China (the tiny part of it that we saw) is: beauty, ugliness, splendor, squalor, tradition, change, hope, despair, friendliness, and hostility--all at once. Like many places in Asia (according to what we've seen a little, and heard a lot), it's a land of constant, enormous contradictions, and the locals barely even seem to notice.
The main streets of the city are fairly clean and orderly--except for the traffic, which rivals Korea in its level of chaos and danger, though it's not quite as heavy. The outlying areas, as we saw on the drives from the airport to the city and from the city to some tourist sites, are like one huge landfill. Trash everywhere. Some members of our tour group were almost physically sickened by the sight of so much litter.
Some of the architecture of the buildings and bridges is beautiful, and some of the shanty towns and apartment buildings we saw were really crude and dingy. We can barely imagine what living conditions are like in "real" rural China.
Then there are the tourist attractions. Most of the major stuff we saw was from the Ming Dynasty (14th century) and the Qing Dynasty (17th C). Vastness, symmetry, tranquility, and transcendence were the common themes.
Here are the sights, in their own little photo galleries, in roughly the same order in which we saw them. It's been arranged as a virtual tour, so you can start at the Summer Palace and click your way through to the next attraction without coming back to this index. Click on any of the tiny pictures to see the full-size image, then use the back button on your browser to return to the gallery you were in. Enjoy the pictures, and please do send us some feedback.
the Summer Palace|
the ice sculpture park
the Great Wall at Badaling
the Ming Tombs
Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City
the Temple of Heaven
a cloisonne factory
a jade factory