Both yesterday and today, I passed a shop called, "That Person is Accustomed to the Clothing." I wonder if it was the same shop, or if it's like the Chinese Gap. KFC is huge here, and while I barely believe my eyes, they've Asian-ized the Colonel. Literally. That picture of him that's all over KFC looks like the dad in The Joy Luck Club.
Today, after breakfast, Annie picked us up for a huge day of touring Beijing. I'm actually starting to like her more, as she's pretty laid back and seems to cling to me. She's 28 and very curious about California. First, we hit the Temple of Heaven, which is where the emperor prayed twice a year to his father, the ruler of Heaven. Mom found this very confusing. "I thought he was Buddhist? Is he praying to his biological father? I don't understand." Hello? He's the emperor. Regular religion doesn't really apply here. I mean, he thinks he used to be a fucking dragon. Don't question. Just accept. This is also where they used to sacrafice little six year old boys and girls, calling them golden dragon (boys) and jade pheonix (girls). Cozy.
Then, we drove to Tien'amien Square, which was packed with 68 billion people all trying to sell us crap. We could have waited in line for 4 hours to see the actual dead body of Chairman Mao, but thought better it. We walked over the The Forbidden Palace, essentially across the street from the square, and walked the entire length, about 2 miles. The Forbidden Palace is very recognizable, as it's in a milion movies and has that big portrait of Mao at the front gate. It's 650 years old and was only opened to the public in 1928. I found all the concubine stuff the most interesting, as they were sent away to a seperate palace once they turned 40 and were never heard from again. Kind of like a Chinese Menuedo. Everything here is symbolic, from the roof tiles to the inlaid floor. You start to block it out after awhile, as really, who cares. It's all pretty and obviously has some long story. With so many tourists pushing and shoving, I really just wanted to get out of the way and breathe.
After lunch, we toured the Summer Palace, where the emperor spent April thru October. It's huge, of course, and has a monstrous lake in the middle. Many, many tourists were fascinated with us and wanted to have their pictures taken with the Americans. I was delighted to oblidge. Annie said they'd never seen a live Barbie doll before. I knew I liked her. Apparently, they see very few Westerners, and we really look American. We're constantly stared at, and have taken to staring back. Many of them point out my long neck, often touching it and then errupting into laughter. Um, get your fucking hands off my neck, Ming Lao.
The most interesting part of the Summer Palace was hearing about The Dragon Lady, the Last Emperor's mom. Also known as the Dowager Empress, she was a hardcore bitch who loved to inflict pain and suffering upon those she hated. Her husband, who I'd imagine to be the 2nd to last Emperor, had a favorite concubine, who sang and danced beautifully. The Dragon Lady was, of course, horrible jealous of her and the day after the emperor died, she had the concubine's arms and legs chopped off. The concubine, still alive mind you, was then put on display in a huge glass jar. Annie told us that as a child, her grammar school class got to camp out at the Summer Palace. "Golly." I said, "I'd be afraid of the Dragon Lady's ghost."
"Oh yes. We sit around and tell all scary stories of Dragon Lady chop up people."
This is the kind of stuff I love. I could just imagine the Dragon Lady, bitter and bitchy, with her 2 favorite eunichs who did her hair (queens), parading around her summer palace chopping people up. That's so much more interesting than hearing about why the roof is yellow and dragon's paws point east.
Finally, we hit the Pearl Market, where you can apparently get great deals on really good pearls. I don't want to give anything away, but I'm a fucking awesome roommate.
Tomorrow we walk the Great Wall, although hopefully not all 3700 miles. I'm actually pretty excited to see it, just because it's the fucking Great Wall of China, built to keep out the Mongolians. All I know of the Great Wall is really what I've seen on that episode of South Park (Damn you Mongorians!) and that it's the only man made object you can see from space. None the less, it's on Dad's list of 1000 things to see and do before you die. As I'm staying in room 666, it's good I'm knocking a lot off the list.