Is it Beijing or Peking?

April 30, 2008

Tom  Beijing (called Peking by foreigners) – has 15 million people, is the capital of China, and was the capital of the Mongol, Ming and Qing dynasties.  It is undergoing change/development unprecedented in world history.  The city is located on a plain that runs from the Yellow River in the south to the low but jagged mountains about an hour north of the city where the Great Wall is located.  The only hills in the city are the result of the excavations for the moat around the Forbidden City and the result of dredging for the formation of the various lakes by the different emperors.  These hills are topped with temples that provide sweeping views of the city.


The air pollution for the past two days has been horrible.  Note the picture of my brother Pat (with face mask) getting ready to board the subway. 

What will they do during the Olympics?  They may close down some industry and coal burning power plants but they can’t control the dust/sand blowing in from outside the city.  At the same time, the city is CLEAN, you don’t see litter anywhere – in fact they even scrub the sidewalks! – I think this is a demonstration of cleaning equipment.

Also, they don’t permit cars on the roads that are more than 10 years old – I wouldn’t be able to drive, I’ve got a 1997 and a 1991! 


Everything is BIG, the size (area) of the city, the population, the new skyscrapers, the monuments, the parks, the temples that remain (after the cultural revolution –  only about 50 out of 2,500 temples remain), the avenues, the Forbidden City, the demolition, the building cranes, the Olympic venues, the government buildings, the new airport, the new highways, etc., etc. 

In relation to cultural and urban scale I would draw an analogy to the vastness of Alaska.  The structural development here is amazing – where will it end?  Can it be successfully accomplished in conjunction with the rural to urban change, the poverty that remains, the communist government, etc., etc.?


After my presentation on “Fitness for Life” at the US Embassy, we ate lunch in the Kerry Center where Joe’s office is located and then took the subway to the Beijing Urban Planning Exhibition Center.  It was an excellent introduction to Beijing in that it had exhibits, models, and movies explaining the current and future development of the city.  There was a huge model of the entire city with sections you could actually walk over (thick Plexiglas).  Afterwards, we walked past Mao’s tomb and then through Tiananmen Square past the Great Hall of the People and the National


I took a picture of a young Chinese dance group,

then our group,

then my brother Pat in front of the entrance to the Forbidden City. 

Our Chinese dinner that evening had some interesting menu items – fish lips, goat brain, cow intestines, snake, vinegar jellyfish, braised hoof of sheep, grilled bull’s tongue, stewed camel, chicken heads, and fungus on greens for the vegetarians.   We were also entertained by a “pop” Chinese dancer.

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