As I write this article l am in China! My husband Pete and I are escorting a group of 15 that includes folks from Lake Oswego. About twice a year we escort groups. We are not the guides, rather the pied pipers. We have local guides in every city that are with us the entire time.
This 18 day trip started in Xi’an and ends in Hong Kong. Xi’an, population of 8 million, is the location of the 2000 year old Terra-cotta Warriors. They were discovered in 1974 by a peasant digging a well. Eight thousand soldiers, horses and chariots were discovered buried under wooden roofs and layers of dirt. It was Emperor Huangdi who ordered this army to serve as his eternal imperial guard. After he united all of China, he became arrogant and unpopular. As a result, the emperor who succeeded him ordered all the statues destroyed. When the statues were found, they were in pieces. Forty archaeologists daily have the task of putting the statues back together.
Next on our stop was Beijing, population 23 million. Between 1949 and 1990 people living in the city were given an apartment. Now they are issued a stipend to help play for their housing. We rode Rickshaws in the old town called Hutongs showing us how life was prior to 1949 when Mao’s Communist party took over the government.
These days, China’s cities feature an impressive dose of Western influence, including wonderful restaurants and hotels, countless skyscrapers, designer stores and incredibly efficient public transportation.
In and around Beijing, we visited the Great Wall, The Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, the largest palace in the world consisting of 8,706 rooms on 170 acres. If you have any interest in traveling to China do it while you are still in good shape. We walked at least 5 miles a day!
While riding a bullet train from Xi’an to Beijing and then to Shanghai, we saw thousands of apartment buildings as we traveled the countryside. The Chinese call those that live in the rural areas “farmers”. However, if they actually farm they are called peasants. Residents living outside the cities are given their apartments by the government to discourage so many from moving to the crowded urban areas.
Next month I’ll continue our trip from Shanghai to Hong Kong and our Yangtze River cruise.
Feature image courtesy of Beth Schulberg, the author and co-owner of All About River Cruises.