Top Beijing Memories 2 1996-2001

Top Beijing Memories 2 1996-2001
  • Ritan 2001 It was evening and one of my last days in Beijing. It was still hot even when sun almost went behind Xishan. In Beautiful Ritan park many older people from nearby neighborhood gathered like every evening. As always there was a group of older ladies in colorful clothes who were dancing with fans on a very dynamic Chinese music. In some spots you could see individual exercisers  of tai chi with or without swords. Some people were sitting next to lake or under trees with hung wooden cages in which were cheerful thrushes.  It was very nice evening and me and my brother run around lake and I was climbing across rocks. Later night fell and we went to a restaurant in a park to celebrate my friends birthday. It was really beautiful evening with a young crescent moon reflected in lake . Watching on a moon behind a pavilion next to willow branch was really magic and a scene from Chinese poetry. Even at that time I remember how I was wondering whether there is some pavilion nearby with hang out lanterns and some old people sitting next to lake until late night.

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  • Cookie or Mr.Wang 2000 and 2013 He was a cook in our embassy. An older Chinese man who often was coming to our flat to fix radiator or some other appliance. He always seemed silent and rarely smiled and thus he was very interesting to me and I was bit afraid of him. When I was child I was very misbehaving boy and I enjoyed to make some mischief and annoy other people. Cookie seemed perfect for that. Mostly I remember one event in 2000 when he was fixing radiator in my room. I came to him and I was stretching him for a t-shirt in order to expel him from my room. But obviously he was refusing as he wanted to finish the job. Since he understood only Chinese I remembered trick how to make him angry and I started to course him in Chinese. He got so angry that he took a gum snake and wanted to beat me but I run away out of my room. I got so scared and I never again tried to curse him. Since 2001 I didn’t see him until 2013. In 2013 we saw him by coincidence. In June 2013 me and my family were crossing bridge over Beijing canal towards Sanlitun. Among cyclers my father recognized Mr.Wang and shouted “Cookie”  and he significantly shocked stopped and came to us. Thing which stunned me even more than fact that I see him randomly after 12 years was that he completely correctly and clearly pronounced my name. He said “Danilo” with surprised view and smiling voice. We starred on each other for a while.  I couldn’t believe that he remembered my name after 12 years, name  of  boy who used to make him troubles and curse to him for entertaining himself. I got one funny idea on my mind about reason why he remembers my name- maybe he had often nightmares for 12 years in which I was cursing and jumping around him like monkey, and he tries to catch me, but he wakes up every time when he had almost caught me.
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Cookie,  another employee at embassy, my brother and me June 2013

 

  • Beihai Park 2000

It was an spring afternoon in one of my favorite parks in Beijing.  It was during visit of my grandfather to Beijing and we took him on many nice places.  We went to old wooden 12th century temple. It is oldest construction in Beihai park. As always there we went to 9 Dragon Wall. As a child I always wondered whether dragons really existed. After that we were sitting in 5 Dragon Pavillion next to large lake of Beihai park. We were watching sunset reflection in water, boats in shape of duck and a white 14th century Buddhist pagoda. This white pagoda is one of my favorite constructions in Beijing. We were sitting with grandfather, eating chips and drinking plum juice. Wind started to blow and we watched harmonized move of waves of the lake. Also dozens of swallows were freely flying around pavilions and beeping cheerfully.\

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  • )Botanical garden 2000 If I remember well this was spring 2000. With our family friends we went together on one beautiful and sunny spring day. Beijing Botanical garden is definitely one of largest and most beautiful botanical gardens that I ever saw. It is located below Western Hills and very close to Xiangshan. It is so large that it more reminds on a forest and a natural reservoir rather than on a park. There is also one large lake within the garden.Day was perfect and sun was shinning. We were passing over stone path among bloomed cherry and plum trees and other interesting trees. On a small hill we set up a picnic and we had a lunch there in nature. I really felt like a camper as we set a small tent where children could enter to play. Me and my friends played there and run around tent and parents after lunch. We played that we are fighting against monsters and I was jumping over some remains of some ancient wall with some carvings. There was a large stone turtle next to pieces of wall and it really seemed interesting to me and I wandered what was that before together that wall and carved turtles. The most interesting fact in Botanical Garden is that there is a temple within garden. It is Wofo temple or temple of reclining Buddha. Wofo Temple dates from 14th  I was in that temple several times and this always seemed mystical to me as appeared to be too silent and calm. In hall where reclining Buddha statue was it was quite dark and it was scary a bit for me. I remember very well old and large trees in temple courtyard. Once I fell and hit the tree with my nose when I was misbehaving. Last time we were there in 2001. In 2013 we tried to enter the temple gate was closed since temple was open until 5pm only. Simply as I say in China there will be always some temple which gates will be closed so you have to come next time.

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  • Qianmen 2001 It was last time when I was on Qianmen and last time when I saw old Qianmen. Parents took me there one evening. At that time main Qianmen street wasn’t so well maintained like today. It was neither pedestrian area. It was street for traffic where except cars a lot of buses and trolleys were passing. It was quite noisy and messy street. Old buildings were not in good condition. They were quite faded. Instead of todays H&M, Sephora and other branded shops, very well maintained and colored facades there were shops for cheap clothes. Most of you know Qianmen from today. Also you can find my stories about Qianmen of today too. Side street going parallel to Qianmen stayed unchanged. Area is still tight and overcrowded and amazing at night like before. Like in 2001 now you can find there street food, several restaurants and a lot of shops offering clothes and souvenirs. Its perfect place for shopping and bargaining at night. After shopping you can take amazing bao zi or Beijing duck.

 

  • Tiananmen evening 2001 Flag Lowering

It was in April 2001. Red sunset was perfectly matching with importance of the square. As always there were hundreds of people walking around and taking pictures. I was flying a kite like many people do here who come there. Later we saw a group of Chinese PLA soldiers marching towards main flag which stands in front on the edge of square. Over a street directly from flag there is portrait of Chairman Mao hung on Tiananmen Gate. With honor and pride a group of them was standing in front of flag while two of them were lowering it. Everyone was silent and with respect was looking at their direction. Flag was lowering slowly while sun was going beyond Tiananmen gate. When flag was lowered soldiers took it in proudly and carefully and marched away. This ceremony is performed every day since 1992. With sunrise and waking up of China soldiers rise flag with sunset they lower it.

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  • Xiangshan memories Definitely my favorite place in China about which I wrote many times.  In my texts you can find information what to visit there and what makes it specific. I recommend it for hiking and spending time in nature. Also about personal meaning of this place for me I wrote several times and why I love it as well.  I mentioned memories often too.  We were there for the first time in 1997. I always loved to come there since there were a lot of paths and grass areas where I could ran and play. Me and my younger brother used to play there on grass when I imitated anaconda and I was playing that I was catching and eating him. We used to come there on cold winters too when area was completely covered with snow and lakes with ice. I enjoyed walking on ice of Jingcui lake. I remember very well taste of Gongbao chicken , roasted spicy bacon or noodles with vegetables on a cold winter day when we enter restaurant after long walk. Since 2000 we used to come there almost every weekend with our friends. We often started our day at Jingcui lake where we always tried to catch little tadpoles as lake was full of them during springtime. You could hear many frogs in a lake and occasionally every 10-15minutes you could see some of them jumping.  Once I fell down from a rock into the lake because big hornet came and I got so scared. Everyone was laughing at me.

 

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Zhao Miao before reconstruction

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We used to play in front of Shuangqing villa where Mao Zedong resided and we played around Yuhua imperial villa with a nice viewpoint. Because of a lot of hiking and few mysterious temples we always imagined that we are adventurers, researchers or archeologists. We were imitating that we are on expedition. We also enjoyed to play pokemons. Often we went to 14th century old Azure Clouds Temple. With its mysterious halls and courtyard we enjoyed the place even more. We liked to run around Vajrasana pagoda of the temple. In a rounded pavilion with a pond we always fed large goldfishes. It was a real game for us but we were also a bit scared to fall down in a lake since fishes were not small at all.  Also we liked to enter a small cave with waterfall and watch on lake, bridge and pavilion through the falling water. But probably biggest adventure for us was a Zhao Miao Temple or as we used to call it “Castle of Ghosts”

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At that time it had faded red walls and entrance of the corridor in middle of hall was open. Dark corridor which was leading to inner garden was very scary. At end of corridor was always visible mystical light from sun which was falling into inner garden and passing through dark corridor. We often imitated sounds of ghosts here. Once one Chinese man replied through corridor with similar sounds, we were scared but still we continued going in through corridor to  inner garden.  Garden was surrounded from inner side by grey burnt and damaged walls. Especially it was frightening at dusk when parts of temple looked even more mystical and strange because red rays from sunset were falling on roof and door and tall paifang which was in front of temple.

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Zhao Miao Temple is under reconstruction now. As I said bigger parts of main wall and hall are recolored in original white, behind I saw new walls which were excavated in recent years still not reconstructed- more walls which were around inner garden of temple.  Except history of this temple on guide board which was standing next to temple it was written that plan is that it will be completely reconstructed until 2018 or 2020.  Pity that inner garden was closed this time  as I would like to walk inside again. Who knows what will workers and scientists find during excavating and reconstructing temple. I am sure that under destroyed walls are interesting bronze or jade statues of Buddha or some other religious subjects. Also probably there can be found out interesting carved stone Buddhas hidden under ruins.

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Sounds of mysterious bird were all the time present and were following us during walking through this area. Some stairs which lead down from Zhao Miao Temple were taking us to small pond with old white stone bridge in middle. Over that bridge we used to run and chase each other when we were children- Me, Milica and Danica. We  were often sitting under apricot tree next to pond, and telling stories about ghosts, Serbia, China, Pokemons, airplanes, fishes, frogs. Mine and their parents were speaking nearby too. At that time my small brother Dushan used to run around pond and he tried all the time to jump into water to undo high temperatures.  I never wanted to imagine swimming in that dark green water, full of frogs. Once we caught one.  One Chinese man tried to explain us that this type of frog isn’t for eating, he had full package of frogs which he caught  for dinner in same pond. In China frog meat is considered as healthy and pure and as I heard from my father it reminds on chicken meat. Once we stayed overnight on Xiangshan  which was great experience. We stayed in a hotel near Jingcui lake. We heard a lot of owls from the forest. We went at night at Jingcui lake and we got really scared as children we believed we could see a wolf or ghost. We saw one fisherman fishing at the lake in night hours.  Simply when I rethink of these memories from 2000-2001 it wasn’t just a place to have fun and play but also to better meet nature. It was real adventure for me as in Beijing you couldn’t see much animals or plants like in its outskirts such as frogs, tadpoles, butterflies, dozens of birds, fishes and bloodsuckers.

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Top memories of Beijing 1: 1996-2001

Top memories of Beijing 1: 1996-2001

Top memories of my life in Beijing 1996-2001

  • First landing at Beijing Airport 1996

It was a hot May day of 1996, we have just landed at Beijing Airport Terminal 1 and only one at that time. We  got out from Aeroflot IL86 aircraft and by terminal bus we have reached airport building. Most of you do not remember this building since in 1999 new much more modern terminal building was built and in 2008 most modern and very large one. I was only 3 and half years old but still I remember this day at least memory is so foggy like a dream or a smoggy day of Beijing of that time.   I remember long corridor and many people around me speaking a in an unknown to me language at that time. While we were standing in row a policeman in a green olive uniform checked our passports.   I remember that I said to my mum that I want to go back to Belgrade and that I miss my grandparents she told me just to  be calm and that this will be our new home. I never imagined what adventure and life in China would bring me and what will all this mean to my life. I am still thankful for that day which allowed me to meet amazing world of China. Today Beijing airport is one of most modern and largest in the world and busiest too.

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Terminal 1 Building
  • Sanlitun 1996 Beijing most popular place for shopping, hanging out, pubbing, clubbing and place with many business and residential buildings.Those who were in China first time after early 2000s wont probably know what I am speaking about or wouldn’t even recognize Sanlitun from the period of 1996-2001.  Area of embassies and diplomatic compound stayed more or less same.Main Bar Street was similar like today but  a bit narrower and with much less number of bars and clubs. Today you know how many expensive bars, nightclubs and restaurants you can find there open everyday. Area across street of todays Soho compound where Village and other shopping malls and plazas reminded on brick buildings which you can still find between mentioned shopping malls and Poly Plaza right across Workers Stadium but was in much unfavorable condition. On todays place of Village and other malls, plaza with large screen and pedestrian area, Starbucks, rich and expensive shops, bars and clubs with  cheap beer behind Village and other outlets there was something completely different.  About modern Sanlitun you can find in my stories Beijing Little Guide 3 and 4. If you compare these two you can see how Sanlitun reflects rapid change in living standard of Chinese people. I remember quite well old brick simply constructed buildings which date from  circa 1950ies. There was one narrow lane passing behind todays Village mall and behind Yashow market which existed until recent years. On the approach from bar street there were clothing shops which were selling cheap everyday clothes which you could bargain down for even lower price. Simply only one pedestrian zebra was dividing a side of street with bars and side with open door cloth market. When you would enter the lane real open door local market would be approached. There was a real neighborhood atmosphere as there was a tailor shop, a butchery with always fresh meat , a opendoor market with large amount of vegetables and fruits and local dairy shop. I remember we often used to buy products in dairy shop and also many fruits such as pineapples and litchi. There was also a open door market where alive chickens were sold. They were moving in cages like in movies if you saw and when you order one seller would kill it in boiled water and sell you. Often with mother I went there and she would buy me some toy such as bus, snake or crocodile as there was very large part of market where toys were sold and I couldn’t just pass through without asking for some toy. A bit deeper in lane you could enter area in block between brick buildings. Often smell of noodles was felt from some windows. In front of buildings there was a really large amount of cabbage stored for being eaten during winter. It was visible that people who lived there didn’t have enough money. But they often seemed happy as we could see them in evenings gathered around drinking tea or beer, eating noodles and  speaking friendlily to each other. My father often took me there in evenings during hot and wet summer of 1996. After walk we would sit in front of our settlement and we would watch construction of some buildings next to Zhaolong hotel. I never imagined at that time how China would be built up and developed like today.  My parents were often afraid to bring me to open door market or even supermarket since I was very misbehaving child and I used to take and throw apples or pears what always made vendors angry. It  was typical for me to touch something what wasn’t supposed to be touched, or to do something what wasn’t supposed to be done, or to eat something what wasn’t supposed to be eaten. For example in front of 1 Jenny Lous supermarket which doesn’t exist anymore at Sanlitun, one old man shared his green ice cream with me while father was buying food ,(he left me in front of shop to prevent me of making mess inside(throwing fruits and peppers on floor). But he didn’t expect to see me eating ice cream with unknown man. Father was so shocked when he saw that.
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Sanlitun before, http://patricksloan.net/2011/03/the-old-beijing-3-2/
  • Great Wall 1996 We went to Great Wall first time when my uncle was visiting us in Beijing in November 1996. It was overcrowded as always but often this memory passes through my head since I was only 4 years old and on such famous and great place. I was really fascinated with how long the wall is and I was asking all the time where is its end and beginning.
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my first trip to Great Wall, 1996
  • Ritan park 1996-1997 It is place which I associate with my first memories of Beijing. A park about which I already wrote in chapter about alternative spots in Beijing and in chapter 7 at Guangming Online. Actually when I came there in 2013 and 2015 almost everything was same in the park like in 1996 just large altar was closed for public. There was still same luna park which I often visited with my parents and even the bench on which they were sitting while I was riding some toy car. Simply when I remember Ritan park of 1996 I realize that there are places which still didn’t change in Beijing.

 

  • Beihai park winter 1999/2000 Beihai park is one of my favorite places in Beijing and I mentioned it a lot when I wrote about trips in 2013 and 2015.  During winters we were going to skate on ice there usually on afternoons and sometimes in weekend mornings. Me and my father used to skate on ice and sometimes walk on ice around island. For me it was very interesting at that time to run over ice and I always wondered how deep water is down below ice and whether fishes can breath under ice and I always as a kid asked too many questions. Also while skating I used to enjoy to watch white pagoda standing on island. After some time of skating and freezing we would go to KFC which was situated at that time right on shore of the island. We always ordered hot orange juice and fries with ketchup. I still miss these days and fries and hot juice after spending time on cold.

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  • Ritan park 2000 When I was a bit older parents took me and my little brother to Ritan park too. But now we were going to circular altar which served as place for ceremonies for praying to the Sun during imperial China. I used to run there a lot and throw gum balls in the altar. Such large circular area was perfect for running.  Also my other Serbian friends Milica and Danica came often there and we were jumping around and  playing with Pokemon toys. We often imagined that altar is arena for fighting and competing between our Pokemon toys.
  • Summer palace 2000 or 2001 I am not sure but I think it was spring of 2000 maybe 2001. My parents and parents of Milica and Danica took us for a big walk. At beginning day was very lovely with brilliantly pure sky and shun was shinning like a gold. It was really hot but a very beautiful spring day. We crossed bridge across Suzhou street. I remember down there a lot of people sitting in pavilions and drinking tea and playing chess. After that we passed next to Tibetan style monastery. I remember very well how its white pagodas with golden peaks were shinning under pure sky and sun. When I was passing there in 2013 my memories were so fresh. no Than we went around Kunming lake starting from its western shore. Path under willow trees was full of people, older ones but also families with small children. Lake was full with boats. On another side of was pagoda on one of Western hills. I was really wondering and thinking what is this pagoda and to which park or temple belongs  It really seemed mysterious to me a pagoda on top of hill which never was mentioned by my father or mother and we were never there. Many years later I found out that this pagoda belongs to Jade Hill and it is Jade Pagoda which was also imperial garden of Qing dynasty. I found out that it is closed to public still and that there are some military instalments there. On same sunny day we were wondering whether crocodile lives in Kunming Lake. We were children and full of adventurous ideas. While finishing circle around lake clouds were coming faster and faster over sky and becoming darker and darker. Sun almost disappeared wind was very fast in blowing and it was moving lake surface. Waves were moving harmoniously but in very fast way, willow branches were like dancing on wind. People were hiding around below pavilions or going back to their cars. Still I remember this day because of so fast change of the weather. Simply it is impressive how things can change from quiet, bright calm and slow to fast, dark and loud.
  • Pearl Market 2000 I remember visits to this market very well. Most often I went there with my mother. She was going there to shop various things from house decorations, clothes, necklaces and other stuff. Since I disliked such long shopping she always bought me some toys there in order to keep me calm there. Sometimes on weekends we went together with father. While she was shopping me and father were going to the basement where fishes, chickens, snakes, eels and lizards were sold. They were alive and moving until last moment when you ordered some of them. When I was there in 2013 this animals weren’t sold anymore but there was McDonalds instead.
  • Sanlitun 2000-2001 During this period me and my father used to walk in afternoons and evenings behind Sanlitun Diplomatic Compound where we used to live.  It was there a quite narrow street directing towards Sanlitun. On right side is road to old hospital next to which we often passed during evening walks. On left side is small shop which  often was  working under low light. Stands with fruits and vegetables  were in front of shop. Here my parents used to buy me “sok u crevu” or translated “juice in hose”-colored and aromatized water sold in cheap and very soft plastic package which remind on sausage or not long hose. That juices existed in few very bright colors – green, yellow, orange and pink.. I didn’t saw them unfortunately in this shop neither in any other in which I was these days.  They were my second favorite juices during my life here ( first was plum juice). I liked these strange “juices in hose” because of untypical shape, color, too sweet taste and all this together. At that time  one old man who worked in this shop was always smiling when he saw me and my mother knowing that we will buy one of these juices.  He was surprised and happy when foreign boy was buying one of cheapest products. Always when we entered shop his smile was spread from ear to ear and he took immediately few “sok u crevu” and showed them in front of me, letting me to choose one. Unfortunately I didn’t saw my “sok u crevu” neither its seller. Probably production of such juice is abandoned now in China or now it is filled into bottles.  When we came there again in 2013 hospital was still there and a shop but not this seller anymore. Who knows where is now that old seller who I still remember. Maybe his working time for today finished, maybe he went to another shop to work, maybe he is retired or maybe he is not anymore among alive people as he was quite old even in 2001. In 2015 this street was same unchanged.
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Street where shop and hospital still are, 2013
  • Yonghe temple 2000 It was one of my favorite temples during my life in Beijing. We often used to go there to burn some incense. I always liked it since it was fun for me to make as much fire as possible. When I was there again in 2013 and 2015 burning incense had deeper and more reasonable meaning for me.

 

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Incense at YOnghe, 2013
  • Shichihai hutongs 2000-2001 I remember very well our spring and autumn walks around Shichihai lake and deeper in hutongs around. They were completely different than now. On a shore of Huohai you couldn’t see any bar or open door pub. At that time there was nothing from these pubs which I found in 2013 and 2015. Now all of you know those fancy bars where you can have coffee or shisha during day. Back in 2001 there was only one path around lake and there was not any bar. When we walked there on hotter days you would see a lot of people swimming in this lake. Still in 2013 there were some people swimming and in 2015 too. Hutongs closest to the lake were uncommercialized and were in quite bad condition what makes charm of the hutongs as always. There wasn’t single souvenir shop , bar, teahouse or clothes shop. Foreign tourists were rare at that time there. When we were passing there through these hutongs I was always with big interest and curiosity trying to see through door of courtyard to see whats inside. When I felt smell of food from their houses I used to wonder whether they are making noodles or jiao zi. Occasionally there would pass one or two people by walk or by bicycle. I remember one spring afternoon of 2000 or 2001 when we were walking around there on the small rain. It was really hot and wet and we saw few locals siting in front of their courtyards, eating noodles chatting friendlily and listening to thrush which was singing in a wooden cage which was hung in courtyard. Locals there were often surprised when they would see foreigners  in hutongs but were happy too when they would see our love and respect towards their culture. Nights at hutongs were silent and dark. Once in winter 2000/2001 we were driving at night and we stopped by lake for short. It was really silent and dark, only few lampposts were visible.    Today most of these hutongs are commercialized and renowned. They are in good condition, serve as hotels, private residences, souvenir shops, teahouses or beer houses. Famous commercialized hutongs are not just around lake but also an Nanluoguxiang street with a lot of souvenir shops, restaurants teahouses and beerhouses.  Hutongs a bit further from lake, some hutongs at narrower areas of Shichihai lake( near Guanghua temple), between Beihai, Jingshan and Shichihai, hutongs around Nanluoguxiang, near Liulichang and near Temple of Heaven are still unchanged. But their number is really small and it is only maximally  1 third of all hutongs. I wrote about that before so take a chance to check them until they stay authentic. Today nights are very lively at most of hutongs, with a live music and warm atmosphere especially during summer nights. They became popular spots for spending time at night.
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nightlife at Shichihai
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Fortunately there are still such hutongs,

Hutong adventures compilation Meet true uncomercialized hutongs

Hutong adventures compilation  Meet true uncomercialized hutongs

FInding such hutongs is a real key to discovering traditional lifestyle of Beijing.

Every hutong is a story itself. Every hutong street hides road to another street, to door of another courtyard, hidden temple and to old locals.   It is best to enter hutong randomly and continue dwelling around wherever road takes you. For me dwelling through hutongs is really magical and spountaneous thing.

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Hutong experience of real hutong June 2013- Between Jingshan and Shichihai

When I walked from Beihai to Jingshan and from Jingshan to Shichihai I passed through real unchanged hutongs. They were not commercialized hutongs like those which I mentioned previously. There were no clothes or souvenir shops, no McDonalds and no bars. They weren’t overcrowded by people, customers or tourists which were taking photos of everything. These streets were calm with only 2 food shops. Old lifestyle was present here. Few bicycle drivers passed next to me. Many of bikes were parked near gates.  Gates were red some of them even faded and very old. Some of gates on both sides were decorated with 2 red typical Chinese lanterns. Few gates were open and inside were visible flowers and smaller trees in inner gardens of hutong houses. In one of inner gardens I saw old man who was sitting alone and playing erhu, ancient Chinese traditional instrument.

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Through other opened gates were visible people doing some house and garden works. Gardening for Chinese people who live in hutongs is important hobby and way of life. In front of one gate was fixer of bikes in old faded clothes and was repairing wheel of one bicycle, working hard and sweating to earn money for his family. Houses here were grey with a bit dilapidated facades, but it is point. They should look like ordinary, like 100-150 ago. One street seller of fruits when we were buying bananas was friendly towards us. On few corners were groups of neighbors eating noodles and drinking Yanjing beer. I saw very friendly relations among people living in hutongs- eating together on streets, playing Chinese chess and everyone speaking and smiling to everyone. Simply their close relations were reminding me on friendliness and close ties among people living in villages in Serbia. That’s how life in old China looks like, those who will see it here they can conclude same as me. I was happy when I saw that old lifestyle and China which I remember didn’t die. I hope old lifestyle in this area will never die, that this area will never be changed and that these hutongs wont experience commercialization, opening of clothes shops, crowds, big attention of tourists, or in another case that all area will be completely destroyed and replaced by some modern shopping center or skyscrapers. That was destiny to many hutongs. I heard few times from some Chinese friends that this area is protected from any changes by state authorities. Old life style is more rare and rare.  It is fading like walls of hutongs but still exists and will exist.

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Wandering just around- Lost in hutong June 2015- Between Beihai and Shichihai

It was late afternoon.fter visit of Beihai park I wanted to reach commercialized hutongs at shore of Shichihai lake to buy some souvenirs and have dinner there. I crossed the street towards hutongs knowing direction of Shichihai. I didn’t want to look at map but I have said I will go randomly and let the spirit of hutongs to bring me to lake wherever and whenever. So adventure started. Already street was tight and with a lot of dusty and faded facades. I was passing further. At beginning there were quite a lot of visitors and rickshaw drivers passing every second. Many motorbikes passed too and occasionally some car so I had to pay attention in order not to be hit by car, motorbike or rickshaw. I passed next to tall red wall and gate on which was written Prince Gong Mansion. It is famous palace and garden that dates from end of 18th century. It was closed already since it is open until 5pm. I have never been there but I plan to visit it once. You see how hutongs bring you to unexpected places.

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As I was advancing deeper there were less and less people who were also passing through hutongs. There would occasionally pass one or two bicycles or one rickshaw that would beep in order to pass faster since streets were becoming tighter.  3 young Chinese guys were passing in same direction as I did. Occassionally one or two restaurants would appear with not many people in them. In front of one courtyard there were two older ladies speaking and laughing while small children were playing in courtyard. Streets were so tight that you had to stick to walls when bicycle appeared. Smell of garlic, cooked noodles and baked buns was felt intensively from several directions. In common courtyard kitchen I saw few people cooking together and speaking loudly.  It seems it was dinner time in hutongs. One old man without t shirt and barefoot was sitting on small chair in front of courtyard and cooling with simple fan. Behind in courtyard was one tree with wooden cage in which thrush was happily singing. Old man seemed patient, kind and happy with simple things. Few children run through street chasing cats. In front of several courtyards there were small wooden tables around which were sitting many neighbors drinking tea or beer, speaking loudly and playing chess. Behind them few were standing and watching game and commenting few times. More and more it started to remind on labyrinth since from every direction were hutong streets appearing. Simply there are too many streets and too little time for each of them. I was randomly choosing streets instinctively hoping to reach lake. As further I was approaching in every street were groups of neighbors, few tables, few cages with birds and of course chess. In one or two courtyards I saw through half opened doors few people doing Tai Chi.

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I already started to think whether I am going to right direction. I felt partially lost. 20-30meters in front of me I saw two women standing  in pijamas and slippers and eating peaches while their dogs which seemed unpredictable since they barked were running a lot around. At the end of that street were two directions. I turned back and saw policeman passing by motorbike. He continued forward and I started to follow him. When we passed dogs I asked him where is the lake. He pointed to the left. In less then one minute I appeared in crowded commercialized and restored hutong next to the lake. All this happened in about 30min of time. 30 minutes can really enrich you a lot and raise your adrenaline even. I got it hutongs are amazing and real adventure. When it seems you are far from the aim just look behind a corner and you will be there.

Discovering temple- June 2013 next to Shichihai 

It was last morning in Beijing in 2013 me and my family headed around old hutongs of Drum and Bell Tower towards Shichihai lake. It was so beautiful and calm. People were sitting on chairs in front of doors, speaking to neighbors… Old group of people were smoking pipes next to lake. They had long white beards and were old as hutongs. We were searching for one temple which we visited once in 2001. After 20minutes of wandering through hutongs which seem similar we noticed the temple.  It is Guanghua Temple one of oldest in Beijing. Hutong temples are very interesting, silent and much more mysterious since they are not overcrowded like Yonghe Temple or some other most famous temples. I definitely recommend you to choose your hutong and discover as much as possible of it!!!

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Tai Chi much more than martial art! My perception of Daoism and practice of Tai Chi

Tai Chi much more than martial art!    My perception of Daoism and practice of Tai Chi

Chinese martial arts are not just about fight. All of you have probably watched numerous movies of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Their numerous actions, fast moves, jumps and you saw their invincibility.  Some of you who are more interested maybe have heard  and watched about Shaolin Kung Fu  monks that fight and break bricks with their heads. But that is far from main point about martial arts of China whether it is Kung Fu or Tai Chi. They are not just sport or constant fighting. They are way of life, part of Chinese spirituality and view on world, they help you integrate your mind and body, strengthen your character and spirit.

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This is story about Tai Chi, its origin, deep meaning and benefits. It is less famous across the world than Shaolin Kung Fu but not less important and famous in China. Maybe those who have been in China have seen in parks many old people doing some strange and slight moves in early morning or late evening.  Maybe you will think that it is just some kind of gymnastics to keep people fit. But it is much more than that it is deep spiritual practice that connects your mind and body. It roots from whole concept of philosophical beliefs, view on nature on your body and mind.

To understand meaning  and purpose of Tai Chi in that context you should know about Taoism -indigenous philosophy of China. Lao Tzu is key figure in Taoism although he didn’t found it he just collected and conceptualized teachings into one book Tao Te Qing. Taoism teaches you to follow the Tao( Way). Taoism comes from word Tao or Dao meaning the Way.  . Now I want to be more specific and write about basic concepts of Taoism that related to Tai Chi. First of all main word in Taoism is Dao or Tao. It is directly translated as Way. When relating to Dao is considered the Way of Nature, Way constant changes, way of stillness and flexibility at the same time and cycle of natural events. There is no strict definition of Tao but is considered to be a nameless, shapeless power or energy that can take any shape but doesn’t have to take any shape. Tao is both catalyst of change but is change itself. Tao also can be catalyst of stillness but can be still itself.  Further 3 core concepts are Wuji, Taiji and Yin Yang. Wuji is considered as eternal space and eternal emptiness that is everywhere around us. Wuji represents constant stillness, non changes and statics. Second is Taiji which is translated as supreme ultimate. It is something that  constantly changes, moves, circles and is constantly flexible. Taiji is constant change of day and night, winter and summer, spring and autumn, good and bad, flowing water, rain and sun,  beautiful and ugly, new and old, love and hate…It is considered that Taiji is name for all relative things and that nothing is absolute that there is thin line between all contrary things.  Wuji and Taiji together give a Yin Yang which symbolizes contradictious harmony. Taoists believe that all things in nature, in life and in world exist in harmony even when they are contrary to each other and thus make good balance. Yin symbolizes- night, woman, moon, earth, passive, evil and yang symbolizes-  day, man, sun, heaven, active, good.

Wu Wei is one of most famous Taoist concepts. It literally means non-action. Taoists believe that life is series of spontaneous changes and that we should take effortless action or action without action. It is often hard to interpret what they actually meant by it but I can try to interpret it on basis of some Taoist interpretations. It can be considered as not attaching too much into your emotions or actions since they can be non-permanent but can be permanent too. By non attaching it can be considered to enjoy them but if something bad happens contrary to your expectations to continue your way and to rise after the fall not to stay overinvolved and than suffer when you lost something. Also it of course calls for making efforts in private or professional life for achieving your goals but to be flexible with them to change goals or adapt to other circumstances that may unexpectedly appear. It can be said that you can do your best but not to go beyond borders which can disturb your balance and make you damage. It is important to know what are your limits and to try carefully to go beyond them but if it doesn’t go like that than to accept it and go further. You never have to exaggerate and exhaust yourself and bother with something that you cannot change and not to blame yourself when you didn’t achieved something. Accept how things are whether good or bad and pursue your aim, wishes and live between these two sides and you will be happy. You should always try as much as you can and want but have in mind that if something wasn’t achieved it is not your fault as you cannt control all things. Just go with that and you will be happy both in your professional and private life. Never underestimate or overestimate yourself  be realistic be positive, believe in yourself go dynamically and be flexible. “Bamboo that bends is stronger than oak that stands still”. Always do your best and try but don’t fall down if you failed or if you fall down rise again like phoenix or break the barrier like water, pass by a stone and continue towards your aims, follow your Tao and be happy.

Qi- life energy which circulates through our bodies which can be felt and distributed by breathing in and out and with different moves from Qi Gong and Taiji. Qi is considered as strongest force in body which is important for connection between mind and body, physical and psychical well being and self control. Qi is considered as bodily reflection of universe and thus must be in balance on basis of yin yang.

When it comes to values Taoism emphasizes on 3 treasures and these are simplicity, patience and compassion. Simplicity can be seen as being simple in thoughts and actions and desires. It doesn’t mean to not do anything not to think or not to have wishes. It just means not to overthink and go beyond too far to bring yourself stress, pressure and therefore illness. You should be simple like water to go with the flow, to take with flow your favorite leafs and fishes and focus on breath. Qi your inner energy circulates between your mind and body. Breath in and breath out focus on your breath and energy passing by your spine between your legs and head. You will feel calmer, peaceful and happy. It is best when you overthink or when you feel stressed focus on your qi for few minutes and your thoughts and actions will go in much calmer way and you will be more productive in what are you doing than if you stress or overthink.  Stressing or overthinking can just worsen the things and you wont achieve anything but make harm to yourself and your inner peace. Solution cannot be found from 1000 contradictory thoughts but from 2 or 4 can. Enjoy the moment in what you do whether you write, walk, paint or spending time with your loved ones. Enjoy nature, walk, exercise, swim , eat well, sleep well, spend time in doing what you love , spend time with your loved ones and be productive for your good feeling. This is path to longevity. Taoists believe that you should be powerful like water, to breach any barrier, constantly flow further towards and through your way and leaving worries far behind you. They say that power is in softness.

Taoist girl

Another treasure is patience. It can be seen as to be patient in your actions. Just to mention in a moment of anger better be patient and stay silent breath in and breath out and than speak as by that you can avoid thousand moments of sorrow. Be patient with your current life. If you want more money or to be more happy don’t rush be but simply think out action how to change your situation. If you are sad be patient it will pass accept it and focus on other things that make you happy. When you are happy enjoy, involve in that as much as you can and want live that moment but if it passes again be patient and it will come again.

Taoist playing flute Wudang

Third treasure is compassion. It is emphasized that you should be kind towards everyone towards all live beings whether they are animals or humans since Taoism considers all being as equal and products of nature and Tao. Therefore you should be in harmony with nature, with people and with other beings, to respect them and they will respect you. If someone is unkind to you try to stay kind and calm since you shouldn’t waste your virtue because of someones misbehavior. Always try to help everyone who needs it even if they are not thankful maintain your kindness and virtues. Be thankful when someone helps you. Never be bad towards other living creatures especially those weaker than you. Taoists consider that humans should live in harmony with themselves and with nature to respect all beings- plants and animals and to respect sky, sun and moon. Taoism also promotes love and considers that love gives you strength and courage considers it as force that can be compared to fire. Find your life partner follow your Tao together be Yin Yang, share joy and sadness.  Be to your partner both sun or moon,  river or leaf, heaven or earth, day or night, bird or branch,  he/she will be that to you depending on circumstances. Be careful, helpful, supportive, understandable and tolerant towards your soul mate and he/she should be same towards you. If you are both like that to each other than you have harmony and your love will bloom like cherry flowers on spring. Your love will firstly burn and explode like big fire and later burn slowly and stably and in more balanced way. Marriage and having children was always supported by Taoists as it is completely natural thing in your life.

Lao Tzu said “ There is nothing softer and more flexible than water yet nothing can resist it”. In my life I apply it under my moto” Go with flow towards aim”. It means for me going easily step by step towards 3 main aims( such as being healthy, happy and having love, aims can be within and of everyday character not just some aims for future),  achieving important things in private and professional life step by step, going against all hardships if they cant be avoided, but not rushing but going like a water flexibly, softly and when necessary strongly, being nice to people and kind, having harmonious relations with my loved ones and friends, trying to find solution to every problem with anyone, caring about society and world I live, being careful towards nature and environment, being compassionate and helping others.

taoist friends white cloud

All this concepts are embodied in Tai Ji Quan( Romanized Tai Chi Quan) what is translated as Supreme Ultimate Fist. Tai Chi was created by mystical and legendary person Zhang Sanfeng  who was traveling for years alone through mountains. One day at  Mount Wudang he saw magpie and snake fighting-  both of them switching from fast to slow moves and not allowing each other to win. At the end no one won. According to legend Sanfeng was inspired by that and created concept of Tai Chi- practice of balancing energy and cultivating it.

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In Taoist terms practicing tai chi develops peaceful but still mind, circulates your own qi( life energy) within your body in order to make balance between mind and body. That is achieved by awareness of yourself by strictly coordinated movements which must be very soft but very accurate. At the same time you have to know when to move which leg , whether to put one arm above to the right or another one down to the left or vice versa and whether to breath in or breath out. Each technique requires strict accuracy and starts with breathing in and ends with breathing out. Breaths and movements of body make your energy circulate which harmonizes   your mind and body and increases awareness of yourself and your place in nature. Taoist physicians and alchemists believe that breath is main driving force of your inner peace, circulation of energy, calming of your brain when qi comes from bottom of your back to brain and from brain to your stomach.

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Tai Chi can be perfectly used in self- defense. You should use same moves but you should move much more faster and make strikes firm to defend yourself from attacker.  Main rule is to avoid strikes as much as possible to move like dragon and circulate around your enemy and block his strikes. When enemy gets tired you should attack firmly like tiger.

From personal experience I can tell that this is really like Taoist teaching says. I practice Tai Chi for 3 years almost. In my words take strong posture on the ground, start making slight breaths in and outs together with control of soft moves. Imagine that you are holding a ball and you are moving it by moves of your arms. Believe me you will feel like floating on wind but actually you are firmly standing on ground. Watch at the sun at green leafs, listen to birds and  you will feel warmth and true beauty of nature. You  will really feel relaxed and at peace. Controlling  of breath makes  feeling like some water stream passes through you and your body is so flexible and generally this practice produces good feeling in all body and warmth in soul.  It helps me when I am anxious and always makes my day.  It helps very much in controlling my thoughts and emotions, concentrating on positive things and  preventing negative thoughts to destroy my mood.  My body is also fit and flexible. I am doing it once 3 times a day usually on weekends. It made me much stronger person than before but also much more calmer. I am so happy with spring time so I can finally enjoy practicing it in nature under sky, enjoying fresh air while listening to birds. Fortunately I still didn’t have to use it in fight. There are many centers across world that teach some of tai chi styles but original one is hard to find. I practice Wu style of Tai Chi which is one of 6 Tai Chi styles.  This style appeared in 19th century and is derived from Yang style which was derived from Chen style which was taken from first Sanfeng style.

There are also versions of Tai Chi with weapons such as swords, spears, knives, flogs…  I have my Jian( sword) too with which I practice Tai Chi Jian( Supreme ultimate sword).

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One day I wish to visit home of Tai Chi – Mount Wudang that is in remote Hubei province of China and have opportunity to practice original Tai Chi with real Taoist priests. I want to dance with the wind on Wudang,  standing firmly like tiger while waving like branches, jump like dragon, to flow like water and listen to  whispering of birds. It is my goal it is my Way( Tao).

Tai Chi as I said is much more than martial art –  I would rather call it not just a martial art but an art of self-cultivation( cultivating strong mind and  peaceful spirit ).

ENjoy China 😉

mac i odmor

Visiting a Doctor in China, First Hand Experience

Visiting a Doctor in China, First Hand Experience

Hospital isn’t for sure in top 10 or top 100 places that you wish to visit whether you are tourist or an expat in China. But however you never know if some acute situation can happen and you will have to visit doctor. For foreigners who cannot speak Chinese it is best to visit  hospital which offers services in English. In Beijing there are at least 3 hospitals that I know which offer services in English. Among them are Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Beijing United Family Hospital and Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital in Beijing. I can speak about Beijing as I have most experience with Beijing but however in other large and developed cities such as Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Nanjing,  Chongqing. Qingdao,  Hangzhou, Chengdu ,  Guiyang,  Haikou, Xiamen, Lanzhou, Fuzhou, Kunming,  Xian, Xining, Yinchuan, Dalian, Dali, Hefei, Yanbian, Shenyang, Changchun,  Nanjing,  Changsha,  Harbin, Zhengzhou, Nanchang,  Yichang, Shenzhen and other you will find for sure hospitals that offer services in English. I have personal experience with Peking Union Medical College Hospital and I will give you several tips what to do and what to expect if you find yourself in unpleasant situation. Procedures do not differ much between hospitals so you can take my tips as reliable.

Procedure seems complicated but after you read this I hope it will be clarified

Tip1: Peking Union Medical College Hospital is ranked as best hospital in China. It provides high quality services and possesses modern technology that is on level of international standards.

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It is situated and located in center of Beijing. Take Subway Line1 and get out at Dongdan station exit A. Hospital is less than 600m by walk from there. Check link: https://www.google.sk/maps/dir/”/Beijing,+Haidian,+%E4%B8%9C%E5%8D%95%E5%B8%85%E5%BA%9C%E5%9B%AD1%E5%8F%B7%E5%8C%97%E4%BA%AC%E5%8D%8F%E5%92%8C%E5%8C%BB%E9%99%A2%E4%B8%9C%E9%99%A2/@39.9107086,116.416016,17z/am=t/data=!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x35f052cb52e5858f:0xa0d830030ca17ee2!2m2!1d116.4192653!2d39.9088078!1m5!1m1!1s0x35f04fe07a3582b1:0xb5b4f37a382b9cdf!2m2!1d116.4174237!2d39.9125791

Tip2: Search for an outpatient department. It isn’t hard to find it as all boards have English signs as well. It is also indicated where is department for international services. You don’t have to book examination days earlier what is often done in Europe. It is enough to come in morning take a place in front of register desk and wait when your turn comes. For register procedure you need to show your passport or your residence permission card. Register procedure is 5RMB and you receive registration card.

Tip3: Since you have registered you proceed to another desk where are nurses which can speak English. They ask you what kind of doctor you need and than according to your problem you decide whether it is: internist, cardiologist, urologist, orthopedist, ophthalmologist, neurologist, gynecologist, psychiatrist… If you are not sure describe your symptoms to nurse briefly and she will see which doctor you need. In my case it was internist as I suspected on appendicitis.  When you tell her what you need she arranges you meeting with specialist through computer. Than you go to cashier to pay 100RMB for examination. You will be given your registration number and a room number in front of which you have to wait. While waiting for examination in corridor nurses can measure your temperature or your pressure.  I have been waiting for just 15 minutes.

A woman walks inside the Peking Union Medical College Hospital on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year in Beijing
A woman walks inside the Peking Union Medical College Hospital on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Beijing, China, February 7, 2016. According to local media, traffic in Beijing sees a rare relieve from its usual heavy pressure, after 15 million people left the city heading for their hometown for family reunion on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year of Monkey. REUTERS/Jason Lee – RTX25U0O

Tip3: When you are called inside by name or registration number you will be examined by specialist. Describe your symptoms in detail. Chinese doctors may seem confused or shy and not attending to ask you much questions. They can be embarrassed as you are a foreigner and afraid to make a mistake and lose face so hospital will have bad image. Doctors will do their best to help you. Doctor may check place where you have pain or something like that.  If necessary doctor can send you for further examinations. For example I had to do ultrasound examination of abdomen, blood and urine test.

Tip4: After getting paper on which was written which examinations I have to do I had to go to cashier to pay 1800RMB for those 3 tests. Then you go to room for taking blood and they will give you also small bottle where you will have to leave urine. Results are ready in around 30min. And you pick them from machine in a corridor- enter your registration number and your result will come out on small printed paper. If you do not understand Chinese ask nurse nearby she will help you. Also after ultrasound test you get picture with description of your findings.

Tip5: Go back to your doctor with results you have received.  After that doctor will review results, decide whether you need further examination, therapy or to be admitted to hospital. Thanks God I didn’t have appendicitis but some other problem with intestines so I just got some medicines prescribed. But as I heard from one friend surgery would cost around 4300RMB ( including cost of anesthetics) and excluding cost of staying in hospital which is around 100RMB per day. Also I have heard that after surgeries nurses are careful and take a good care of you After that I went to cashier to pay for medicines which cost me around 150RMB. With prescription than you go to the hospitals pharmacy. Good thing is that every hospital has pharmacy so you can take your medication directly there. You show prescription at pharmacy and they see in system that you have paid and they give you your medicines.  China has all modern world known medicines they make have Chinese brand names but do not worry they have same content as medicines in your country.

Tip6: If you didn’t had time to visit doctor during regular working time 8am-5pm go to the emergency department. They also provide services for foreigners. Also if you have some severe problem during any day  go to the emergency department directly, cost of examination there is 200RMB and they provide services 00-24.

Tip7: Doctors usually speak good English, nurses a bit less good but you will understand each other.

Tip8: As you see prepare a lot of money. Chinese hospitals with English services are not so cheap. You can also pay by card. If you need additional money it is best to take some friend with you. Chinese doctors will not examine you until you pay so  if you have lack of money contact your embassy they are supposed to give you all necessary help.  I think it is the best to buy travel insurance in your country before you start a trip in China. If you are residing in China employee will have to provide you health insurance.

Tip9: If you speak Chinese fluently use it as an opportunity and go to some ordinary less ranked hospital that doesn’t provide services in English costs are much cheaper: registration fees are just 2RMB and examination around 20RMB. Such hospitals may seem less clean and less modern then those highly ranked hospitals but  don’t worry doctors are good and reliable as well. If you do  not speak Chinese you can take friend that speaks Chinese. Otherwise you will be directed to the hospital with foreign services as Chinese doctors do not want to make mistake and lose reputation.

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Tip10: If you find yourself in some remote rural area or if you had a traffic accident or need urgent medical help in the city call ambulance. In most of rural areas healthcare is very limited to only basic services  and in some special situation you will have to call ambulance and be taken to closest emergency facility. Ambulance number is 119. Most of rural spots do not have English speaking doctor.  In some remote tourist areas there are emergency basic services but later you will be taken to closest hospital department if necessary.

source of cover photo https://healthintelasia.com/peking-union-medical-college-hospital/

Xiangshan: Flash memories from Autumn( 2000) and Spring(2015)

Xiangshan: Flash memories from Autumn( 2000) and Spring(2015)

I remember it like that it was yesterday. A cold foggy October day in Beijing in 2000. I was a young schoolboy. We sat in car and father took us to my favorite destination Xiangshan park about which I wrote you in previous stories. But today was special day on Xiangshan. It was Red Leafs Festival that occurs every year between October and November and lasts about 1 month. We parked car below the entrance. We had to pass through one hutong alley and reach entrance gate. Atmosphere was very lively and cheerful. It was visible that some festival is going on. There was large crowd of people going to the direction of entrance gate. Many of them were speaking loudly and holding herbarium of red leafs that you could by from street vendors which were on both sides of the street selling it- red leafs on very beautiful background. Except red leafs there were sold cotton candy for children. Vendors were selling balloons filled with helium on several locations in that street. Also there were few vendors selling grilled lamb skewers. Their smell was spreading across all area. One of vendors was shouting to us and saying” Hello, Hello, Kebab, “. We entered one of souvenir shops on the right side of street. In shop was felt strong smell of sandalwood and cheerful mantra was playing on CD. There were hundreds of wooden chaplets, figures of Buddha, Guanyin, turtles, cabbage, monkeys, dragons, rabbits, roosters made from wood, jade or porcelain.  In one corner there was altar with statue of Guanyin, few fruits and two red candles. There were other figures. that are believed to bring good fortune, health and fertility.  Incense sticks were sold as well. Also paintings on linen were sold that described various sceneries from daily life in ancient China or scenery from nature.

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Jingcui lake my little paradise and place where miracles happen

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Red leafs in Xiangshan

All this I was remembering last year in June 2015 when I realized that this street stillexists. When I was with family in June 2013 we couldn’t find this street we saw few new hotels and we thought that development and time have taken away this amazing street. But this I was remembering last year in June 2015 when I realized that this street stillexists.  But fortunately I discovered it by coincidence last summer when I packed my bags and left to China alone on my own to find my way and feel China by myself. So I came here to my favorite Xiangshan about which I wrote in 2013 and how I love its peace and breathtaking nature. Now I came alone to grasp its beauty and tranquility on my own and to feel it the best only me and my Xiangshan. I was so happy that I discovered this street again. Unlike in October 2000 there was almost no one and  there was only one shop that was selling vegetables open. Also this time I was much older and came here to discover and enjoy nature and culture not to play football as I wanted in October 2000.Like that day in 2000 day was foggy. This time it was so hot and wet.  I entered souvenir shop on right side of the street. Shop was almost the same if not the same one as the one in 2000. I was so touched and curious whether it was really the same shop. There was one middle aged seller holding a little grey kitten. When I asked him about price of two chaplets and box of incense sticks he put the kitten into a little cage. It was so funny and cute. He offered price 100RMB for two chaplets and box of incense but I bargained and bought it for 50RMB.

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Street leading towards hills park

Then I proceeded into gate through Xiangshan park. Unlike in autumn 2000 there were not red leafs. That autumn like every autumn red leafs are everywhere, on the paths, over grass, on the trees nearby you but also in distance. Whole hills seem completely red from these leafs. Crowds of people were everywhere going from every direction. They were taking pictures of trees and red leafs. It was interesting for me because of red leafs but a bit annoying as I wanted to play football with my father. I was nervously holding the ball in my hands searching for at least small piece of free grass area where no one was sitting or taking pictures. We went to Azure Clouds Temple where was ferry- there were even more people who were hanging red ribbons with written wishes or throwing coins into the fishpond for good luck. After visiting that temple we passed near ruins of Zhao Miao Temple which was still far from reconstruction at that time. Fog was big and it really looked scary. I was becoming more and more angry on my father that we couldn’t play football anywhere. Even we couldn’t climb to viewpoint at Yuhua villa where we used to drink plum juice because my brother( 1 year and half old at that time) was crying and felt cold. We had to sit in a restaurant for long time but it was good for me. I got a glass of cola and we ordered my favorite Chinese food. I was eating noodles with vegetables, grilled bacon in spicy sauce and amazing pork with spicy sauce garlic and cucumber. When we finished eating father ordered a delicious green tea. I really enjoyed it. I was annoying my brother on purpose as I took his balloon that they bought him and I let it fly and it hit plafond. Balloon stuck on plafond made my brother cry as he was sitting in stroller and couldn’t get out. After about 1h and 30min of siting and warming we went outside. Before going back to car we went to our favorite Jingcui Lake. It was really cold there and we were standing for a few minutes next to lake and watching all hills around and how red they were. Red leafs standing on trees on hills seemed like fire so garish, heatedly and beautiful Still I remember this day with nice memories and emotions and nostalgia.

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Jingcui with artificial red leaf lantern
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gate of azure clouds temple

Unlike in October 2000 last June 2015 everything was green. It was working day and not a festival so it wasn’t overcrowded. I was passing alone and enjoying in amazing scenery. I stood up next to Spectacles Lake and did round of Tai Chi. Than I went to Azure Clouds Temple which was quiet like usually and like when I was in June 2013. I burnt incense and put own red ribbon there on a branch of tree. When I was sitting on one of benches next to path old grandmother with her little grandson was passing. He was about 2 years old and curiously stared at me and pointed finger on me. Grandma was a bit embarrassed and maybe afraid of my reaction trying to push his hand away. I raised my hand and waved to him and smiled to his grandma to show that everything is fine. I was so happy when I passed next to Zhao Miao Temple after rest on Yuhua villa viewpoint where I had my plum juice. Zhao Miao was almost completely reconstructed. It was completely colored and finished. From path there was visible even finished altar in its courtyard. I was bit sad that it still wasn’t opened for visitors and I hope on my next visit it will be open. There was just a little slot between two sides of red gate where I tried to take a glimpse into tunnel of my childhood, a tunnel and courtyard where I played with  my friends  and believed that ghost lives. I did a round of Tai Chi again what attracted curious views of passersby. Then I went to my favorite Jingcui lake and place under willow tree near pavilion.

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view on Zhao Miao Temple
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inside azure temple courtyard

I did one more round of Tai Chi and sat on rock to have rest next to lake. I was again like in 2013 listening to birds, watching lotus flowers and green water. I was watching at completely green hills whose leafs remind waves of an ocean. I remembered everything from past that I saw or did here and mostly that autumn of 2000. I was so happy alone here thinking,  feeling peace, closeness to nature, grasping beauty, uniqueness and specificity of this amazing paradise,  my Xiangshan, my favorite Jingcui lake. I was thinking about my girlfriend and wished her to be here next to my Jingcui lake hold her hand and catch flower for her. If it was autumn I would take red leafs for her. Or in joke I would throw her into water.  Sitting and thinking I felt someones presence. I heard something was moving from pine forest behind pavilion and my back. I slowly turned back I saw old man with yellow hat sitting on little wooden chair staring at me. He peacefully asked me in English where I am from. I replied from Serbia. His English surprised me but his response in Russian surprised me even more. He said its very clean place in clear Russian. I replied in Russian and explained how I love this place and that I was here many times. We spoke for about 1 hour. We spoke a lot about China, its communist success, better life, Yugoslavia, Tito, Russia, NATO, my childhood, wars in my country. We spoke about beauty and spirituality of this place. He was happy to hear that there is peace and that situation is much better than 15-20 years ago. He also told me that his ancestors worked as gardeners here and that since childhood this place is important for him. Same as this place stuck in my heart since childhood. He told me that he comes here almost every day since he is retired. His view was so simple, calm and kind and so wise. He had small beard. Scene was really like from some Chinese ancient story an old master and his student. After that I went back slowly outside so curious and surprised what happened. On a road to bus I saw big black rooster with his chickens similarly as we saw them in 2000.

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Red leafs everywhere
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like a fire

These days autumn comes and I often think about China. When I walk in park with girlfriend and if we see few red leafs on trees I tell her about that day in October 2000. There is no day that I don’t mention China especially my Beijing and my favorite Xiangshan. I promised her to take her next time with me.  I want to show her how great China is and how I love my second home, my China.

My Impressions of China

On 20th June 2001 I left Beijing after five years of living there, when I was 8 years old. Twelve years I was dreaming to step on Chinese soil again. On 16th June 2013 I saw Beijing again.  While driving in taxi from airport to hotel, watching tall buildings in foggy morning was like a dream and most impressive moment in recent years of my life.  I spent 10 days in Beijing with my family. It was like living my dream it was unbelievable for me that I am there I had feeling that I never left Beijing.  I came there to refresh memories from childhood but also to learn something new about China.  Walking through Beijing and common places for me I was refreshing memories such as- flying a kite at Tiananmen Square, playing in Gardens of Xiangshan Park, Ritan Park or Beihai Park, eating ice cream or cooked corn in Wangfujing shopping street, taking photos with Chinese children in Temple of Heaven or Summer Palace, ice skating in Bamboo Park, riding bicycle at Sanlitun…

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My first visit to great wall, 1996

Revisiting of  Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City left great impression on me. Especially Tiananmen Square as it is main symbol of Chinese modern statehood, it is place where Chairman Mao declared birth  of Peoples Republic of China on 1.10.1949. It is place where every morning with sunrise rises Chinese Five Star Red Flag and proudly stands there.  On Tiananmen Square  I felt so small not because of its size but because of its significance for Chinese history, Chinese statehood and Chinese people.  Forbidden City was residence of Ming and Qing Emperors and it is one of main symbols of Chinese imperial period and tradition which survived for thousands of years. Its great halls are wonderful.

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somewhere in Beijing hutongs 2013
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One view old and new, Beijing 2013

While visiting many places in Beijing I realized how drastically China has changed since 2001. Beijing was in very big part one new world in comparison to 2001. Great changes are mostly visible at Sanlitun and  Beijing CBD. In CBD I saw  many tall, interestingly shaped skyscrapers which are touching sky and shinning in the night. Not only city  appearance changed  but also living standard of people. Proof of that are many shopping centers which appeared in CBD and Sanlitun.

Very interesting is drastic change of Sanlitun which was mostly composed of old buildingsmade from brick still in 2001. In 2013 I saw many shopping centers there,  squares, fountains, bars, nightclubs and modernly dressed up young people who are enjoying in bars or shopping.  While visiting hutongs, around Shichihai Lake and Qianmen Street I saw that old lifestyle didn’t die.  It was amazing to see street sellers of vegetables, fruits, skewers and bao zi again.  I was watching bicycles passing through narrow streets , and friendly people sitting together in front of gates eating noodles and laughing loudly. I was so happy when I saw China which I remember as a child.  Great impression on me have left ancient gardens and temples( such as Summer Palace, Xiangshan Park, Beihai Park, Yonghe Temple…) where ancient, calm  and traditional spirit is alive for many centuries.

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Beijing CBD 2013
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Qianmen street 2013

Trip with my parents and brother inspired me to visit China again. In summer 2015 I went there alone for 10 days. I went with aim to learn deeper about Chinese ancient spirit and nature. This time I was mostly impressed with ancient and calm places. places, beauty of nature and friendly Chinese people. I would specifically emphasize on 3 places which left most impression on me this summer of 2015- I would select Ritan Park, Beihai Park and Xiangshan Park.

Ritan Park is nice park near Beijing CBD. I spent there a lot of time this summer enjoying in its calmness, listening to Erhu player and watching Tai Chi exercisers.Beihai Park is another great place.   It is

Beihai Park is another great place.   It is large imperial park with big lake and  island in middle of lake.  Oldest construction is wooden temple which dates from 12th century. In one of its beautiful gardens I was sitting in pavilion with few other people and listening how one man was singing very nice traditional Chinese songs. In middle of island is temple and white pagoda. In temple one Buddhist pilgrim was striking big bell which produced mysterious sounds.  Very charming was sunset from top of pagoda.

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Beihai park  2013

Xiangshan Gongyuan-  is my favorite place in China.  It is very beautiful, mysterious and peaceful place. It is area of very beautiful hills, gardens, lakes, temples and pavilions. Almost all history of China is present on these hills. There are structures which come from different period of Chinese history-here are remains of temple built during Jin dynasty (12th and 13th century), Temple of Azure Clouds (firstly built in 14th century),  remains of Zhao Miao Temple (built by Qianglong emperor (18th century), pavilions and villas built during Ming and Qing dynasties, in Temple of Azure Clouds is Memorial Hall of Chinese revolutionary and first president of republic of China Sun Yat-sen. There is very important Shuangqing villa, from which communist leader Mao Zedong led final battles for liberating of Beijing from Kuomintang

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Xiangshan, Jingcui Lake, 2015

Xiangshan is situated out of Beijing, far from busy, noisy and overcrowded streets full of cars and people…I enjoy its silence and peace.  Absence of big number of tourists makes this place more charming and mysterious. It is exactly like I always imagined places related to ancient Chinese Taoist philosophy, place where you can focus on your own thoughts, where you can become more close to nature and enjoy its beauties, practice tai chi to harmonize your mind and body or simply to feel and understand Chinese ancient spirit. For example great experience for me was sitting next to green Jiangzui Lake on one stone under willow tree watching on water, lotus flowers, often changes between cloudy and azure sky on same day, and hills It was great pleasure to sit and enjoy such scenery and sounds and see how everything is in harmony there.  Next to lake I met one very old, friendly and  wise Chinese man. When I told him that I am from Serbia he was very happy and started speaking in Russian. We spoke almost one hour about my admiration of China, Chinese traditions, my country,  former Yugoslavia, Tito… It was great experience to meet this very friendly man and I hope that I will see him someday again. Very interesting for me was walking on paths through green hills, among trees, next to flowers, listening to sounds of birds which slightly interrupted the silence.  Practicing tai chi next to ruins of Zhao Miao temple and in gardens of Azure Clouds Temple was very relaxing. I felt like flowing with slow wind.

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Zhao Miao Temple, 2013

Simply I can say that all these experiences make me to be even more amazed  by China how fast it changes( economy, modernization) but core( ancient culture and tradition) stays the same.  I want more and more to visit China and go much further from Beijing to learn more about this stunning land its culture and its people. In following years I plan more journeys with my girlfriend( she became very interested in China) and except my favorite places we want to visit- Taishan, Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Wudangshan, Emeishan, Lijiang…Exploring China and learning about its unique tradition is life quest and adventure for me.

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Azure Clouds Temple, 2013

As a  conclusion I can say that everyone who is interested in ancient Asian culture but also in great opportunities for job, study in  China ismore than perfect place. It is one yin yang of old and new. You can get great opportunities to work in many foreign or Chinese companies if you are interested in fields of business, trade or and you can earn a lot of money. Studying Chinese language and culture is great opportunity for you if you are interested in such studies what can also provide you good job opportunities. If you are interested in management, trade or foreign policy there are some universities that offer studies in English language. Studying or working in China you will have unique opportunity to discover this ancient civilization, culture and tradition. Living in China you will realize what is real and original Chinese food after which you will never eat Chinese food in your country. China offers you opportunity to travel, hike, cycle, go to seaside, enjoy pubs night clubs, shopping malls… every Except that you will have opportunity to make new friends not only with friendly locals but also with foreigners from all over the world. China is small world itself where you have people from Americas to New Zealand. You will enrich your knowledge and personality not only with discovering China and meeting Chinese people but you will become even more tolerant to other cultures and open to foreigners when you meet people from all over the planet.

IN NEXT EDITION- Beijing Little Guide1-What to Visit?

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Liuli pagoda 2013