07 November 2007

Historical Tour

Currently listening to: The Trumpet Child by Over the Rhine

Currently reading: Colossians Remixed by Walsh and Keesmaat

First: The excitement for the day (besides a massage and a Seder meal that went quite smoothly!) was picking up my pictures. Earlier I mentioned how I wanted to get a bunch of pictures printed and framed to put up in our apartment. Well, part of that has now been accomplished. We now have 3 beautiful, big prints of sunsets from Petoskey, Grand Haven, and Thailand. Also, we enlarged 3 flower prints from my sister's wedding and a friend's garden. I also got 10 of my personal favorites printed in 5x7 so I can maybe make some multi-picture frames as like a "best of" all my happy photos. Next step: going to the frame shop and actually having everything matted and framed. Slowly but surely things are coming together.

It seems that no matter what I do, I'm behind in my posts--I apologize. Although this was a while ago, I think it's still important and interesting.

Two weekends ago, the new staff (and some not-so-new-staff) took a tour to see the city we now call home through the eyes of history. As a history buff, I was clearly in my element. I had been to a few of these sights before, but it was different having a distinctively Western approach in the tour. Many of the historical places are directly tied to Western influence pre-communism. I wrestle with weight of the past and for good reason.

First stop: A Catholic church under renovation

This fellowship has completed gutted their sanctuary and built a temporary trailer in the courtyard while construction occurs. The lady let us see the inside even though it was 'locked.' They have relics dating to the 1800's and parts of their main building have been around for at least a century. During the Boxer Rebellion, this place dealt with some ugly rumors about what was going on at the on-site orphanage. Again and again on this tour I was struck how His hand sustains and guides our every movement forever and forever.

The view of the nearby canal. As you can see, it was quite foggy and even threatened to rain.

A slightly dark picture of the altar in the sanctuary under construction.

Members of the local Polar Bear Club, AKA brave souls. Mind you, at this point, I was already wearing long underwear, a sweatshirt, scarf, and jacket and they were prancing around in Speedos.

The fog made for a cool picture of the lions on the bridge.

Second stop: The Taoist Temple on Ancient Culture Street

Due to its relative closeness to the canal, this temple is dedicated to the gods of the ocean and water. Traditional belief states that if one pr@ys to the ancestral representations at this temple, then the sailors will have smooth sailing. I mentioned visiting this place last Christmas, but it was quite striking when compared to the other places of worship.

I was particularly taken by some tile art in the back of the temple. We didn't have any local friends accompany us, but our wonderful tour guide was the high school principal who has taught Chinese history here. I didn't ask for an explanation of the artwork, mostly because I didn't want to ruin this beautiful public mural for myself.

The broad scope of the mural.

The detail was quite breath taking.

Naturally ancestral worship was included in the artwork.

People waiting in line to burn incense.

Inside the temple, you can see the representation of one of the gods.

Many families came together to the temple.

Third stop: The Protestant church

The next place we visited was a local Protestant fellowship. It made me miss my old fellowship in Wuxi very quickly. There is something to be said for worshiping in a building whose sole purpose is specifically that. Some famous people have ties to this fellowship and the pastor was kind enough to show us the desk of someone from 1933--sorry I can't remember the specifics.

The historic relic was protected by just a sheet of plastic--it was made from beautiful wood though.

Fourth stop: The Drum Tower

The Drum Tower was part of the old city wall, which no longer exists. It is part of what used to be the Old City. Inside the Tower, there was an interesting museum which very pointedly marked the progress of the people in the last few decades.

The huge Drum Tower.

What a hutong (traditional house) would have looked like in our city a few decades ago.

The view from the top was merely ok (silly fog), but you can see how the road stretches away from the Tower--it leads towards the rest of the Old City.

Fifth stop: The Astor Hotel

This hotel wins my prize for the highlight of the tour. Many famous people have visited this hotel and many more famous things were accomplished there. It holds the first elevator in China and the first light bulbs that were used in the country. Herbert Hoover stayed there. So did Sun Yat-sen while he was creating the Republic. The Last Emperor danced there with his concubine. Crazy amounts of history in one building.

A painting honoring all the famous people that have stayed there.

Sixth stop: A burned out Anglican church

What a way to end the tour! The last stop was an Anglican church that was one of the first places in the city where foreigners worshiped. Its turbulent background includes being shut down and occupied during the Cultural Revolution. The estimate we were given was that over one million Books were buried on site during that era. It no longer has a worshiping congregation and lays in complete disrepair. Apparently, it used to have a large fence surrounding it, but on the day we visited, the grounds were meticulously groomed, yet the windows were completed boarded up. Oh, I can't imagine what tales this building could tell if given the opportunity.

A flower from the lovely garden.

The contrast of the well-cared for flowers and the vine-growing burnt out building.

I recognize that the Spirit works in spite of our physical buildings, but I mourn the Darkness that this church currently represents.

The adventurous spirit in me found a pile of bricks that led up to a dark stairwell. Sadly, I gave my camera to a friend, but I paved the trail for others and found a gem at the top. The stairs went up to a bell tower and overlooked the old sanctuary. It was completely trashed--people had probably been squatting in it as there was stuff (including a few bathtubs?!?) strewn about.

Random pictures

To lighten the mood, I leave you with some fun pictures.

A beautiful bouquet of flowers I received from one of my advising students during conferences.

"Any one who violate regvulation to remote the fire-fighting equipments is prohibited" Hmm, let's try that again...

I'm totally convinced that construction site ads are the best place to find funny pictures. "The well-to-do family resides in the innermost recesses of urban civilization" You couldn't make this up if you tried!

The random award goes to this picture--it was found on the back of a car during this tour. I don't know what the Chinese says, but I can't get over the graphic. What is it trying to say/represent? Any guesses?

One week until warmth...


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