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02 May 2009

HCC in China: Day 5

Day 5 – Saturday 2 May 2009

We started the day by heading to a jade workshop, where we learned about the value of jade in Chinese culture. Apparently, while gold is worth about 200 yuan per gram ($910 per troy ounce), jade is worth 1000 to 1500 yuan per gram ($4550 to $6850 per ounce). There were pieces of jade embedded in each of the Olympic medals awarded in 2008.

We learned how to distinguish between the different qualities of jade, and then we walked around seeing what there was to buy. Many things were way out of our price ranges, such as a jade Buddha for ¥58,000 ($8,500) or a large jade ship for ¥680,000 ($99,750), but it was still really cool seeing everything. We learned about some of the meaning behind the "happiness balls," which were being sold for ¥640 ($94), though most of us who bought things settled on some cheaper (but just as interesting) pieces.

Our tour guide, Scott, taught us a little bit of Chinese on the way to the Great Wall, which was about 55 km (34 miles) north of our hotel. Because of the continuing holiday weekend, traffic was continually an issue for us, but we got there alright.

There were two paths we could take from where we parked, and obviously, one is harder than the other. After talking it over with our guide and with friends, I decided to take the more difficult path for what promised to be an even better view.

And difficult it was. When the Wall was built, it was built with uneven steps so that horses couldn't traverse it. And we can certainly see now why it worked! Immediately after a series of several tall, 16-inch (40-cm) steps, there would be a small, 4-inch (10-cm) step, which caught all of us off-guard.

Finally, after about 1800 steps (with many rests in between), we made it to the top… of this section of the Wall. The view was utterly spectacular… words simply cannot describe it.

We made our way to a late (and traffic-delayed) lunch, before heading to Silk Street market to practice the Chinese art of bargaining. It is customary for the sellers to start with an absolutely ridiculous price, and for the prospective buyer to refuse several offers by simply walking away. Basically haggling to the extreme. It was tempting to take a closer look at many of the items for sale, but the sellers were all very aggressive, and even a second glance (and sometimes even walking by) would effectively begin a negotiation… and of course, walking away would only make them shout a lower price to get you to come back.

One of our members managed to buy five small items for ¥225 ($33) after taking the saleswoman down from ¥1,750 ($255) for only four. But it took a lot of determination and a good half an hour to do so. Afterwards, we consulted with our guide to see how we did with our purchases.

We finished the evening off with a dinner featuring Peking Duck, and headed back to the hotel early, full of fond memories of Beijing, but eagerly awaiting our flight to Xi'an in the morning.

I have more pictures from Day 5 here. Enjoy!

Coming up: On Sunday, we take an early morning flight westward to Xi'an, perform the second of our concerts at Xi'an Conservatory of Music, and attend a Tang Dynasty show and dumpling dinner.


Joanna said...

The link for "the other path" on the Great Wall is broken. Judging from the progression of numbers it should be 8419, not 8519.

Also, I miss Peking Duck. Now I'm hungry

Tim Parenti said...

谢谢! Thank you! See, this is what I get for writing when tired. The link is now fixed.

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