No petrol needed, rice powered....what!?!? rice shortage! it never ends!
After our return from the BaDaLing Great Wall, we went to a traditional Hutong, which are basically old-style villages from several hundred years ago. We went to one of the biggest and oldest near a big man made lake called Shichahai. When Chun and I were dropped off we negotiated a price on a bicycle-type rickshaw, and we were off riding around the streets of the narrow alleys which define a hutong. The color is a wash of grey stones and tiles, with splashes of reds and blues. We stopped off at a traditional siheyuan, which is a courtyard style residence. They made these types of houses to protect the lord from the roving bands of gangs which were everywhere in China at the time. It was interesting to be given a tour of what is an ancient home being used by modern people, so there were flat screen TVs, solar collectors on the rooftop porch, and many other modern trappings.
I couldn't help daydreaming of some kick ass wire-fu fighting on these rooftops
We saw a little girl milling around watching people tour her home, and I can't imagine how strange that must be to live 1/2 new 1/2 old, with people popping in all the time. You can also spend a night in there home, and I assume you will push them into tighter quarters by doing so, quite a strange setup, but capitalism is quite suited to these people who are always surprising me with their entrepeneurial schemes. Once our overly kind host had exhausted our interest in the home, we made our escape on the bike cab and saw the rest of the village. I have mentioned before, that throughout Beijing
there is a non-stop construction site, and this place was no different, except for maybe the fact that they were using tradiontal and replica materials to get this hutong camera ready for all those euro-carrying visitors.
We then set out to visit one of Beijing's most famous landmarks, the temple of heaven, or tiantan. This place is very interesting, as it is slightly higher ground than most of Beijing, and so a perfect place to speak to heaven right? Guess so. The idea of the place is there are temples for all different wishes, growth of crops, victory in war, etc. The emporers would come to these temples and make 'important' prayers which the gods obviusly cared most about. They even have these slightly convew marble paths through the center of all paths, which I came to find out is so that the royals will always be a bit higher than all the other servants and such when walking, although they were always carried in a sedan (box with handles) since they were so special, yuck =P Anyhow this place is pretty and has plenty of open spaces for the old people to chill, and there were old ladies doing Tai Chi and also practicing their singing (which sounded a bit like killing cats!).
so much detail on this thing
The old people get in for very cheap, so these places are like retirement villages! One of the coolest places is the echo chamber. I will warn you, no one knows how to use this place. They all walk to the center of this circular courtyad which has the temple just ahead raised higher with an open door, and clap. With a confused look they try again and then finally walk off. This is so funny since everyone does it all day, and never hears a thing. You need to stand at the walls, face parallel to the walls, and speak. Your friend on the other side will hear you, simple right? We spent 20 minutes to figure that out, after reading a conspicuous sign which tells you to stand facing north, although this is tough since the sun is almost never visible in Beijing due to smog.
DO NOT...repeat...DO NOT stand in front of this thing and clap, you will just hear the sound of you being dumb
Have fun Olympic runners! After all the sights we went and had a more simple meal of dumplings and the like as well as a big bottle of Beijing beer. One more day left in town, and I knew I would miss my guides and their hospitality, they became like family so quick! As always, I went home and passed out within a couple hours.