Friday, June 25, 2010

One day, one city, four faiths.

While the official religious position in China is atheism,  religious belief and practice is alive and well here.  Christianity, Islam, Taoism  and Buddhism are practiced here.  So is the secular religion of worshipping success and materialism.
We have a strong desire to know and try to understand China and its people.  Our time at the Confucian Temple in Beijing was very enlightening (sorry, bad joke).  Today, we learned more as we rode our bikes around our city in 93 degree weather.  Our original goal was to go to house of Chang Xue Liang, who was the marshall in NE China that stood up against the Japanese.  But we took another path as our first stop was at what we thought was a Buddhist Temple.
Our city has four pagodas.  All are active  Buddhist worship sites.  The one we went to today is the Nanta or South Tower.  It is next to the temple where we looked around.

Door to the temple with Yin and Yang symbols.
The temple is located in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  It was very quiet and full of color and burning incense.

Woman offering incense and bowing.

We met this extremely lively Taoist nun.  She is 83 years old and has lived there for over 40 years.  She told us that this convent was Taoist and not Buddhist. She took us into a side room, gave us water, explained to us about Taoism and told us about the convent. There is also a monastery across town.  She gave us a copy of the sacred book of Taoism- the doctrine of the Mean. She was delightful.

Nan Ta next to the convent.

After that we rode up to our original historical destination.  We decided to save it for another day, and instead rode over to the oldest church in Shenyang - Dong Guan.

Dong Guan is an active church of over 5,000 attendees.  It was founded by Presbyterian missionary John Ross.

Again, we met a lovely woman there who showed us around.  The pastor (an elderly woman) was there and was sitting in the museum having her lunch.  She was quite elderly and has apparently passed on her responsibilities to her daughter.  We toured the church and the small bookstore and pretty gardens.  People were praying and working and it was generally quite lovely and peaceful.

Inside of one part of the church.  They were getting ready for a wedding.

Pretty gardens.

After this, we decided to go to the Liaoning Provincial Museum.  We had been there before but not finished all the rooms.  Plus it was free and air conditioned.  Also, it is next to a Hui (Muslim) neighborhood and we wanted to get some Hui bread.

First we stopped for lunch and then went to the museum.

When we finished at the museum, we went searching for a baker.  Instead, we found the mosque.

Beautiful entrance.  I love these round doors.

We stayed on the outside and looked in.

We probably rode our bikes 20 miles today in the 93 degree heat.  We came home exhausted but feeling like it was a day well spent.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Back to the tour...

After our detour into inappropriate product labeling, let's get back to our one day tour of Beijing!

After the surreal viewing of Chairman Mao's body and several hours at the Capital Museum, we got back on the subway and headed up to the Confucius Temple.  Having worked with both Chinese and Korean populations, we were curious about this man and his powerful impact on these cultures.
As soon as we got off the subway, people were selling incense.  We realized that the subway exit was directly next to the Lama Temple (a major Buddhist temple) and that there was spirit money, incense and idols being sold all over the place.

Incense and spirit money to burn.

Several streets of stores selling stuff to offer at the temple.  The mix of commerce and religious belief/spirituality is a bad thing, in my opinion.

Monk taking a break.  These are usually "temporary" monks.  We see them in our city, also.

Knitters!  Most older Chinese women knit.  The most common thing that they knit are long johns.  Needles here tend to be very long and thin and are usually double pointed.

Paul and Confucius.  This is called the Confucius Temple but there's no real religious aspect to it.  

These had the names of the Confucian scholars on them.

Beautiful building-it was a very peaceful setting.

Great displays with good information on Confucius and his teachings on government and family.  It was in Chinese and English- I learned a lot!

Important people from that time.  

One more great diorama!

System of numbers.

Sacrificial altar.  Again, Confucius didn't really teach about God or gods, so I am not sure what they were sacrificing to.

Sadly at this point my camera battery died, so we didn't get pictures of the Scholars Academy.  It really was a beautiful and peaceful place and I am glad we went.  We did not go to the Lama Temple because of time and I was all that sorry to miss it.  We walked through some old hutongs (traditional neighborhoods) that are being   "gentrified."  There were still the public bathrooms as most hutong homes have no plumbing, but then the was a youth hostel, a Spanish tapas bar,  a coffee house where you could get  a "wineless connection" and other fairly trendy stuff.  I wasn't sure how to feel about that.

We took the subway back to Wang Fujin Street and went to the Foreign Language bookstore where we stocked up on some English books.  I don't mean instructional textbooks! I mean novels!  What a pleasure to have some books to read.

The next day we went to an international church in Beijing.  After the worship time (singing in English!!! with guitars!!!), the announcer said "I'd like to welcome Dr.  Briscoe back" and Stuart Briscoe stood up and preached!  I just about passed out.  We love Stuart and Jill Briscoe and all that they teach and stand for!  What a delight and special gift to have them there that Sunday.

We took a hard seat train back that night which gave us great chances to talk to our seat mates. It was a good, good weekend in Beijing!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

We interrupt this scenic tour of Beijing....

for this.
I was shopping in the big semi-foreign grocery store today and I saw this.  This store has a no camera's sign but China has no rule of law.  I decided that in this amazing circumstance, the rule did not apply to me and  I surreptitiously took these pictures.

Yes, it's Jew's Ear Juice in the Juice section.

Close up View.

"Quality Jew's Ear selected from Changbai Mountain."

The character's say Hei1 Mu4 Er3 Lu4 which means's "wood ear juice."  According to Wikepedia, "Jew's Ears" is an derogatory name from the Middle Ages for wood fungus.  Apparently, it has stuck in China!
Here is a link to a site that reviews drinks like this.

Language-it never fails to fascinate!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Beijing- the morning.

We went to Beijing this weekend, to see some friends and do some sight seeing.  Beijing was the first place we went in China when we came three years ago.  I was tired and overwhelmed on that trip and afraid of getting lost in a place where I didn't speak or read the language at all.   It was hot and humid and we had a tired 13 year old on her first overseas trip.
So I was curious to see what Beijing felt like now that I can speak, read and write some Chinese.  Elisabeth is still on her service trip in Yunnan so it was just Paul and I.
We left on the 8:00 fast train from Shenyang to Beijing.  We got on a city bus around 6:30 AM to get to the train station.  It was packed with people going to school and work.  That kind of work ethic is why China's economy is booming!
We arrived in Beijing  and got some lunch.  Then we went to our friend's house.  They have lived and worked in Beijing for several years and have so many good relationships with the people that they work with.  They have good insight and observations about China and Chinese people.  They are very stellar people.
For dinner we walked over to a mall near their apartment and saw this.

It was a restaurant  named "Kaka" with all the servers in devil horns.  However, we resisted the devils and they fled from us.  We ate at another place.

In the morning, we took the subway down to Tienanmen Square.  As you can see from the picture, it was a low air quality day.  We have all ready been to the Forbidden City but the last time we were here, Chairman Mao's Mausoleum was closed.  We wanted to see him, so we checked our bags and camera and went through the security line.  There were flowers for sale to put in front of  a statue of him and then you are very quickly herded through the line past his glass encased body.  You can not stop or take a picture.  There were two young guards in the glass room with the body and I hope they get paid a lot of money to stand there!  It took us longer to check our bags and go through security than to actually see the body.  It was an odd experience.
After that we took the subway to the Beijing City Museum.  It was fantastic!  I am a sucker for anything that looks like a diorama or any kind of arts and crafts.  This museum had many!

I think that whoever made these passed the good housewife test.

Wedding procession

Wedding clothes.

Wedding clothes.

The bride sat in this.

Another procession

Children's Shoes


Diorama of flying a kite.



On a different floor, there were ancient statues.

Charming painted cups

An incredible painted table top.

This museum was one of the better we have been in and we enjoyed every moment of it.  We also went to the Confucius Temple but I'll post about that tomorrow.