Day 11: Qing Dynasty 4 Life

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Today in the morning, Jenny and Anniar had a school orientation to go to, so I was on my own for the morning.

IMG_0989I opted to go see Dongyue Temple. By this point I had my fill of Buddhist temples. Granted Buddhist temples in Korea and China differ slightly from temples in Japan, though for the most part, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen em all. IMG_1033Dongyue Temple, however, is a Taoist temple. Chinese Buddhism may be a proud religion, but it lacks a sense of razmataz. This is where Taoism comes in. It has many gods, magic rituals, and animal sacrifices. Though Taoism in China was all but wiped out during the cultural revolution, in the early 80’s the government realized that it could be a good source for tourism, and many temples were restored. Passing through the entrance to Dongyue Temple puts you into Taoist Hell. Taoism is the only religion that got Hell right. Burning lakes of fire and brimstone? Way to phone it in Christianity, that would suck for about 3 days, then you get used to the heat, put on a pair of bermuda shorts, and get a wicked tan. The Taoist afterlife is a bureaucracy that puts the DMV to shame. They have a department for EVERYTHING. These are all recreated at Dongyue Temple. Your first stop would probably be the Life and Death Department, or the Final Indictment Department. IMG_1018There’s the Department for Determining Individual Destiny and the Department for Suppressing Schemes. Each department is recreated with life sized statues that go from a little too creepy to way too creepy. The Department for Wandering Ghosts is sort of spooky and the Deep-rooted Disease Department is an eye opener. Some departments are in the same room. The Department of Weights and Measures shares a room with the Department of Abortions for some reason. The Department of Wind Gods is creepier than the Department of Mountain Gods. The Department of Upholding Integrity is a nice gesture. The Department for Distribution of Medicine is something we could use in the states. I guess if you want universal health care you can go to Canada or Taoist Hell, not an easy choice. Everyone loves the Department of the Hell, but my personal favorite was the Department for Implementing 15 Kinds of Violent Death, which sits a little too close to the The Department for Halting Destruction of Living Beings. I guess every good religion’s gotta have its contradictions.

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Next stop was the Temple of Heaven. It’s said to be the best example of Ming architecture and the symbol of Beijing. IMG_1042I don’t think that’s accurate, as Beijing was a lot of fun, and the Temple of Heaven was a lot of not. One of the many (few) sites at the Temple of Heaven is the Round Altar, an altar that is apparently round. IMG_1054According to the guidebook, odd numbers were considered divine, especially the number 9 as its the largest single digit odd number. The uppermost tier of the 3 tiers has nine stone rings, each made of stones numbering in increasing multiples (9 stones, 18 stones, 27 stones, etc) up to the ninth ring which contains 81 stones. The number of stairs are also multiples of 9. If you know what a balustrade is, then you should know they are also numbered in multiples of 9. Was that interesting? Of course not. Imagine walking for half a kilometer from the gate just to reach the Round Altar and learn that. The Temple of Heaven is huge, so much so that you’ll have to do a lot of walking. Even for the most die-hard history buff, there isn’t more than a half hour of stuff to see. Because of the size, you’ll spend 3 times that just walking around. Pass. Technically a Taoist temple, it demonstrates that only the Taoist Hell is cool. Though I’ve never been, I bet the Drum Tower and Bell Tower won’t eat up as much time, and will give you a better view of the surrounding hutongs. Plus, everyone knows the Qing Dynasty is better than the totally weak Ming Dynasty.

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I went back to my hotel to crank out some postcards. I suffered through some Chinese TV too. Everything on Chinese TV is in Chinese, except the one English Channel, which is almost as interesting as a PBS telethon. IMG_7381Sometime during the 3rd English language show about economics in China I fell asleep. Jenny and Anniar came back and woke me up, and we went out to eat. Our first stop was the ol’ BBQed squid on a stick stand. 6 Sticks for 50 cents can’t be beat. Or maybe it can. Especially if you aren’t a big white tourist looking guy. Afterwards we went out for Korean BBQ. I had just come from Korea, and so I end up comparing Beijing to Seoul a lot, which is probably unfair. I can’t say which I like better, Korea or China, because it’s not very politically correct to publically favor one country over another. Though, I should mention that I totally prefer Korea to China in almost every concievable way, except street squid prices. Thats not to say I dislike China, in fact I like it quite a bit, it’s just that I think Korea is a way way better country and has much much better food. So we went out for Korean BBQ, which wasn’t quite as good as Korean BBQ in Korea or even warped Japanese style Korean BBQ. But you can’t really screw up Korean BBQ so it was still good, and more importantly it was dirt cheap.

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After eating, we balanced the otherside of the equation by going to get our beer on. Instead of going to the overpriced Houhai street (which I thought was too cheap to believe) we went to a local bar that was even cheaper. I think most of what you pay for at Houhai is the ambiance. This sure saved a lot of money by not worrying about the ambience. Instead of a live band, they had live karaoke. Instead of a lake view, they had a patched-up pool table. Fortunately they had plenty of gross sweet popcorn. After about an hour, we declared it a bust and moved on to bigger and better things.

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~ by foomfoom on August 29, 2006.

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