Friday, December 26, 2014

Stephanie in China! The Best Christmas Gift Yet! :D

Last week my parents sent the greatest Christmas gift of all to little sister! Steph finished up her finals on December 12th (only one semester of college left!), spent a crazy weekend packing and then got on a 13 hour flight to come see me.

Naturally, I wanted her to see as much of China as possible in one week. Challenge #1: China does not have the same holiday, so I had to manage my work schedule. 

I met her on Tuesday in the Beijing International Airport--I waited about 2 hours for her to come through--I was a little worried I missed her and we had no way to communicate if she was lost--she can't speak Chinese, didn't have a working phone and I could not connect to the internet. 

The airport was all decorated for Christmas!

IKEA had an area to advertise--people are taking full advantage of the comfortable furniture

While I was waiting for Steph I saw SO many people meet up with their loved ones, which was extremely touching. This guy was adorable-he had a sign and some flowers. He's waiting for his wife and has not seen her for 6 months!

Right on...

While groups of people came out after customs I was stereotyping where their flight was from. One group had a bunch of tall, blonde, blue eyed people--definitely some Scandinavian country. I knew Steph would come out soon when I saw a group of Americans wearing Chicago hats and sweatshirts. 

Finally! She made it!

Stephs first Chinese pot! 

This place was not foreign friendly--but with  my limited Chinese we managed to order

This hot pot is heated by coals beneath the pot--most places use electric hot plates

We got spicy broth and plain broth with spinach, cabbage, needle mushrooms, regular mushrooms, sweet potatoes, tofu and an egg. 

The spicy flavoring here is much different than in America--it includes various different peppers and has a strong black pepper flavoring. Steph loved it

The dipping sauce was peanut paste and sesame paste, oil with peppers and cilantro

She had some difficulties with the chopsticks...the restaurant owners were laughing at us but were happy to help her out

Eek! More posts to come! 

The Holy Land of China

While some people may consider "Confucianism" a religion, I believe it is mainly a philosophy. Nonetheless, it has a strong influence on peoples beliefs and way of life in China.

Confucius was born in a city that is only an hour away from Jinan (where I reside) so a few colleagues and I paid a visit to gain a greater understanding for the "great sage" or "the first teacher".

Confucius lived during the Warring States period in China (500 BC) so his philosophy speaks towards creating a harmonious society. He emphasized the importance of family, study and morality. He thought that political leaders should come to power based on their moral merit and stressed virtues and etiquette.

When the Communist Party took control in 1949 they denounced Confucianism and any other religion.

However the Confucianism ideology is the basis for Chinese society--even though the people are (for the most part) not religious, Chinese people believe morality and having good virtue is very important. That's why Qufu, his birthplace can be regarded as a "Holy Land"

The inner city is pretty small and is completely surrounded by a city wall. Confucius' temple and house takes up about 1/5 of the entire walled city.

Pictures outside of the wall: 

Apparently Qufu is the #1 tourist sight in China (hmmm not so sure I'd agree...)

For such a small city, the roads were well paved and the infrastructure was well taken care of. It appeared like a lot of time went into the landscaping and the visual appearance

The first sight we saw was the Confucius Temple
This probably says welcome to the tourist destination--the "Confucius Temple, Confucius Home, Confucius Forest"

This sign talks about the six virtues that Confucius considered important. Confucius thought that leaders and heads of state should be virtuous

A wine cauldron 

This is the pavilion where Confucius taught a number of students

Tablets were everywhere from various emperors 

Apparently this tree is 1000 years old

Teaching pavilion--the architecture is the same as the Forbidden City 

Many of the buildings burnt down and then were rebuilt 

Confucian Temple

Mythical creatures on the side of the roof--the animals represent the importance of the building

As soon as you walk out of the temple, tourist stands are everywhere

Confucius! Kong zi in Chinese

Tourist group of primary school students 

A table and seats for tea

Beautiful painting on the ceiling 

Inside the city walls, there is one main road that passes by the temple and the house of Confucius. The forest is about 2 kilometers from the city wall--so you can walk or find transportation there.

Confucian garbage cans 

This is the bell tower right in the center of the city

These are a type of turnip (I think) and taste like a radish. 
Typical tourist snack in Qufu

Next up I visited the forest where Confucius is buried 

It is the largest cemetery in China--many of his ancestors are buried in the forrest 

Some mythical creatures guarding the grave. Im not sure what they are or what they represent

This was one of Confucius' ancestors. I wonder why his burial sight is so much more extravagant than the others. 

Some burial sites had gravestones, some did not. You can tell the importance of the person depending on the size of the mound and the size of the gravestone. 

After walking around for a while I got a little creeped out that I was surrounded by so many dead people. But the forest was absolutely beautiful and so peaceful. 

After leaving the forest there were food stands and tourist stands everywhere. 

This is an egg pancake

Some archery 

Hand painted crafts

Im not sure what these are--some kind of stone. People where cleaning them and selling them everywhere

Within the city walls there are maybe 2 hotels. I decided to stay at the Qufu Youth Hostel which was well located and very comfortable.