The Great Wall

Up early to eat breakfast and catch our bus first to the Jade factory where we were taught a bit about the history of Jade and its importance to China and then introduced to the art of Jade sculpture. Ultimately we ended up in the large Jade showroom where they attempted to trade us some jade for a large portion of our money. I admired the beautiful sculptures and jewelry but wasn’t tempted to buy.

Next stop was further northwest into the hills where we were confronted with the majestic sight of the Great Wall. It is truly magnificent. I never thought I would ever get the chance to climb even a portion of it but ten of our group were able to climb the steep steps up to the 12th Fortress. The Wall is around 8850 km long with square stations (or fortresses) every so often.  I believe we passed four or five along the climb.  The Wall was built in sections across northern China under various dynasties as fortifications against marauding tribes and later as border control points. Much of the Wall has deteriorated to the point it can only be detected by using special archeological technologies. The Wall is an extraordinary feat of work and I can’t imagine the number of workers who died during the building.  This was the highlight of the trip for me (though I loved the Terra Cotta Warriors too).

The 12th Fortress is blocked off so you cannot pass further along the Wall in that direction though there was a branch off to the right just below the 12th. I believe you could follow it for some distance in that direction though people were not going there. We were only given a couple of hours and the weather was off and on raining so after reaching the 12th we posed for some pictures and headed back down.

Lunch was on the way back to Beijing at a Cloisonné Factory where we learned the art of painting on copper. This is an ancient art that was adopted by the French (where it was given the name Cloisonné). Some of the work is absolutely beautiful and some looks pretty tacky. Again we were given a chance to separate ourselves from our money.

By the time we got back to the hotel we were pretty tired but there was an operatic-style (without the singing) musical show called The Golden Mask Dynasty. It was an optional program but Dave and Dawne and I decided to go since it was highly touted and we had resisted all the other shows. It was well worth the admittance price. We had great seats in the front row of a balcony. The costumes were spectacular and the dancers were amazing. How they could contort their bodies! But the flood scene was incredible. The engineering that went into producing a waterfalls onstage was something else – reminiscent of the opening spectacular for the Beijing Olympics.

A very late supper at the hotel and then we hit our beds. Janet has developed a cold over the past couple of days so is quieter than usual. People have been giving her lozenges and advice. She is normally very fit and healthy so I hope this passes quickly so she can enjoy her last few days in China.

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