Saturday, June 22, 2013

Finally, the Beijing trip

I am actually in Beijing again this week on business. But since I am stuck here over the weekend, I took the opportunity to upload and annotate all the photos. And that means that I get to blog about it.

We took the high speed train from Shanghai to Beijing. This is a very civilized way to travel. You get space, you can walk around, the seats recline but the seat in front of you doesn't end up in your lap. It takes 5 hours but the trains are on time and run frequently. It is also about the same as the best airfares to go second class, which is what we did. The overall time is slightly over a plane flight but pretty close since you have to get to the airport so much ahead of the plane's departure.

There is security at the train station. You go through much the same as you would in an airport but it is a steadily moving line. Also, there are more entrances and so we didn't wait too long. Maybe it also had to do with our taking morning trains. Your luggage goes through X-ray and you go through a metal detector and get wanded.

The train goes at 300 km/h, give or take a few km. There is a constant display on a monitor along with some sort of entertainment. We couldn't figure out how to listen to the entertainment. No place to plug in our headphones as far as we could tell.
There is a dining car on the train but we didn't go there. There are also vendors who come down the aisles selling food and drink, including coffee and tea. We had taken water bottles and sandwiches from home on the way out. On the way back, we got parathas and biriyani from the Indian restaurant where we had dinner the night before and ate that on the way. Being vegetarians and not speaking the language well enough, we are a bit suspicious about buying food off carts and the street.

Our first trip out was to the Ming tombs. We had hired a guide with a car to take us around for the first two days and then we wandered around on our own. It rained the first day out and you will see that in the photos. Overall, we lucked out. It only got hot on the third day. The rain did keep the crowds down on the first day. You will notice that in the photos.

The Ming tombs are in a valley that people were not allowed into. There are multiple tombs scattered around the valley but we only went to the oldest one. This is the tomb of the 3rd emperor of the Ming dynasty who moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing.
This is a lovely etched map of the site. The straight line that goes diagonally across in the middle is the Spirit Way - which you will see later.
This is the first building in the tomb area. The Emperor needed all the same facilities in the after-life so the tomb is modeled after the Forbidden City and has administrative areas as well as other areas. The actual tomb is behind this complex and is a wooded hill. The entrances to the actual tomb were hidden.
Beautiful painted decorations on the buildings.
This is Emperor Yongle who moved the capital and whose tomb this is.
The structure is held up by these pillars which are the trunks of a tree from Southern China. They brought the logs up from there to build the tombs. It is a very hard wood that is not common any more and might even be gone.
Behind that building is this one. This is in front of the actual tomb. This building holds the soul pillar which represents the spirit of the Emperor.

From the terrace on this building, you can see some of the other tombs in the valley.
Look carefully, it is between the trees in the middle of the photo.
And another one, again in the center of the photo. The rainy day didn't help with the photos although playing with the filters on the camera helped.

This is the soul pillar.
After we finished looking around the tomb, we went to the Spirit Way. This is the road that the Emperor walked to pay homage to the spirits of his ancestors. Every Emperor came here on horse, dismounted and walked down the Spirit Way to the tomb. We are going to walk it as if he were leaving - from the tomb out to the gate.
The Way is lined with statues of officials, soldiers and animals. This map shows what each statue is.
Looking down the Sacred or Spirit Way...
Some of the statues...
Now we are up to the animals...
And we are at the entrance gate...
It has these pretty pillars on each side.
And a gigantic stele with a turtle below it inside
We then went on to the Great Wall afterwards but that will be another post. This one is pretty long as is.

I haven't done very much spinning and knitting this week but I hope to remedy that this weekend. I am meeting some Ravelers for a knitting, spinning, beer session this evening. I'll post about the Great Wall tomorrow and then fill in the other sights over the course of the next week.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A short but busy week

I promised I would get photos from the Beijing trip up but I haven't fulfilled that promise yet. I haven't even organized them! So that is still on the coming attractions list.

But up this week is progress on the fiber front. I did a little plying on the turkish spindle and am gradually making progress on getting through it but there isn't much change in the pictures so it is boring to photograph and post.

I did knit a bit on the Stripe Study shawl. We did a lot of walking around so got exhausted by mid afternoon and came back to the hotel to rest up a little before heading out to dinner. So I knit a bit and plied a bit. I also tried to show the stripes which are quite subtle. Once I do the border at the bottom, the difference between the yarns will show up more.

I leave it to you to decide if you can see the single row of the handspun between the commercially spun stripes. You can see how much of the commercial yarn has been consumed. The two yarn balls were the same size when I started out. Now it is less than half the handspun ball. Here's another slightly different view:
I love knitting this shawl. The colors are very subtle and combine beautifully. I have a safety pin on the turning stitch of the short rows. I realized that it is easy to go past it. In the past, the colors I used were very different so I could find the turning st easily. With the close colors here, it is much easier marking it. I also have a safety pin on two other st markers. One is at the beginning end, where the marker separates the 2 edge sts from the body of the shawl. The second on is on the first of the two markers that bracket the center st. One increases on either side of the center st on the right side only. Past experience with this pattern has taught me that it is easy to forget which side one is on and start increasing either on the wrong side or on both sides. I now know which is the beginning of the RS (with the safety pin on the marker) and consequently which is the beginning of the WS (no safety pin on the marker). I also know which side I am on as I approach the center st. If the safety pinned marker comes first, I am on the RS; if it is second, then I am on the WS.

Yes, I could use different colored markers but I am carrying this around all over. Markers jump off the needles at inopportune times. So I just used rings cut from straws as markers and they are all the same color. The safety pins are also cheap. I can easily replace these if they get lost and that is why I prefer this approach.

I also am almost done spinning the second half of the Fiber Optic Blackberry to Raspberry gradient. Last time I posted the magenta part of the gradient. This one is at the transition from violet to the bluish purple that eventually turns to a gorgeous blue at the end. My specific braid doesn't start as light as the one on the Fiber Optic website. It also isn't as purple as the one there. Mine is very saturated going from magenta through violet into purple and then blue. I could easily call it Blueberry to Raspberry.
 I am headed back to Beijing tomorrow on business. I expect I'll be in my room quite a bit in the evenings so I expect to get a lot done on the shawl. I am also taking the plying with me for variety and a little new spinning on my Kuchulu.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Just back from Beijing

We went on a short holiday to Beijing this weekend. I have lots of fodder for posts but need to organize it before posting. So you will have to wait for the weekend to get all the details. I also suspect that there will be a flood of posts.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Absent without leave

I am sorry for the silence. I have been having difficulty getting to Blogger. I have to use a VPN service, a Virtual Private Network, to get to Blogger, Facebook, Youtube and other sites that are blocked here. Anyway, the time when internet was cooperating did not jive with my availability. So I have been silent.

And I am going to make up for it now.

Last Sunday week we went to the Jing'An temple. It sits on top of its Metro station so it is easy to get to. As soon as you walk out of the Metro station, you can see it.
Once you walk inside, you are in a large courtyard with a metal tower in the middle.
The faithful light incense sticks and bow down with them to the 4 compass points before putting them on a stand to finish burning. We were there on a windy day so there was incense smoke flowing in all directions. There are bells on that tower and they were tinkling in the breeze. People also throw coins and try to get them into one of the levels of the tower. Many miss!
The roofs have these animals on them that are called guardians of the roof.
That is a view of the courtyard looking down from the steps leading to the temple.
The steps have these lovely decorations on them.
Inside there are many halls with Buddha statues in them. This is the one at the top of the steps.
At the back of this shrine, there are some lovely murals of the Buddha. The red items in the foreground of the photo are kneelers. Devotees kneel and prostate themselves to the Buddha on these kneelers.

We also saw this old bell in the shrine. It is really beautiful which is hard to see since the light was dim and I didn't want to use my flash in the shrine.

The temple is a working monastery, I think. There are many levels and we were only allowed in the courtyard and the sections that adjoined it.
Behind the first shrine, there is another one with more statues.
And then, as you walk around the courtyard, there are 3 other shrines: one on each of the sides.
Finally, there is the section directly opposite the steps. There are two corner buildings: you enter below one at the corner of the courtyard. That corner building houses the Peace Bell.
It was closed so I took a photo of the sign. You can see the bell through the glass in the walls but it didn't work well from a photographic perspective. The other corner building houses a giant drum and it is called the Drum Tower. In between the two is the building in the back of the courtyard picture. It contains 3 statues.
A laughing Buddha is flanked by two standing statues.
The courtyard is a lovely place to sit and people-watch or contemplate. It isn't quiet but it is beautiful. We spent a couple of hours wandering around the complex before leaving. I found it extremely well maintained and full of devotees as well as tourists. What surprised me was that people were taking photographs and there were no signs prohibiting it. Also, no one took their shoes off. In Thailand and in India, you can't wear shoes inside a temple and you also cannot take photographs inside the shrines.

We are going to Beijing next week to do some sightseeing so there are more photos to come.

And now back to mundane fiber-y things...
I have been spindling away on my Tibetan spindle
I finished plying and setting the twist on the Fiber Optic Autumn Harvest gradient. It is a nice fingering weight yarn.
This shows the gradient better. It is from when the yarn was on the niddy noddy.
And I also started spinning the second half of a Fiber Optic Blackberry to Raspberry gradient. This was spun a bit finer than the Autumn Harvest.
I hadn't been knitting very much till today. But I took the shawl out today and I will be taking it with me to Beijing. So I expect a lot of progress soon.

Lastly, I am going to end with a few photos of fish that I took in the hotel where we had our conference. These fish were in pillars with glass columns behind them. The glass columns kept changing colors. That is why the background on the fish is different in the different pictures. The fish don't move much so it took me a few days to even realize they were live fish!
And that is all. I feel a huge sense of accomplishment at having caught up!

I am also happy that Knit Addict is OK, but my heart goes out all those people in Oklahoma who have suffered loss of life and home in the tornadoes.