Monday I went downtown for the 10th time to pick up my passport. I saw some interesting vehicles on the busy streets. The most interesting one I didn't get a photo of, was a mule pulling a cart of melons right downtown. I made it up for you with a mule pulling a cart of bricks on the highway near Phoenix Hills. There were six of these brick carts.
Back to the passport, this time I graduated from Tourist Visa L to Resident Permit, although only for 2 months. Now all that has to be done is to obtain my FE ID card and then I will be able to apply for a 1 year resident permit. Gasp!
Want to hear a funny story? The first time I went downtown I was turned away in a few seconds by a DORCGB (Darling Old Red Chinese Government Bureaucrat) who frowned at my pathetic, incomplete and incorrect paperwork. This was in mid April. Last week on the last difficult step of the process, I ended up at her window again. She critically examined my docs, gorgeous ones with lots of red characters and impressive red stamps from Tsinghua on heavy parchment, requesting processing in Beijing instead of making me go all the way to Hong Kong. This is a veryunusual request, perhaps a request which has never been granted or darn rarely.
She glumly gathered up my papers, passport, tiny headshot pictures, and carried all this into the back, presumably where her supervisor would have to make a decision. Well, she returned with the approval we were all anxious to receive, stamped my receipt, and I think I saw a tiny smirk of a approval. She LOVED my paperwork! Something a DORCGB could respect, gorgeous red lettered paperwork all in order and from 'top' levels. Funny, don't you think?
Wednesday Chen took us all for an outing to Phoenix Hills to the north of Beijing in Haidian District. It is 15K or 31m from Tian'anmen Square or 23k or 14m from Tsinghua. This was a reward for all the good work and long hours we put into the Centennial last month. We pulled off the freeway and got onto a big highway, following big brown signs. This route was being taken by the President of DPK (SKorea) same day, we kept seeing police at every intersection.
After several miles we turned onto a two lane road that ran by the old canal and past big commune farms. It was cherry season and farm stands were everywhere with cherries, fresh eggs and melons under red umbrellas. Finally we got to a little town, NieGeZhuang, threaded our way to the other side and started climbing elevation. Suddenly, looming out of the smog, the big rock formations could be seen. "Grotesque peaks, queer rocks, vast forests of pine, ginkgo, peach, apple and apricot, and mysterious springs."
Surrounded by rich farmland, this is the location of Longquan Buddhist Temple, built 951CE and named for the Dragon Spring on the site. Built in the style of the Liao (907-1125) and Jin (1115-1234) Dynasties, it features the oldest stone bridge in Beijing, 1,000 year old male and female ginkgo (gongsun) trees. The original temple was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in the 70s. Now signs of construction are everywhere.
Before this site was Buddhist, it was used by ascetic Taoists in their search for peace and immortality. Many caves here, 'Immortal's Cave' 'Three Buddha Cave' 'Xuanyuan Cave' and more, all hermit caves used for millennium. Now the current spiritualists blend Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. A multi lingual Dharma Assembly was held during Lantern Festival this year (2-28-2011), the first event of its kind in China. Sutras were chanted in 13 languages, Chinese, Tibetan, English, German, French, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Sanskrit, Russian, Vietnamese, Latin and Pali.
Up up up we went past rose gardens of every hue and fragrant. Through the portal guarded by fierce deities, and we were in the temple grounds proper. Still up up up, crossed a dry creek on the old Golden Dragon bridge, up up up wide stone steps and stairs past the new reconstructed temple building, the monks vegetable gardens, up up up great views, I almost passed out from vertigo at the hermit cave.
Still up a little more before we looped around and got a group picture at a picturesque pavilion. We only saw a tiny fraction of the place, but I was happy to get down and we prowled around looking for some place to eat.
Mid week, no crowds, only customers in huge restaurant, many dishes including stewed whole lake fish. Everyone played with the puppies in the courtyard as we inspected remnants of a working farm now converted to tourist trade.
As if that wasn't enough fun, we stopped at a u-pick and tramped around in a cherry orchard, city folks enjoying themselves for the day in the country. I was shocked to see mule drawn wagons on the highway pulling loads of bricks. Chen pulled over, and I sprinted in the sweltering heat back across the intersection in time to get a few good pix.
Hui tou jian