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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

N. China - Day 11, Part 1 - Beijing: Observatory

"I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, even if I'm in a cabinet meeting." - Ronald Reagan

***

Ed: I will be going to Australia soon, and as in March, I am again faced with the possibility of having 3 major travelogues to complete.

Thus I will try and finish China so as to leave me with only 2 on my return.

N. China
Day 11 - 9th November - Beijing: Observatory
(Part 1)

I woke up at about 5am, annoyed at how short the night train was (slightly longer than 6 hours). I don't know which cock planned it this way.

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"Being self-conscious about preserving order
Do not pass the barriers"

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Vagrants in the Beijing train station. Or maybe their night trains had also come in early and they needed more sleep.

I looked around at breakfast items. 永和's breakfast menu didn't suit me, 康仔 served Hong Kong food and 康隶 didn't have a toilet, so I returned to KFC.

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"Hail Customers: Please do not vomit or shit in the urinals, at the basement the neighboring market area there is a larger restroom to use. Thank you for your cooperation"
Even after 10 days in China I was still surprised by such a sign.

During breakfast I ran into a Filipino Chinese-Canadian couple I'd shared my night train cabin with. It'd been quite strange because they'd covered the train pillow with a plastic bag and scattered newspapers on the cabin bed. And the man had to use a machine to sleep because of asthma (so night trains were a strange choice). Luckily they didn't try hard sleeper.

They liked to visit China a lot, and said in the past it was too crowded but during a previous visit in September it hadn't been crowded. They also said 九寨沟 (Jiuzhaigou) was more pretty than the Rockies. They said in the 70s you could access everywhere, and there were few local tourists. However this would be their last time because of the pollution.

They also said Singapore was more expensive than Canada.

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Peidan zhok, sweet youtiao and 豆浆, hashbrown. KFC also had 法风烧饼 (Shaobing à la française)

Some vendors sold pre-cooked (ugh) shao bing on the street.

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Huge bing, looking like roti prata

One guy picked up his dog's shit with a plastic bag. I told him: "先生,很好。我支持你" ("Sir, this is excellent. I support you"). He ignored me.

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Previously mentioned guy walking his dogs. Somehow only one got dressed.

There're 3 levels of prohibition in China:

请勿 - "Please don't"
禁止 - "Don't"
严止 - "You better not"

Examples seen in the field:

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"Please don't loiter on the steps
Don't sell shit
You better not bring in dangerous things"
(I like the "no vendors" sign)

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"Welcome to Take Beijing Subway"
Bad automatic translation again.

On the subway, they had "A starry night" - a PRC drama serial. They filmed some scenes in Singapore. I liked a romantic night walk scene by the Merlion, and they also went up the Singapore Flyer. This episode could've been titled: "the failure of Singapore's immigration policy" - PRCs come to Singapore and hook up with each other. I bet the next scene shows them returning to Shanghai where they'd first met. I was so distracted by all this, I missed my stop.

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Faux (?) Ancient Gate in front of modern hotel

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Gender and age discrimination in hiring (they want girls under 40 for the post of cleaning lady)

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I was undecided on whether this was a bona fide massage place. Perhaps it offered both sorts.

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Hutong entrance aka Hei Li Hai Painting Work Room

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"还有比安全更重要吗?" ("Is there anything more important than safety?")
Hilarious poster in the hostel

After dropping my stuff, I headed for the Ancient Observatory.

A guy on the street remaked to me: "有点凉" ("it's a little cool"). I replied that the word should've been 冷 (cold), i.e. colder than cool, and he asked if I was from Hebei. How odd.

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Another place selling donkey meat! In fact they specialise in it

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Hong Kong has infected the mainland

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北京天伦不孕不育医院
At first I was confused by a hospital for un-pregnant people. Now I know it's for treating infertility (isn't this against the One Child Policy?)

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Car that parked willy-nilly

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Observatory built in 1442, "the oldest one of its kind with astronomical instruments preserved in the world"

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Courtyard and tower

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Courtyard

The signs didn't say how old some instruments were, e.g. the Stardial. They must've been modern.

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Simplified Armilla

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Chinese stardial

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Armillary Sphere

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Cat on Heritage Tree

The signage in the Observatory was alright, but at one point I got annoyed.

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"Please find below translations of the exhibition content in the following languages:
Français Deutsch 日本語"

As you can see, there're no translations. So I left trilingual feedback:

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"你的翻译怎么都不见了?
Où se trouvent les traductions ? Elles se sont perdues.
Where are the translations?"
(I had to use my phone to look up "翻译")

By this time, it had become clear that the Observatory was basically a testament to the uselessness of Chinese astronomy for more than a millennium: everything advanced was taken or learnt from the Europeans. Basically as with other scientific fields, China was good at first but stagnated by the Ming Dynasty.

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"Famous astronomers throughout history have come from many different countries... Jesuit missionaries were among the first to travel to China, bringing with them the astronomical knowledge of the West. At the same time, they also took Eastern culture and knowledge back to Europe. This is what we call 'European Astronomy's Spread to China.'"

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More on the Cultural Imperialism of Western Astronomy

Outside in the garden they had busts of famous Chinese astronomers.

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Zhang Heng

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Xu Guangqi (the only "modern" one of the 4)
Notice that he wasn't notable because of his personal creative contributions per se, but for spreading European astronomy

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Song Dynasty Star Map (天文图)
I asked the girl in the room "什么世纪" ("what century?") and she told me "古代" ("Ancient Era"). I thanked her, remarking that "古代很长" ("the Ancient Era was very long")

A lot of the originals had been moved to Nanjing Purple Mountain Observatory. I was annoyed at having been cheated.

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Buddhist Astronomy

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Pussy Willow

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Pussy Willow detail

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Bust of Guo Shoujing, Instrument and building

On the roof of the big building they had other instruments.

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Equatorial Armilla

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Sextant
The date (1673) wasn't impressive (the sextant was invented in the 10th century) but the size was - 1.3-1.5x my height (I estimated)

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Altazimuth

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Quadrant

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This is some bad gas

I then went to the Lama Temple to wait for Charis.

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"RELAX! We have an ENGLISH MENU. Certified by Simplify China" (the website doesn't work as of time of writing)
The English menu had a 15¥ premium for Kong Bao Chicken and 25¥ for other dishes.

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"Wisdom Light - the New Age Shop"

There was a shop selling buns for 0.7¥ for one, and a Taiwanese food place sold a piece of sushi with a prawn for 2¥. Opposite, a Hangzhou food place sold noodles for 6¥.

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"Please go straight on for about 150 meters to Yong He Gong. Please bring standard incenses"
Maybe this was sponsored by the incense merchants.

With Charis's arrival, I had lunch. I thought the area would be full of tourist traps but I managed to scout out a few alright eateries. We went to a Xian place.

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拍黄瓜 (Cucumber in vinegar and garlic)

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Celery and taukee

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Beef noodles

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Xian Lamb Noodles
Lamg Pao4 Mo2 with pickled garlic. The noodles were like cut up dumpling cubes. It was not very muttony so I was disappointed.

It seemed all of China used the chanting tape I'd first heard at Taishan. I'd definitely also heard it at Yungang. Here I heard the modern version (there were kids singing)


Chinese sex shops are pathetic in the hardware they sell, but stock many dodgy pills and medicines. Probably many are lethal.

I don't understand fingerless gloves. The fingers are the parts of the hand most in need of warmth, after all.

I met a Singaporean at the hostel who thought the visa-free period for China was a month. I wished him good luck.

There were a lot of French tourists in China. There were quite a few dutch ones also.

Some Canadians confirmed that in India they add on extras to the pre-agreed price.
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