Here is an outstanding view from Tanzhe Temple 潭柘寺 about 30 km west of Beijing. The tower is one of many tombs of monks who have studied here throughout the centuries. I also visited Jietaisi 戒台寺，but it was becoming very commercialized with a conference area and museum. My guide was a student I met shortly after arriving at Tanzhesi. His name is 刘天元,but his English name is Owen. He wanted to practice English with a native speaker so he translated many of the inscriptions in order for me to better appreciate the temples’ history. Owen’s mother is a high school Biology teacher and was very hospitable. She invited me to lunch with them while we waited for the bus to take us to Jietaisi.
Pictures inside the temple buildings are forbidden so I only have outdoor scenic shots. The smell of incense is pervasive even outdoors. Here is one of the temples at Jeitaisi. The covered table on the right would normally have at least one clerk pushing incense on tourists. The lack of tourists and salespeople in the picture show just how empty Jietaisi was compared to Tanzhesi. I only encountered two other western visitors and a handful of Chinese tourists here.
While in Beijing I stayed in a four-person room at the foreign exchange building of Capital Normal University (CNU). My roommates were other foreign exchange students from Mongolia, Malaysia, and South Korea. This is a picture of the library. For any map freaks out there, CNU is located on West Third Ring Road IVO of 39 56’08″N 116 18’10″E. The foreign exchange building is new so the Google Earth imagery only shows a construction site.
The foreign exchange dormitories are also used to provide lodging for numerous conferences in the summer. Unfortunately, the front stairs are roped off whenever it rains to prevent slipping I suppose. A typical meal costs about four yuan which is about 50 cents. The tap water is not suitable for drinking so each floor has a boiler to disinfect the water and each room has thermoses to keep some drinking water in the room in case you don’t feel like paying the 3 yuan for bottled water.
This picture is an example of the neighborhood where an upper middle class family lives in Guangzhou. The interior is a three bedroom and one bathroom apartment. The kitchen and dining room is open to a cozy living room which seats 4 people comfortably. While the building’s exterior is well worn, the interior is newly refurbished with recessed lighting in the ceiling, marble surfaces, and wood floors.
We were there to visit Sun Yat-Sen University. Upon arriving at the university, we learned that a student debate had been scheduled that evening between us and some Chinese students
who had been preparing for a few weeks. There were banners everywhere advertising the event and a local politician was invited as a special guest.
Despite having no time to prepare, I believe our group performed reasonably largely due to the lack of international news available in China. Chinese students tend to repeat government talking points not particularly out of a desire to
reinforce the government, but because it is the only informed position available. This reinforced the need not just for more international news, but for journalism with primary sourcing.
The first time I was in Beijing, we took a day trip out to the Badaling section of the Great Wall. The air quality was terrible but was consistent with every other day in Beijing. Everyone calls it “dust” rather than acknowledge the pollution.
I caught a Space-A flight out of Dover to Germany and took a train to Paris. From there, another train to Rome and Venice. Second time in Italy for me but first visit to France.