When I was a little girl, my mother would send me into the backyard to “dig a hole to China.” I never reached China through the small hole under the clothesline.
But last month, I did go to China for the third time in three years. I took the easy way -China Eastern Airlines directly to Beijing.
My travel companions were my students. They went to learn TuiNa medical massage and to explore the Chinese culture.
Flying over China during the night, I realized there were no lights from cities or roads. It was dark for as far as I could see. A dot of light came into sight here and there as we came into sight of Beijing, and then the city was bright with activity.
Beijing in the late summer, fall and spring is very much like our climate. Beijing has been the capital of China since 1949, and is the last imperial capital. It is a city of 12.5 million and looks quite modern at first sight.
As you explore the historical and cultural sites, the old China can be found, full of food markets and working families. Many sites have been rebuilt since they were destroyed by the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution.
China is changing rapidly, especially in the cities, where many people come to live and work. Everyone seems to recycle. The highrise buildings are replacing the 2000-3000 year old “hutongs” in Beijing. The hutong is the traditional neighborhood home built using Feng Shui theories and used for generations by the family.
The new buildings have all the modern conveniences the hutong lacked, such as bathrooms, heat, water and air conditioning.
The Forbidden City is near Tianamen Square in Beijing. Explore it on foot and take a jacket, as it can be cool.
The Forbidden City was off limits for 500 years except to imperial business. These ancient buildings are some of the best preserved in China, containing 9,999 rooms. It was considered the middle of the “middle kingdom” in China. It was opened to the public in 1911.
China is in a time of clashing and blending of past and future. The old ways are quickly disappearing. I was in a Levis shop in a Beijing mall. Music, clothes and decorations could have been from a mall anywhere in the United States. There was a Chinese teenage girl in jeans, a tank top and tennis shoes. She was shopping with her mother, who was a modern business woman with a cell phone to her ear, and a grandfather, dressed in an old blue Mao suit and hat, with chinese shoes on his feet. I saw monks on cell phones, too. Actually, cell phones are so inexpensive in China, you see people with them everywhere.
China is so deep, I feel the best way to explore it is to decide your love and study it in China. No matter what the topic – art, food, drama, health care or Feng Shui – the core of the Chinese philosophy will be the same.
It is about balance and cycles. All is interconnected.
The TuiNa massage students spent some time studying at the Beijing Massage Hospital in an old hutong district. This hospital is famous throughout China for treating people with a traditional Chinese massage called TuiNa. The massage method is 5,000 years old. The students experienced classroom instruction and hands-on training from master doctors.
Being harvest time and in a cool climate near Mongolia, noodles and fresh vegetables are a must to eat.
It is one of the few areas in the world with the right climate for making Peking Duck.
The beautiful Yonghe Gong-Lama Temple is in Beijing. It is the most famous Tibetan Buddhist temple – outside of Tibet – in China. It is an active temple where monks live, study and pray, and crowds of pilgrims worship. The temples have a timeless air of incense and chanting.
If you go to China, see the Great Wall of China, and be sure to climb it. You can easily see it as you take the bus there. That night, we all had TuiNa massages at the four-star hotel we were staying at for $15 U.S. dollars.
Our exploration continued in Hangzhou. We flew there in a quick flight. It is southwest of Shanghai, two hours by deluxe bus.
Hangzhou has a population of 6.1 million. The Chinese consider it “heaven on earth.” Marco Polo passed through in the 1300s calling it one of the most splendid cities in the world. It is famous for the West Lake and its plantations, which grow world-famous green tea.
Everywhere I have gone in China, I found things to respect. The people are gentle, respectful, helpful, caring, and elders are respected. The dropout rate is less than 1 percent through high school. People use bicycles and walk. Public transportation is abundant. Air pollution is being actively addressed.
In the countryside, we passed abundant farmlands. Most tasks are done by hand, so the pace is slow and quiet. The ideal farmer’s life is to grow rice and food, his wife to grow silkworms, and the child to be a good student.
The suburbs of Shanghai begin to appear in the farmlands as we travel. Shanghai is a massive metropolis, sprouting buildings daily. It is a cultural barometer for China as a nation. The population is ever-increasing, 14.2 million people today.
Do not miss the Bund. In the 1920s, it was the European wall street in Shanghai. It is still very busy and full of business people from all over the world. It has wonderful galleries, museums, temples restaurants and shops.
Ginny Woods, RN, CMT, Feng Shui consultant, takes students to China to study traditional Chinese medicine and massage. She has lived in Nevada County for 24 years.
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