Monday, August 26, 2013

And now, for something fiber-related

This is a short segue into what I've been up to with respect to spinning and knitting.

I took knitting with me on the trip and managed to make some progress on a very long stretch of stockinette. I am making Viajante with the mink yarn I purchased a few weeks ago. It starts with a basic garter stitch triangle and then you join the stitches in a circle and continue knitting. But at this point, the pattern has one decrease at the join every other round and increase at the triangle center point every round. The increase-every-round was giving me fits. No matter what increase method I used - and I tried three - there was a big hole on the left hand side increase. I think it has to do with how I knit. So I decided not to do the decrease and just increase every other round. Yes, the effect will be slightly different but who says I need to recreate what the designer did?

Here it is
That is two different angles showing the angled base as well as the increase line.

I also finished spinning the second single and plying/finishing the last of the fiber in project unlayer. So now I am done with all the wheel spinning I was doing.
I spun this a bit thick and lightly twisted but plied it a bit tighter to make what I hope will be an fluffy but durable yarn. It is Romney so that should help the durability. I want to make mittens for myself and maybe a hat if there is enough yardage.

I also blocked the Bryce Canyon shawl...

I also wanted to share some of the jewelry and stuff I bought in Australia. I got some jewelry at an arts center fair in Melbourne.
This is a very interesting scarf. It is a silk scarf that has beads and a hook on the other end. You can wrap the scarf around your neck and then hook the beads into loops as you please to make a necklace/scarf.

The top photo in the collage is the jewelry I bought. The left two are dichroic glass and match. The right hand side is gold dust inside a glass bottle. The bottom one is a stone that is enclosed in an openable sterling silver cage.

The bottom photo is gifts that I bought for others. Left to right: handpainted linen towels, a skein of handpainted merino sock yarn, possum fur insoles and a handpainted notebook cover with accessories.

That is all for now. I tried spinning some silk and it drove me nuts so I put it in timeout. I tried it on the minispinner so I may try it on the spindle.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Our last day in Beijing

On the third and final day of our Beijing trip, we went to Tian'anmen Square and the National Museum of China. These are right next to each other. But then, so is the Forbidden City. Tian'anmen is one of the gates to the Forbidden City and the square is adjacent to the gate. On the other side of the square is Zhengyangmen Gate (Qianmen Gate). Beijing had a series of walls with gates in them. Anmen stands for gate so there are lots of places in Beijing with anmen in them. Beijing, by the way, means northern capital. Nanjing, the previous capital, means southern capital.

We took the metro to the Tianan'men Square station. As soon as we got out of the station and went through the metal detector (being a holiday weekend with lots of crowds, security was very high), we were faced with Zhengyangmen gate.
As it happened, there is a museum at the top of the gate so we went up there and spent some time exploring the history of the gate and of the walls of Beijing. It was also a great place to take photographs.

This is Mao's tomb. We couldn't go inside as it was closed due to the high security.
Looking the other way, this is the old Beijing railway station, which is now a museum.
The main Chinese meridian line goes through Qianmen or Zhengyangmen. It is a broad line through the gate.
It is marked with distances to various places.
Behind the Zhengyangmen gate is the Jian Lou Arrow Tower.
The people figures provide an idea of the scale of these buildings. They are large.
Zooming in, one can see the beautiful flowers at the base. Chinese buildings are decorated with flowers and the gardens everywhere are very well maintained.
Descending to the ground, we started exploring the square. In the middle is the Monument to the People's Heroes. I've seen other monuments to the heroes, they are quite prevalent.
The building behind the monument is the place where the People's Congress meets. One can go in but we didn't. It is the equivalent of the US Capitol.

On this holiday weekend, there were large screens flashing pictures. I don't know if this is on all the time.
There were four of these screens. Two back to back here and two back to back on the other side.

More lovely, manicured flowers and plants.
From the middle of the square, this is a view of Tian'anmen gate. It always has Mao's picture on it and it is where he proclaimed the beginning of the People's Republic of China.
Beyond that gate is the Forbidden City. The last time my husband visited Beijing, one could go through the Forbidden City and exit onto Tian'anmen Square. Now, one can only enter the Forbidden City from the Tian'anmen side and exit on the Jingshan temple side. It helps with crowd control and making sure that no one gets locked into the Forbidden City at night.

China is great at crowd control. Every subway platform has multiple exits. Those winding barriers at airport security points - where you can pull out a strip to section off an area - are everywhere.

The National Museum is right across the street. It is free to enter but you have to show your Chinese identity card or a passport.
The entrance to the museum provides a great view of Tian'anmen Square.
In the museum, we went through a section that described China's fight for self-independence. It definitely had a very Communist slant. But we also saw a lot of galleries with Chinese cultural and historical artifacts.

A preview of a planned trip to Xi'an to see the terracotta warriors:
A gorgeous slipper:
A piece of a sock:
A gallery full of beautiful Buddha figures from China, Tibet and nearby areas:
Lovely ceramics:
And almost at the end, a photo that is not related to this trip but is from Beijing none-the-less.
This is the Olympic park with the Bird's nest stadium in the background. Finally, a view of the National Aquatics Center, also built for the Olympics. People recognize these from the Olympics.
I do have more photos of the Llama temple but I will keep those for another post. Right now I am ready to move on to Istanbul for a change.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Now, where were we?

I got home yesterday and boy, it is good to be home. Shanghai isn't home in the sense that I have my people around me but it has become a home away from home. It is familiar, it is convenient; I can do what I want; I am not living out of a suitcase or worried that I am going to leave something behind in all the packing and unpacking; and, it isn't a hotel room.

So let's pick up where we left off. I will defer the fiber and crafty stuff to another post because I really want to catch you up on all the travel. Remember, we are still at the Beijing trip in June! Let's finish that today and I will continue with the others. There will be a number of posts in the next week, if I can swing it, so I will be all caught up soon.

The Forbidden City is where the Emperor and his family lived. It was really crowded the day we were there. We went during the Dragon Boat Festival holiday. While we were at the Great Wall and Ming Tombs on a working day, we went to the Forbidden City during the long weekend.
This is the entrance gate. Our guide had gone to buy the tickets. You can see the crowd in the entrance courtyard which is huge. The actual palace is a series of buildings that all look rather similar. There are no furnishings in most of the buildings. Our guide told us that a lot of these are in the National Palace Museum in Taiwan, split as a result of the Chinese civil war.

Once inside the gate, we were in a giant courtyard..
The place is maintained very well. The government is continually restoring various sections and of course, re-restoring due to the ravages of weather and people.
As you get closer to the next series of buildings, you realize how big they all are.
This is the administrative section of the palace. So everything is built for grandeur and show. Foreign dignitaries were received here. Processions and parades took place here. There are two beautiful lions on each side of the center steps. One is female and one is male. The female one has a cub under her paw and the male has a ball.
Otherwise it is difficult to tell them apart. They are both quite ferocious.

After admiring the lions, we went to the gate that gave entrance to the next courtyard. We didn't go inside many of the buildings that day because it was so crowded. We'll probably have to go back to look at things in more detail.

From that gate, this is what it looks like looking back at the first courtyard.
And looking forward to where we were going...
Here is a close look at a giant incense burner. I am probably not going to do too many more building pictures as they mostly all look like the ones you've already seen. We did get a bit tired of the architecture. One of my colleagues from another country told me that all her Beijing photos looked the same: curved roofs and carved animals.
Another look at the beautiful restored decorations on the buildings.
Each building has guardians on it.. that is what those carved figures on the roof are.
The Emperor was the only one who had ten figures. Tradition said there should be nine but the Emperor wanted to be better than everyone else so he had ten put on his roof.

An Emperor's view of the courtyard..
I loved the carvings on the steps. What you see is a pair of steps - one on each side - that were used by the Emperor's chair bearers. The Emperor floated above the carvings.  You can see the steps and the carving better in this photo.
These giant pots were gilded and you can see some remnants of the gold. I think they were meant for water.
There is a series of animals along the raised platform at the head of the steps. It is a huge platform. I liked this ferocious tortoise because it is such a juxtaposition of a gentle animal with ferocity.
One of the elements of Chinese gardening and architecture is 'borrowed scenery'. You design your garden or view to include things that are not yours. The Emperor borrowed this view of the Jingshan temple that is behind the Forbidden City.
We are now in the more intimate parts of the palace. This is where the Emperor and his family - concubines, wives and children - lived. No one else lived in the palace. I am not sure if servants were included in this fact. But the scale of everything now becomes smaller. Including the lions: you can see the cub in this photo.
Deep inside the palace, there are a few rooms that are furnished. They are rather dark but my iPhone camera did a great job of capturing the contents in dim light.
These rooms were also decorated. Here's the ceiling of one.
Another room...
I liked this painting inside one of them.
The Emperor had a nice shady garden inside the palace. It is a traditional Chinese garden that has a number of vistas that change as you move around. The vistas are fashioned after nature but there are pavilions and spots where one can sit and admire.
We ended our visit by climbing to the top of Jingshan temple to get a birds' eye view of the Forbidden City. I had to jostle for position right at the top to get this photo.
Once I was there, I had to take a few shots.
I am using a landscape filter on my camera here, which brings out a bit more detail, but it also changes the colors a bit.

We then went to the Summer Palace. The current incarnation was built by the Empress Cixi. She took money that was intended for the navy to rebuild it, weakening the navy. The end result was a disastrous loss by the navy to the Japanese (if I remember correctly).

We entered and were immediately entranced by the dock, the lake and the dragon boats.
By no means did we even scratch the surface of this park. It is huge and filled with hiking trails and temples and pavilions. We mainly wandered around the lake and took a ride on a dragon boat across the lake.

The buildings seen on the far side are temples and palaces. We did not go into them although we did walk around to that side of the lake.
Still on this side, a different view of the complex. We walked around to the Marco Polo bridge, which is a replica of another bridge. Each lion that tops the balustrade on either side is different. The bridge leads to an island in the middle of the lake.

Being a holiday weekend, there were lots of families in the park. You can rent paddle boats, walk around, have a picnic and generally enjoy the lovely views and buildings. I wonder what Cixi would think, with all these people wandering around her prized palace?

This is one of the dragon boats. It might even be the one we took.
From the boat, you can see another side of the lake. There are fewer buildings there but more trees and a park-like area. I believe the mountains were sculpted to mimic a beautiful view from somewhere else. Ahh... to be an Emperor!
But today, people can enjoy the facilities with their families. I think that is a good use of the gorgeous park.
As we got closer to the temple complex, we could see how large it was.
At ground level in front of the temple complex, and extending a good bit on either side, is the world's longest covered walkway. It is beautifully decorated so that the Emperor could see different views/vistas as he walked. There are benches on each side to rest and enjoy the paintings also. No two are identical.
Along the way there are circular sections with higher ceilings. They were also decorated.
One of the paintings in more detail.
Looking at the walkway from the outside.

We walked the length of the walkway and then decided to walk around the lake back to the entrance. We could have taken a boat back but wanted to experience the walk. It also afforded us a few different views of the lake.
There were lots of lotus plants along this side of the lake, although there weren't many flowers. I managed to snag a photo of a couple.
And so ended day two of our trip. Our feet hurt so even though we could have done more, we just couldn't. We went back to our hotel and rested and then went out to dinner.

Next up will be Tian'anmen Square and the National Museum.