside Tangshan itself in the countryside on the edge of the new, developing part of the city.  The roads around the village are not completed; it looks like a huge highway is going in – people were driving on the rough road, finished or not – just the other side of the family’s land.  The village comprises a group of perhaps 25 houses with a centrally located game court (basketball, dancing, etc.), cement, single lane roads winding from compound to compound.


There are three main houses in the family’s complex:  one for the grandmother and youngest son, two others for the other two sons.  Not all the houses are occupied because the sons all work in the cities, but they plan to retire here.  There is no house for the daughter even though she is the eldest child.  However, the grandmother lives alone with a woman and her husband, who take care of her.  Up until April this year, when the he died, the grandfather did the fruit and vegetable growing.  They raise most of their own food and have chickens as well.


I can imagine my father observing trucks being tested in this area since there is both flat land and mountains to provide a variety of road conditions.  It must have been on the outskirts somewhere since he talked about never having time to avail himself of the hot springs close by.  (See Nanjing Wish List story.)


Thanks to the Huangfu’s, though, I was able to experience the waters.  Gloria’s mother purchased a lovely, modest swimsuit for me, turquoise and brown, when she picked up a suit for Gloria.  It fit just right; it is just like a little dress with support in the top and a very short skirt.  I like it a lot – it’s nothing like the American amazing shrinking swimsuit which costs more the less cloth it contains.  She insisted on making a gift of it to me.  Chinese hospitality is so gracious – more gracious than you can imagine.


After a wonderful lunch, Gloria, her mother, and I went to the Tangshan No. 1 Hot Spring Sanatorium.  With its 1500-year long history, Tangshan is one of the oldest hot springs centers in China.  This hot springs is nothing like I’ve ever experienced.  There are many different pools (we only tried about 10 of them) available to soak in, some hot, some warm.  They are all designed with specific intent in mind:  health preservation enhanced by Chinese herbal medicines, beautifying therapy, waterfall spa, marble spa (a warm stone bed on which we could lie and relax), and spa with fragrant flowers.  There was even a pool with minnow-sized fish that nibbled on legs, feet, and hands, taking away loose and flaking skin.  It was a most strange sensation but not unpleasant once I got used to it.  We spent a couple of hours soaking, chatting, and enjoying ourselves at the spa.


Then we returned to the family villa for jaudz (probably zhaozi in Pinyin), the traditional Chinese celebration food.  The women allowed me to participate in stuffing the skins, and taught me a better way to do it than I had learned from my father.  I don’t know how many we made, but it had to be about 100.  The meal included three kinds of beans – green, purple, and soy – along with many other dishes.


After dinner, we walked down to the village common area where people were dancing (two different groups to two different kinds of music).  Gloria’s aunt and I joined in, so now I can say I have danced in the street in China.  It was a lot of fun and not too different from American line dancing or the Amaraji Maha Marai dances.  I snapped a photo of the full moon, not realizing until the next day that I had taken a picture of the mid-autumn festival moon!  Later, we returned to the house and had moon cakes and fruit.


I slept in a room on the second floor of the house in a large bed with a duvet.  I slept very well except for the crowing of the rooster who couldn’t decide when it was dawn.  He tried several times during the night.


The next morning Gloria’s aunt took me to meet a childhood friend of hers who lives in the village.  I took their picture.  We got back to the house in time for lunch preparations.  Then, after lunch, we bid farewell and drove back to Nanjing.  The grandmother cried because we were leaving.


Mr. Zhu, the caregiver’s husband accompanied us so he could go to the hospital for a rabies shot.  One of the family dogs, a big yellow lab puppy (maybe 1-1/2 years old) had bitten him the night before during the street dancing.  Gloria’s father dropped us off to await the arrival of her cousin and went on to the hospital.


The cousin and her husband picked us up and we went sightseeing.


ZhongHuaMen (Central Flower Gate), Fuzimiao, Sun Yatsen Mausoleum, and Ming Tombs


The ZhongHuaMen (中华门, pronounced jung-hwa-mun) was a gate and defensive complex on the city wall of Nanjing, China.  The City Wall of Nanjing was among the largest city walls ever constructed in China, and today remains in good condition and has been well preserved.  The ZhongHuaMen was the southern gate of Nanjing city.  It is one of 13 original gates and has weathered wind and rain for 600 years.  It is still in its original state except for a wooden structure atop the gate, which has been destroyed, and some features on the wall constructed of sticks and stones.  It is rare in the world because of its vast scale and sophisticated style.  We took a lot of pictures (see the photo gallery).  On each side of the gate, large ramps accommodate running soldiers on horseback to the top.


After visiting the gate, we went to the Fuzimiao (夫子廟, literally, Confucian Temple) district.  Today this is a bustling tourist attraction, and given that this is a double holiday week (both mid-Autumn Festival and National Holiday), people were everywhere.  We did not brave the crowds to go into the temple.  I still took a lot of pictures (see photo gallery).


The following morning, the Huangfu’s met me at my hotel and we took the Metro out to the Sun Yatsen Mausoleum.  From the Metro we walked several kilometers through the park that now surrounds the mausoleum shaded by lovely old trees.  There is great pride in China when it can be said that a tree is more than 100 years old.  As you may recall, most of the forests of China were denuded thousands of years ago.  Pine, cypress, and ginkgo trees line the way to the mausoleum.  When we finally arrived, we had just begun …


The tri-arched marble gate is the first thing we encountered.  It is inscribed with four Chinese characters written by Dr. Sun, "Tian Xia Wei Gong" (天下为公, pronounced tien sha way gung), which means "What is under heaven is for all.”  The way to the mausoleum contains 392 steps, rumored to be one step for each 10,000 people in China at the time it was built (1929).  We climbed them all!  Then we stood in a thick, quickly moving line to pass into the mausoleum and view the statue there.  Photos were not allowed inside the mausoleum, but the pose is strongly reminiscent of President Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.


Having seen a film taken at the time Dr. Sun’s body was removed from Beijing and brought to the Nanjing Mausoleum on June 1, 1929, I couldn’t help wonder at the changes that have occurred since that time – not only the political, but most especially the environmental.  In the old film there were no trees for miles around the mausoleum grounds.  It was stated that a park would be created, and so it has been.  The approach is lush and green even in the autumn.


There is a Chinese saying, “People Mountain, People Sea” (人山人海, pronounced ren shan ren hai), which aptly described our experience at the mausoleum and the Ming Tombs.  I am unable to upload the video I call “The River of People,” taken as we sat resting and watching people flow uphill toward the top.  I guess videos wait until I’m back in the States or in Taiwan.


The Ming Dynasty Tombs (明十三陵; pronounced Míng shur sān líng; literally "Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty") are not a crypt.  They are a hill behind a memorial hall.  The choice was made not to disturb the dead.  The memorial hall describes a little about each emperor.


We walked part of the seven kilometer road named the "Spirit way" (道, pronounced shun dao) which leads into the tomb complex.  This road is lined with statues of guardian animals and officials, including camel, elephant, horse, and lion.  In addition, there are two mythical creatures represented:  One is called a “unicorn” xiezhi (獬豸, pronounced sye jer), which, according to Korean and Chinese records, was an animal with a horn in the center of its head that lived in the frontier areas of Manchuria and is nothing like the western unicorn.  The second mythical creature is known as qilin (麒麟, pronounced chi lin), and is a hooved Chinese chimerical being known throughout various East Asian cultures, which said to appear with the imminent arrival or passing of a wise sage or an illustrious ruler.

Okay, so this was a day of walking and walking – and walking.  We rested several times, but by the end of the day, I think all of us were tired and footsore (literally).  The experience was worth the walk, however, even dealing with the crowds, to see the mausoleum and these tombs.  We had a wonderful dinner in the private room of a restaurant near where Mr. Huangfu works.  Then, afterwards, the four of us walked to a business close by and received a foot massage.  It took about an hour and I know it saved me from leg cramps that night.  I could feel the knots being works out of my calves.  We took a taxi to my hotel, and then they took it home.

This was a particularly special day of sharing the China experience with friends.  I am very blessed to have them in my life.

Gloria came the next morning to escort me to the train station and get me aboard the express train to Hangzhou.  It was hard to say good-by, but I know I’ll be seeing her again.

Tags: china, nanjing, sun zhongshan li, tangshan




Hey Ebeth,

I have been following your journey day by day and absolutely loving your stories. I am really yearning to return to China. It's such and amazing place with such generous people.


  Ben Lyons Oct 10, 2012 9:29 AM



  KANAYCHOWA Oct 31, 2012 7:18 PM



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