Phil & Mary Ann Stevens'
2010 China and Tibet OAT Tour

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Greetings from The Villages, Florida! We have just returned from a tour of China and Tibet with "Overseas Adventure Travel". Here are a few of the sights we saw and the things we did in the 21 days we were gone.

Enjoy the pictures. I included about a quarter of what I took. I hope there aren't too many of them.

A lot of them will look like post cards and Mary Ann will be in many. I have a lot with our fellow travelers that I did not include. I'll introduce them all to you at the end.

Finally, there are 9 pages, it will take a while. I dont know how you could spend 3 weeks in China without taking lots of pictures.

PS All the spelling mistakes, typos, and bad jokes are mine.

This is a map showing the route we took after our 15 hour flight from Boston to Toronto to Beijing. We spent several days in Beijing; took an overnight train to Xian and were there for 2 days; then a flight to Cheng Du for 2 more days; then another flight to Lhasa in Tibet for several days; then a flight to Chongquin to catch a 4 day cruise on the Yangtze River; then a 5 hour bus ride from The 3 Gorges Dam to Wuhan and the another flight to Hong Kong for several more days; and finally back to Boston. Whew!!

This is Joan - our OAT Tour Director in China. She was super! She kept us all together like "sticky rice". She maintained our schedule; kept us informed; wiped our noses; told us all about China's cultural and political history; and she was available 24/7 to keep her 16 little ducklings all in all together.

We arrived in Beijing on the evening of our 2nd travel day and our first view of the city was through the smog. Beijing (like most of China's cities) is choked with smog from electrical generation plants fueled with soft coal. The cities are also choked with cars, mopeds, some bicycles and lots of people.

We visited The Forbidden City on our 1st morning in Beijing. The FC (near Tiananmen Square) was the home of 24 Ming and Qing emperors, their families, and their coterie of eunuchs and servants for 600 years from 1406, when construction began, until 1911, when the Qing dynasty was ousted and the Imperial era ended. Ordinary people were not allowed inside its gates—which is why it was called the Forbidden City—until 1925 when members of the public entered it for the first time.

Covering 178 acres, the FC is surrounded by a 52-foot-wide, 6 foot deep moat and a 30-foot-high red wall. Its 800 buildings contain 720,000 square meters of floor space, with 150,000 square meters of building space, and is said to have 9,999 rooms (the number 9 represents longevity), but actually there are only 8,707.

This is John - our Beijing OAT City Guide. He's casually leaning against an ancient bronze cistern used to hold water for fire surpression in the FC (before sprinklers). He had an amazing knowledge of Beijing and (as you can see) was very western. Mary Ann is sitting in front.

This is the home of many of the Empresses that lived in the FC. Her home is surround by smaller homes of her ladies in waiting. Note the little figures on the roof eave - more on this later. Also, note the people looking in the window in the center. This was her bedroom. It still contains her bed.

Further into the FC there are several court yards - each one larger than the one before. Each has white marble pavement, steps, and railings. All of these building are constructed of wood and are ornately carved and beautifully painted. Note the water bucket in the center right. They were everywhere.
We could do a "Where's Waldo" here. See if you can find Mary Ann.

Here is the Hall of Supreme Harmony it is the largest hall within the Forbidden City. It is located at its central axis, behind the Gate of Supreme Harmony. Built above three levels of marble stone base, and surrounded by bronze incense burners, the Hall of Supreme Harmony is one of the largest wooden structures within China. It was the location where Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty Emperors hosted their enthronement and wedding ceremonies.
Note the figures on the roof eave. More on this in the next picture.

As promised. These ceramic figures can be found on Imperial buildings all over Beijing. The more figures, the loftier the building's use. The Emperor's buildings have 9, The Empress has 7, and so on...
These are on the Hall of Supreme Harmony. At the tail of the procession will be an imperial dragon, representing the authority of the state. At the head of the procession will be a man riding a Phoenix. In between will be up to nine mythical beasts, usually an odd number of them. The maximum number of beasts is nine, including an evil-dispelling bull, a courageous goat-bull, a wind and storm-summoning fish, a mythical lion, an auspicious seahorse, a heavenly horse, lion, and a chiwen (a son of dragon). I don't know what the last figure is, it looks like an old man??

This is our last view of the FC, complete with our OAT Group. We are in Tiananmen Square. Above the gate behind us hangs the iconic portrait of Mao Zedong. You can see restoration work going on, but the portrait is undisturbed.

This is what we were looking at when the group picture was taken. It's Mao's mausoleum at the other end of Tiananmen Square. It was closed for renovations, but Mao is still there and his presence is everywhere in China, like the smog...

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