Enjoying Our Time in China

Written by Stephanie Johns

For our last day in Beijing, many people went to the Summer Palace. We wandered around in different groups and saw the temple and many different bridges around the lake.

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Much of the drinking water for Beijing comes from the river and western lakes here so there were signs encouraging water conservation and protection.

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I also visited the Temple of Heaven south of the Forbidden City. The Temple is part of a large park complex and is where the Emperor (the Son of Heaven) would go to pray for good harvests and ask for guidance. The base is square and the temple round symbolizing the connection between earth (square) and heaven (round) in Chinese philosophy. The museum had exhibits depicting how the temples shape and purpose had evolved over time, one of the wooden models is pictured here. The center of the ceiling of the temple has a golden dragon, also symbolizing the Emperor, as I understand it.

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We had a quick couple days in Shanghai, and many of us visited the famous Bund and walked along the water at night. The section where many people walk to the Bund from the Nanjing pedestrian mall area was completely packed with people, but as soon as you walked a block or two away, the crowds thinned out considerably. Still busy, but you had some breathing room. The view of the Pudong financial district (all developed in the last ~20 years) is pretty impressive and there are many dinner cruises along the river at night, including the boat with the dragon figures below.

We visited the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum, located right in People’s Park. We had a great VIP tour with a guide and got to ask lots of questions. There is a model of the historic Bund in the lobby with an artistic rendering of the Pudong buildings behind it. They also have a model of the downtown area of Shanghai upstairs that is the largest city model in the world, and we got to access the VIP viewing area above (Julia is modeling by the VIP sign).

Since we’ve been doing some transportation work, it was interesting to see the map of the planned subway system for Shanghai in 2020 and wonder how it compared to the plans for the Beijing subway system. Both have expanded incredibly in the past 15-20 years. We enjoyed the time wandering around the different exhibits depicting different aspects of and goals for the city of Shanghai.

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After Shanghai, we had one day in Wuxi and visited different places, including Lake Taihu which is one of the five biggest lakes in China. It’s also very polluted from both industry and farming, and there are a lot of algae problems with the lake. The government is working very hard to address the pollution problems here. There are some very pretty spots along the lake so it is still used as a recreation destination.

On the social side of things, part of our group took some time last night to go to a local karaoke place to celebrate Karoline’s birthday. I’ll only post a few photos, suffice it to say we all had a really fun time and sang some crazy songs. Karoline also used the golden mic to make a brief birthday speech, and others joined us for cake at the hotel afterwards.

Only one week left, and lots to do, but I think overall we’re making the most of this trip to China!

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