Thursday, April 22, 2010

Beijing's Bloomin' Beautiful(ly)! And How About You?

At a reader's request, a friend has gone around with a camera to show you what is blooming now. Finally we can see some colour in the city. It's also one of the peak seasons for tourists, so I'm busy showing them the blossom as well as everything else in Beijing!

Actually he already went 10 days ago with some friends to the oldest temple in Beijing (even older than the city itself) and saw some beautiful old trees, but not the usual spring blossoms. One small yulan magnolia (indigenous to central and eastern China) tree was just starting to show some flower buds. The temple has both white and the less common purple varieties.

Three other temples also have purple, white or pink lilacs in their grounds, and some are over 200 years old. Then it will be the turn of the peonies in their various colours, including black and green. And the most famous place to view the largest area of lilacs is the Temple of Heaven.

Now, in our area, we can see a whole range of colours, and even more is promised as the weather warms up.

Most of the photos were taken in my neighbourhood, but of course you can see much more in various parks and the botanical gardens - crabapples, and apricot, cherry and peach blossom (70 varieties of these alone in the Beijing Botanical Garden). One photo taken near the Ming City Wall shows the new plants in front of this old historical structure. See if you can spot the artificial trees/flowers, and the one I took before in South Africa (see last December's blog)!

And how about you? Are you ready for Spring? Have you done your Spring cleaning? It's also time to make yourself 'beautiful' too with some body and spirit 'cleansing' according to the earliest ancient Chinese traditional medicine compendium "Yellow Emperor Internal Medicine":

"....Spring is the season of growth, and a new beginning to the year. The movement of the air seems like a rebirth of our mother earth. To get used to the spring, sleep later and wake earlier, take walks with your hair flying in the wind, wear loose clothes, allow an open and joyful outlook to life. Instead of killing, let things grow. Instead of stealing, give abundantly. Instead of punishing, reward by teaching. This is the way of the Dao....."

I think the easiest piece of advice to follow is the first bit about sleeping later. Agree?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Holiday Weekend in Beijing

It was a double holiday last weekend with Easter, not known by many and even forgotten by some, and Qing Ming, or Tomb Sweeping Festival. It's the time to pay your respects to those who have passed away (perhaps they have also risen from the dead), and offer gifts, made of paper, deemed necessary for the after life.

Of course, you have to keep up with the changing times - and with the neighbours- so in addition to the traditional items of paper money, other sacrificial articles now available, all made of paper, include villas, sedan cars, garments, wines, cigarettes, seafood, pianos, violins and other "luxury goods", so reports the China Daily. This year's creative thinking by those out to commercialise the festival has led to some novel ideas. "The 18-yuan ($2.6) bra and a cosmetics set, which costs 28 yuan, are new products this year. The cosmetics set includes foundation, perfume, lipstick, facial cleansing cream, lotion and shampoo". It's not clear if they are only for women, but I know a few men who would appreciate these as well.

And of course you can remember your loved ones on the internet on special memorial websites for those too busy to go to the cemetery. After all, who knows, there may well be life after death in cyberspace.

I did not join the half million Beijingers in their tomb-sweeping and instead just spent the sunny day in Ritan (Temple of Earth) park. Whereas its more famous counterpart, the Temple of Heaven, lies to south of the city, Ritan Park in the north is a much more modest affair located near the earliest diplomatic area. It is nevertheless an interesting place to stroll around in on this holiday. The many tress there were starting to blossom like the magnolia in the photo.

There were lots of families out enjoying some local snacks (roast sweet potatoes and strawberries already), as well as flying their kites or practising 'tai qi'.

They do seem to start young these days. The boy in the photo was only 5 yrs old and not only performed a vigorous set of movements for me, but could also speak some simple English.


The city traffic was light because of the long weekend, and some local farmers even ventured into town with their horse-drawn carts.
Another traditional form of transport is the rickshaw which can be found outside shopping malls where foreigners like to go, such as this one called "Alien's Street", written in English and Russian.
Let me know if you want to go for a walk in a park, eat local snacks, ride a rickshaw or go shopping. I can tell you the best places to go (for cosmetics as well but not for bras!).