June 3: Last Day in China

September 1, 2008

We went to Yu Yuan Garden.

Here is the only rickshaw that I saw during the entire trip, and it was displayed as an antique in a 4-star hotel.

And a nice lion along the way:

On our last night in China, we walked down to the Bund area for dinner and a little sight-seeing. Here is the view from the Bund, across the river to Pudong. We were told that because of last winter’s snow storms, and resulting damage to the electrical grid, most of the lights were kept off.

After dinner, we walked back along Nanjing Street.

June 2, Monday in Shanghai

August 31, 2008

As we headed out for the day, I snapped this photo of fruit and vegetables for sale.

Most of our activity today was in the Pudong area, which is across the river from Shanghai proper. First, we visited the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. An elevator takes you to the top ball, which is an observation deck that rotates in one hour. 

But for the heavy smog, you would have a panoramic view of Shanghai. 

We could see across the river to the neighborhood of our hotel, which is only seven blocks from the river, but it is not tall enough to be seen from the Pearl.

At the base of the tower were some shops, including one selling teapots.

We visited the GE Technology Research Center. They were having a job fair while we were there, with lots of students. They displayed some products of their research, including an electric car, but I liked this orange turbine blade.

In a country that apparently loves scale models, here was yet another scale model:

Nearby, as we left, we saw this huge sundial. I only managed to photograph the back.

We had a meeting in the Pudong area, I believe with the Trade Office. Just going from memory here. I do recall that this meeting occurred at 4 pm.

In the evening we met with one of the leaders of the Shanghai Municipal People’s Congress. This meeting was held in a superb hotel. As we walked from the lobby toward the meeting room and banquet, we passed through this extraordinary aquarium.

The meeting took the familiar form.

June 1: Leaving Changsha, Travel to Shanghai

August 30, 2008

I forgot to mention earlier that when we arrived at our hotel in Changsha, the staff of the hotel lined up to greet us. They applauded as we walked into the lobby. They did the same thing as we departed.

After checking out, we went to see Sany Corporation, which makes heavy equipment. The company was started by two recent college graduates in 1989 as the Chinese economy began to open up. Their primary product seems to be concrete pumps which are used to pour floors of very tall buildings. They have built one that can pump concrete 1300 feet high. 

We left Sany and headed for the airport. Here is a view of Shanghai as we drove in from the airport:

Shanghai felt crowded, unlike Beijing or Changsha. There were people everywhere. Maybe because it was a Sunday afternoon. 

All the men rode in taxis to a tailor. At first I heard that a suit would cost $100. Then the price was $200. When we arrived at the tailors, the price was more like $300, depending upon the various fabric and design options, and would likely cost around $400. We were about a mile and a half from the hotel, along Nanjing Street. I decided to walk back to the hotel and soak up a bit of Shanghai, hoping that I would not be Shanghaied. Luckily, I made it back to the hotel. Along the way, I noticed this little touch of Wisconsin:

Here is our hotel, and the view from my room:


After dinner, we attended an acrobatic show. We all thought it would be an opportunity to take a nap, but the show was fantastic. Jugglers, high-wire acts, jumping through hoops, balancing, knife-throwing, and more.

May 31: Yue Yang, Hybrid Rice, and Changsha

August 29, 2008

While our group was assembling in the hotel lobby, I walked along the front of the hotel. Here are some vegetables heading to market:

Looking back at the hotel, I saw this nice welcoming sign:

We rode for a couple hours to Yue Yang to see two ancient temples. This old tapestry gives a good view of what we saw. 

We walked through a park that had several models of temples. In the following photo, you can see three scale models and the yellow roof of the real temple in the center.

And here is the actual temple:

They were constructing a temporary stage in front of the temple for the ceremonial passing of the Olympic torch that was to occur in a few days. We climbed to the third floor and took some pictures.

We went back to Changsha and met a scientist who has developed hybrid rice varieties that quadruple yields over regular rice. He is a well decorated national hero. He gave us a powerpoint demo about rice, mainly historical yield data. We were given a book about him and rice production, so most of the group, including me, asked him to autograph it.

May 30, Friday: Side trip to Shaoshan

August 28, 2008

Our bus took us about 80 miles southwest of Changsha to Shaoshan, the birthplace and childhood home of Mao Zedong. We passed through several tiny villages that I would have liked to photograph, but with the movement of the bus, the dark sky, and the tinted windows, photos were not possible. We were told that Mao’s family was relatively wealthy. They shared a large house with another family–the families had separate rooms except for a central area.

Several magnolia trees grew around the house.

There is an extensive museum of Mao’s life at the site. Here is a photo of the tunic that Mao wore when he met Nixon.

When the Chairman reached the age of 60, he began studying English. Some of his homework was posted at the museum.

Mao’s birthplace and childhood home is in a hilly and semi-wooded area adjacent to some rice paddies. It is a very popular tourist destination for the Chinese as well as foreigners.

Inside the house, we saw Mao’s bedroom with its original furniture, and his parents’ bed in which he was born. It was pretty dark for photography. Here is the kitchen and dining room:

Also at the site, they have a very good dining area that serves some of Mao’s favorite dishes. It was all quite good. 

After lunch, I finally saw the famous Chinese toilets. Sometimes referred to as “flush toilets” because they are flush with the floor. It seems that the country is converting to western style toilets.

After our long ride back to Changsha, we visited a planned community, which included residential areas, shopping, schools, recreational areas, etc. We even visited inside two homes. Here again we saw a scale model of the community.

Afterwards, walked around in the common area where several children wanted their photos taken. Here is Mark Maddox of Tennessee with some kids.

To end the day, we went to the Hunan Provincial Museum, wherein the highlight was the 2100-year old mummy of Xin Zhui that had been excavated in 1972. Xin was the wife of the ruler, and her mummy was extremely well preserved.

May 29, Thursday: Changsha

August 25, 2008

We had a comfortable flight to Changsha. The flight on the Chinese airline was more comfortable than American flights and included a decent airplane lunch.

Hunan countryside as we approached Changsha

Our first meeting in Changsha was at our hotel, with our host, Ms_______, the head of the Hunan Provincial People’s Congress.

We then had dinner. She sang to us, and wanted us to join in. Unfortunately, we didn’t know Chinese.

The evening ended with a ping pong match between the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America.


May 28, Wednesday: Last Day in Beijing

August 24, 2008

In the morning we visited the US Embassy in Beijing. They prohibit photographs in the compound, so, readers, you are not permitted see the opulence in which our state department employees live and work. 

We toured the Forbidden City, formerly the residence of the Emperor. Yellow roof tiles designated royalty.

Next, we headed north into the countryside towards the Great Wall, stopping for lunch along the way at the “Friendship Store,” a combination cloisonne factory, dining hall, and marketplace. Scary dragons guarded the entrance.

At every meal, the food was served on a glass lazy susan, family style, except for a couple of very formal dinners. We had very little alcohol on the trip, but at lunch this day, we had a bottle of Jet Fuel.

To my surprise, I used chopsticks at every meal, and I liked everything that I ate, even when I didn’t know what it was. Except I didn’t care for the eggplant.

And then on to the Great Wall.

Our fearless leader, Sharon, atop the Great Wall.

As we drove back into Beijing, we stopped near the Olympic Village, as close as we could get to the Bird’s Nest, for a photo op.

And we drove past this wavy building, which we had seen a few times. Taking photos on the bus was a challenge because the bus almost never stopped, the sky was usually heavily overcast, and bus had darkly tinted windows. So as great as the Canon SD-1000 is, it needed more light. I missed photographing some great rural scenes as we rode on the bus.

And so ended a great day in China.

May 27: Tuesday in Beijing

August 22, 2008

Each morning, we had a buffet-style breakfast in our hotel, which included primarily western (British?) foods, and then we ate Chinese food for lunch and dinner. As it developed, this was a day for scale models of Beijing. We began with a museum visit for a display on Tibet, which demonstrated serfdom in old Tibet with many photos and artifacts. After lunch we went to the Beijing Economic Technological Development Area, a very large planned community and industrial park.

BDA scale model

BDA scale model

At the BDA, we toured an American company’s factory where they make medical CAT scanners for sale in the Chinese market. The BDA is in the far southeastern edge of Beijing. Here is a photo of my place at the conference table and one of the scanners under construction.

Back in town, we visited an exhibit related to the upcoming Olympics. In this building were two scale models of Beijing–both of them vast in size and amazing in detail. One was made of brass and hung vertically, and one was ten or fifteen yards across. 

Temple of Heaven depicted in brass

Temple of Heaven depicted in brass

 Around the temple, the dots represent trees.

Forbidden City depicted in brass and gold

Forbidden City depicted in brass and gold


Forbidden City

Forbidden City


Bird's Nest and Water Cube

Bird's Nest and Water Cube

Each day in Beijing, we drove past Tiananmen Square and this large dome. The dome is the national performing arts center. We never got close enough to really see it. 


Performing Arts Center

Performing Arts Center

At the end of the day, the entire group returned to the silk market that I had seen on Sunday.

May 26: Monday in Beijing

August 17, 2008

We started our official itinerary on this day with a visit to the Great Hall of the People. The hall is adjacent to Tiananmen Square and was built in ten months in 1959. We first met with Mr. Li Zhaoxing, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the 11th people‘s congress. This was the first of several meetings we had with government officials. In each meeting, we sat in large overstuffed chairs in a spacious and elegantly decorated conference room. The leader of our delegation, Donna Stone, sat at the front of the room adjacent to our primary host.

Meeting with Mr. Li Zhaoxing

Meeting with Mr. Li Zhaoxing

In each meeting, the Chinese offered green tea. While in Beijing, each of our hosts stated that the United States should relax its restrictions on exports of high technology, and it should grant more visas for Chinese citizens who want to visit the US. We had a brief tour of the Great Hall. Here are photos of the main stage and the ceiling in the great hall. I have seen these objects in news stories.


Much of the decor in the great hall was needlework on translucent silk screens. Here are a couple of these:

We next visited the headquarters of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, where we ate lunch with Mr. Li Xiaolin, the association’s vice president. A pair of lions guards the entry to most buildings, one male and one female. They ward off evil spirits.





We ended the day with a call at the Ministry of Commerce and meeting with Mr. Liu Jieyi, the assistant foreign minister.

Mr. Liu Jieyi, Assistant Foreign Minister

Mr. Liu Jieyi, Assistant Foreign Minister

In the evening we were taken to dinner and a then to a Kungfu show. Nearly everyone in the audience was a westerner.

May 25: Sunday in Beijing

June 11, 2008

Four of us arrived a day early (Karen, Sharon, Donna, and I). On Sunday, we taxied to the Temple of Heaven and to the pearl market near the temple. The temple is surrounded by a large park with lots of trees.  

On the Winter solstice, the emperor offered a sacrifice at this temple to insure a good harvest the following year.

We walked through the park and left the temple grounds. The pearl market was across the street. First, we stopped in a cafe for a cool drink, then entered the market. It is a four story building with many vendors on each floor. The first floor was pretty rowdy with aggressive vendors, the second floor is a silk market, the third and fourth floors sold pearls. Here is a photo of Josephine, who sold me some pearls. 

The pearl vendors give customers bottled water.