Happy New Year!

My last update came after my first complete day in China. Several eventful days have passed since then.

The day after we visited the Forbidden City, the huge palace of emperors past, we visited the temple of heaven. A place where the emperors worshiped their gods, that has large gardens various temples. It was not as vast as the Forbidden City and had far fewer buildings, but it was still very beautiful and quite awe inspiring to be in such an ancient place.

That evening we went to the famous Laoshen Tea House to see a traditional Chinese show. There were a number of different styles of acts, much like a variety show. Some musical, some comedic sketches, but the best acts were the Peking Opera act, think painted faces and annoyingly high pitched singing, and the Shezuan mask changer, which was the best. These traditional performers start the show with many layers of silk face masks and they dance around and change the masks as they dance. The amazing thing is that the mask is changed by some secret mechanism and it changes in the blink of an eye (much faster actually)! So it makes for an interesting effect. The performer walks out into the audience and changes these masks right in front of you too, it’s pretty amazing.

The next day, new years eve, we checked out of our hotel and headed to Zhen’s mom’s place. There we were treated to a giant feast of Chinese food. Her cousin, and his wife joined us and it was a tonne of fun. Obviously, I’m not my usual gregarious self in these environments where my language skills are so poor, but we all managed to have lots of fun and… as the clock drew closer and closer to midnight, the barrage of fireworks gradually worked up into a frenzy! It was totally amazing. By midnight Beijing was a continuous rumble of thunderous fireworks, flashes and booms! We ventured out right after midnight to set off our own arsenal of fireworks and saw lots of neighbors doing the same. I saw a young boy with his father setting off some pretty spectacular explosive devices and I couldn’t help but think what a great day this must be for a young boy (or even an older one, namely me)! You get to set off fireworks like crazy! I got a couple videos which will hopefully give you the idea. 

For New Years Day we are headed back to the center of Beijing, Ditan, a traditional new years day gathering place. It wasn’t as crowded as I imagined, probably because most people head home for Spring Festival (New Year) and many Beijingers are not from Beijing.