Wise Elder

Beijing #2 – Nov 6, 2010

Giant Buddha in Yonghe Lamasery


We met our English-speaking guide and driver bright and early this Saturday, our first full day in Beijing, and were thrilled that it was Josephine’s day off so that she could come with us. Today we will visit the Lama Temple, the “Old City” Hutongs, the “798 Arts District” and the Silk Market.       

Evie & Cathy @ Lama Temple

Touring the Hutongs by Pedicab

It was a special day at the Yonghe Lamasery, so it was very crowded and many people were at the temple offering incense and prayers for relatives. We LOVED the many golden colored gingko trees that almost looked surreal. Workers were out sweeping the golden ginko leaves with the most interesting brooms (see gallery picture). In the temple there is a fabulous, unbelievably HUGE Buddha. No photos were allowed indoors, so I have scanned the above picture from a postcard. This Buddha is 26 meters (85 feet) high and 8 meters (26 feet) wide and it is a statue of Maitreya.  The website “Mandarin and Beyond” says this about this Buddha carving:   ”It was a gift for Emperor Qianlong from the Seventh Dalai Lama. The temple was converted into a lamasery in 1744, but this part was not completed until 1750. Emperor Qianlong felt that the area at the rear of the lamasery was too bare and planned to build a high tower as a protective screen, but it was very difficult to find a sandalwood tree of such size. The Tibetan envoy heard this in Beijing and told the Seventh Dalai Lama about it. Shortly afterwards, he sent people to look for a huge tree. Finally he found one in Tibet and sent it here as a gift to the Emperor to express his thanks because Emperor Qianlong had sent troops to Tibet to put down a rebellion and turn back the power to the Seventh Dalai Lama. It took three years to ship this huge tree from the banks of the Yangtze River, though the Grand Canal and up to Beijing and another three years for carving and erection. The hall was built later. In 1750 it was entirely completed. Behind the Great Buddha, there are ten thousand small Buddhas on three stories. Hence the name, Ten-Thousand-Happiness Pavilion.First refurbished in 1953, the temple was again restored in 1978, and opened to the public in 1981. The latest effort, which started in 1992, focused on the renewal of the Giant Buddhist Maitreya and was completed in October 1993. The two-year facelift cost more than 500,000 yuan ($87,719) state funds most of which was spent on coating the statue with 2.5 kilos of gold foil. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Maitreya is the tallest and biggest in the world today.”       

We had a grand time touring the “old city” hutongs by pedicab. China Daily: says “The word hutong came from the Mongolian language about 700 years ago. The original Mongolian word was hottog, meaning ” water well.” In other words, it means a place where people live, because people always gather where there is water. Today in Beijing, the word hutong means a small alleyway or lane. They are typical of the old part of Beijing and are formed by lines of siheyuan (a compound made up of rooms around a courtyard ) in which most Beijing residents used to live.”       

Mr. Zhang & his first "Window Card"

Halfway through the tour we visited an old, authentic Chinese home that if sold, would be worth $5 million U.S. dollars today. It was neither large nor particularly nice, but certainly interesting. The various rooms were not connected – so you had to go into the open air central courtyard to reach another room. The family does not want to sell, so they offer tours. The highlight was when I gave a little Compendium “window card” to Mr. Zhang, the homeowner. He wanted to be sure it was not a religious message – and when Josephine translated it into Chinese for him, he was delighted by the special message .       


Josephine had never been to the “798 Arts District” and I had heard from a family member (thank you Jennifer) that it was a special place. Indeed, it was quite eclectic and you no doubt will enjoy the pictures from there. Who gnu that one would find dinosaurs and cotton candy in Beijing? Not to mention giants and Vikings on Harleys.  Those Harley Davidson guys were making lots of noise.  They sped by so quickly that I was thrilled that I actually managed to get a picture.       

Viking (?) on a Harley

We stopped at Lei Garden, Beijing’s best Dim Sum restaurant for mid afternoon lunch. Josephine ordered for us, and we had our first opportunity to sample her favorite “Chicken Feet” and also pork bellies. We bravely tasted the chicken feet (the smallest possible bites),  but decided to leave most for our Josephine who loved them so much.  Quite challenging to chew the cartilage and then extract it from your mouth in polite company. Oh my. Josephine told us that there is little osteoporosis in Asia because they eat all parts of the animal – she explained that chicken feet are full of collagen. (I don’t know about you, but those sure look like mighty BIG feet to me…..).       

Garnishes for Roasted Duck

That night we went to what Josephine thinks is Beijing’s best Peking Duck restaurant, “Dadong”.  We loved the Peking Duck, but skipped the “duck tongues” and let our sweet Josephine have the whole platter (yikes!) The duck was carved right at our table and each of us was given a wonderful square plate of garnishes. Josephine showed us how the garnishes were to be eaten. My surprise favorite was a piece of roasted duck dipped in sugar crystals. It was an amazing combination of tastes.       

After that wonderful Peking Duck dinner at DaDong, Josephine had the driver take us to see the night view of the Olympic Venue “Water Cube”. We were so tired due to the time change that we could barely keep our heads up – yet very impressive.       

"Water Cube" - Beijing Olympics

Here are a few pictures of the largest video screen in the world. Note how big it is when compared to the buses below. Can’t wait to share with you about our second day in Beijing.       

World's Biggest Video Screen



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