Live Your Life More By Traveling to China
Visited the high points of Shanghai, Suzhou, Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Yangtze, Hong Kong. There is much more to see. Such an exciting and interesting country. Archeological records demonstrated a highly developed civilization in China dates back to 4,000 BCE. The Chinese people have shared a common culture longer than any other people on earth. The Shang, China’s first dynasty, established around 1800 BCE, called themselves the “Sons of Heaven.” By 1500 BCE the Chinese were producing fine art in jade, ceramics, and bronze, not to mention their advancements in science and mathematics.
China: What a totalitarian regime can do in twenty years is TRULY AMAZING. My overall impression: strong infrastructure, modern transportation (high tech subways with flashing advertisements on plasma screens, a plethora of necessities in chic shopping cubbies, very orderly queues), every tacky American fast food (plus Starbuck’s and Haagen Das—one scoop of dark chocolate, $3 US), beautiful parks and landscaping among the cement and glass high rises, protection of the old buildings to preserve of the past what the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) didn’t destroy, and everything clean, clean, clean with the exception of the filthy, eye-stinging, un-breathable air (nary a star except in Tibet). Shanghai outclasses every other big city in the world. Bigger, better, hipper, more fast-paced without the frenetic frenzy of Tokyo and New York. And consumerism—we may have 50 different types of toothpaste in WalMart, but Shanghai’s Number One Department Store has a sweater floor, a shoe floor, a make-up floor (and I bought every potion/lotion/cream to lighten age spots and skin they sold, including those recommended to Michael Jackson). My favorite: the Shanghai cloth market—at least a square kilometer of bolts of silk, wool, cotton, fake fur, designer fabrics. Since the Friendly Skies didn’t deliver my luggage for three days (and may I add, nor for two days at the end of the trip, where they also stole my TSA-compliant luggage lock—the tribulations of having been branded a “drug mule”), I had to have some clothes made since my traveling companions were beginning to make rude sotto voce comments about my wrinkled, disheveled appearance. However, I didn’t want to miss one tour or one minute of sightseeing, ergo buying clothes and deodorant were low on my list. So on the last afternoon I went to the cloth market and had 2 pairs of fine wool, lined pants (burgundy and navy) and a dragon fly-embroidered burgundy silk jacket made and delivered to the hotel the next day. I paid a premium because I couldn’t take the time to bargain, for having the items made in less than 24-hours and delivered across town. Cost me an exorbitant $42 for the two pants and $32 for the lined, reversible jacket. I love Shanghai. My new traveling buddy, Jo-Ann from Los Angeles, had a haircut in a high-end salon that included a 30-minute head massage as the young woman washed her hair in a recliner, not hung over a sink, then cut and blow dry for $8. Jo-Ann had the same thing in Hong Kong at the end of the trip and paid an outrageously exorbitant $25 for the same service.
Shanghai meaning “by the sea,” although I never saw the coast, has 17 million people. The whole state of Arizona has 8 million people. China—1.3 billion people and growing. It was hard to get my head around the numbers. When the communists came to power in 1949, one of the first things they wanted to do was make Shanghai into a showcase of how Communism really worked—eradication of slums, rehabilitation of the city’s hundreds of thousands of opium addicts, elimination of child and slave labor; a good thing and unfortunately, this meant they eliminated most of the city’s businesses, thus causing the economy to stagnate for some 40 years, but they’ve made up for it in the last 20 years. Shanghai has an exciting modern energy, spectacular museums (despite the theft by Chiang Kai); the skylines are stunning; the hip and traditional walk side by side; frogs and swimming fish (they pay extra for really fresh aka alive) are displayed for sale for tonight’s dinner; peanut brittle churned by hand in a big pot on the street; gadgets sold to turn one’s shoes into skates with flashing lights; three stores on every block offer cell phones—no PDAs or pocket PCs; it’s all in the cell phone. Too much to see and experience in a few days—30 Starbuck’s, 70 McDonald’s, 50 KFC’s, 60 universities (and that’s just in Shanghai!). I’m ready to go back. Since I’m sure I must be the only person on the planet who has not had a McDonald’s burger (fries and coffee only), Jo-Ann and I went to McCafe to try the new special, Funtastic, which was a Chinese style barbeque sliced beef or chicken on a bun made of compressed rice and mushrooms. In a McCafe one can have typical McDonald’s fare with a variety of foo foo espresso/cappuccino coffees. All was delicious and the place was packed.
Spent one day in Suzhou, the so-called Venice of the East, and home town of I.M. Pei, enjoying the inevitable tourist boat ride on the Grand Canal. By the 14th century Suzhou was the leading silk producer in the nation. The town became a spot favored by the Chinese aristocracy, pleasure-seekers, the leisured, famous scholars, actors and painters, who set about constructing villas and garden retreats for themselves, ergo it’s a beautiful town. The silk factory is even worth a second visit. Things have improved since the description in Memoirs of a Geisha or maybe the Japanese didn’t quite have it down like the Chinese. One cocoon generates 1,200 meters of silk filament with the thickness 1/7 of a human hair, which is the protein from the mulberry-eating silk worm. 7-8 cocoons make one silk thread. 1,000 cocoons make a silk blouse. And even the poor quality silk gets made into silk paper used for paintings and for the filling in the silk comforters. Four young women demonstrated how they stretched the woven silk to make the comforter filling. It looked very easy. A couple of us tried and couldn’t even get it to stretch! Those young women have fingers and arms of steel. Suzhou is famous for its crab farms—male crabs in October, female in November. $30 a crab (therefore not a local staple), which is steamed in vinegar and ginger: sounded delicious—another reason to go back.
From Shanghai we flew to Beijing, considered the political capital with 13 million people, whereas Shanghai is considered the business capital (and Xian, the cultural capital). Visited all the obligatory tourist spots: The Forbidden City, forbidden to peasants and everyone else for 500 years, where the Ming and Qing emperors and royalty lived and from which ruled all of China. Although ruling was pretty much in the hands of the court eunuchs; the emperors generally couldn’t be bothered—too many consuming diversions. The palace was continuously going up in flames—a little paper lantern here, a fireworks display there, with a sudden gust from the Gobi and the whole place would need renovation with the eunuchs and officials getting rich off the repair bills. Eunuchs of Halliburton? The Summer Palace, where the royalty went to escape the ferocious city heat was built in 1750, destroyed by the British-French Allied Army in 1860, then restored in 1888. Three quarters of the palace grounds is covered by water, Kunming Lake, where we took the de rigueur tourist ride across the lake in a dragon boat. The famous jade (or marble, depending upon the literature) boat sits on the lake. Beautifully carved out of jade, the Dowager Empress had it built by diverting funds from the military—you go, Dowager. The buildings of both complexes were a feast for the eyes. Kodac moments abounded. Loved the names: Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, where the emperor held court, Longevity Hill, Pavilion of Precious Clouds, Temple of the Sea of Wisdom, the Hall of Longevity and Joy, where the Empress Dowager lived, the Hall of Ripples where Emperor Guangxu lived, the Cloud Dispelling Hall, where the emperor and empress celebrated their birthdays. Longevity House, where the influential eunuch Le Lianuing of the Qing Dynasty lived, is now an exhibition of Chinese Eunuch life; the Gate of Divine Military Genius, the Thousand Autumns Pavilion, Hall of Mental Cultivation, Palace of Heavenly Purity—gotta do something better than Casa Leslianna for my abode.
Tiananmen Square, adjacent to The Forbidden City is three times the size of Red Square, and can hold a million people. Had my picture taken in front of the main gate where Mao’s gigantic portrait hangs (world’s largest oil painting, which is freshly replaced every year and Mao grows no older). Lots of people milling around the unassuming square, with vendors selling copies of Mao’s “Little Red Book,” and the ubiquitous postcards, silk bags and Beijing Olympic tee shirts. I stood in line with the admiring hordes to visit the mausoleum to view Mao’s body. Of course, one is not sure whether one is looking at the real dead Mao or his wax copy. Apparently the real body has to be periodically refurbished. In a glass casket with strategic lighting, Mao’s face is glowing (“You can’t be a beacon if your light don’t shine...” in those tuneful words of wisdom from Loretta Lynn). Can’t believe people still revere him—heck of a salesman, since the Great Leap Forward was a complete disaster and the Cultural Revolution destroyed historical and cultural artifacts and a generation of people while creating a system where the petty and stupid could wreak havoc (I make no comparisons here).
Next mandatory tourist stop: The Great Wall. Our group stopped at the main tourist spot in Badaling only long enough to shop and have a picture computer-generated of me in front of the Great Wall on a sunny day with blue skies, which I never saw and am not totally convinced exists anymore, such is the pollution. Our group climbed the Badaling “wild wall.” A jeep took us off road and we climbed an un-restored section of the Great Wall. Very cool, very quiet; I could listen and hear the ancient thundering hordes and hooves. Wilma, the 83 year-old, two pack-a-day farm gal from Indiana, may have taken longer, but she climbed with us and had a smoke at the top! The Great Wall, 3,000 miles, is actually several walls constructed by independent provinces to keep out the marauding, raping and pillaging nomads and eventually linked up under Emperor Qin Shihuang. Genghis Khan supposedly said, “The strength of a wall depends on the courage of those who defend it;” probably Mongol for “Remember the Alamo.” And, of course, sentries could always be bribed. So although it didn’t keep out all the Mongol hordes, it was a pretty snappy elevated highway for transporting people and equipment across mountainous terrain. Its beacon tower system, using smoke signals generated from wolves’ dung, transmitted news of enemy movements back to the capital. My awe and appreciation of the wall, is that it was built over mountain after mountain, no flat spots or rolling hills here. And on a clear day in ancient times, one could probably see miles of it.
Having read, The Wild Swans, The Chinese Nail Murders, Life and Death in Shanghai and China Wakes (a must read), I pestered our guide, ZhangKe with questions. He told us how his grandparents died of starvation during the Great Leap Forward, how his parents, his mother, a physician and his father, an engineer, were sent to the countryside, euphemism for rural, backward, no running water, etc., during the Cultural Revolution. This was where his parents met. When they were allowed to return to the city of Wuhan, currently a mere village of 8 million, his mother was assigned to a hospital and his father to a worker job, where he was able to rise in the ranks with his knowledge of engineering and worked on the massive gate for the Three Gorges Dam. ZhangKe and his wife, teacher and administrator at one of the universities in Wuhan in the college of tourism, are both Han Chinese. Han are the vast majority (93%) of Chinese and this is the group that is allowed only one child. ZhangKe said he was disappointed that they had a son because he knows how hard his life is going to be in the future. The Chinese are raising a generation of over-indulged, self-centered men with little ability to play well with others. After 4,000 years of strong man ruling history, the next 15-20 years, should be interesting. If a Han dares to have a second child, there is not only an $800 fine, but the child is not recognized—no identity papers, so no access to health care, no schooling, no ability to travel. ZhangKe says the government is re-visiting this decision; after all why should the child be punished? ZhangKe’s wife is Communist and he is not. She became Communist to advance her career within the university. I asked if she had to attend weekly meetings and do self-criticism. And yes she does! The communist hierarchical system is still in place and the petty and mean-spirited are still reporting on friends and neighbors. ZhangKe says people are more out-spoken than before, but people aren’t really forthright—too risky. People tend to be circumspect when asked questions about the government and society. Under Mao there were 4 classes of people: workers, farmers, educated, and soldiers. Now another class has been added: businessman. Mao encouraged population growth as a method of combating the nuclear threat—the more people a country has, the more soldiers and people would survive a nuclear holocaust. In 1984 Deng Xiaoping instituted the birth control law to slow down the growth. And to prevent an influx into the cities, (the government doesn’t easily give permission for people to move into the cities and permission to move, you must have or you’re like our undocumented workers) the factories are being built in the countryside.
Loved the little Chinese kids with their split pants for easy, quick potty breaks. The Chinese begin potty training at 1 month (you should have heard the gasps at this announcement while Freud rolled over in his grave) and the child is trained by 2-3 months old. Diapers are very expensive, not to mention a major landfill problem. Here’s how they do it. Mom (no mention of Dad’s participation) squats with baby’s back against her chest and whistles. She does this every waking hour until baby is trained. Baby learns through the squat, whistle, reward method. Important since in the older portions of the city even today, 15-20 families share one bathroom and central kitchen. I had visions of teenage girls starting to line up at 2AM to make the 7AM school bus.
All around Shanghai and Beijing, we took taxis. The taxis speak in English and Mandarin welcoming the passenger and telling us when we’re arriving at our destination, as well as, “Passenger entitled to refuse payment under any of the following circumstances: when the driver smokes in car, uses a cellular whilst driving, spits or litters out the window, abuses the passenger.” I always paid whilst saying thank you. 30% of Beijing have private cars, the highest percentage in China. Beijing is building its sixth ring road (beltway) and putting in additional subways for the Olympics. And wow are those Chinese gearing up for the Olympics. Every crane in the world must be here and their building has caused the price of cement here in the U.S. to escalate as China has bought it all.
From Beijing, we took the overnight train to Xian, the cultural capital, in Shaanxi province, which was a total kick. A big slumber party with us all running around in our jammies to check out the bathroom (very important) and other amenities. Of course, I slept like a baby, annoying my roommate, Jo-Ann, who did not. Arriving in the morning we went to our hotel for breakfast, check in and the compulsory city tour. Although known for the Qin Dynasty terra cotta warriors discovered in 1974, Xian (pronounced “she on”) has a lot to offer. It was the starting point of the Silk Road and is surrounded by rivers and mountains providing excellent geographic feng shui, which is why many emperors located here. The Silk Road came about because a Han Chinese emperor sent a minion to find a horse; it took 13 years to get to Afghanistan. Learning how to ride and breed horses was important as it allowed the Chinese to go after the Huns and assorted hordes and defeat them. “A horse. A horse. My empire for a horse,” those famous words uttered by the emperor and centuries later plagiarized by William, an English playwright.
The terra cotta warriors, 30 years after discovery, are housed in a building constructed over the archaeological site. The same emperor who connected the sections of the Great Wall had the terra cotta army built. The fellow who discovered the warriors whilst drilling a well, now has a government job in the adjoining museum and bookstore, signing books about the discovery and excavation. There are more than 6,000 warriors and horses and still more burial mounds to be excavated. Every figure differs in facial features and expressions. The warriors were set out in battle formation on a brick road (no, not yellow, although a few of us irreverently sang, “We’re off to kill the Huns; the raping and pillaging Huns…”). The generals and senior officers had swords that were coated with chromium to resist rust so that 2,200 years later they were still sharp. Chrome plating was, by the by, “invented” by the Germans in 1937 and the Americans in 1950. The Chinese get credit for silk, navigational compass, paper, printing, pasta, and gunpowder and fireworks, but not chromium-plating.
When in Xian, don’t miss Beiyuanmen in the Muslim quarter, a street of traders, craftspeople and large market. Although I’m not particularly fond of shopping in general, I loved looking and bargaining in China. Our hotel was near the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. And in the nearby park was an international food fair, which fortunately did not include any American entries, where I perused, though not sampled, deep fried Burmese spider, grilled centipede, silk worm, scorpion, cicada, seahorse and starfish (said to be good for kidneys). I noticed more people looking than eating. Sugar-coated fruit and soup were the big sellers. I stuck with my cookies from a local bakery.
To get the flavor of “peasant farm life” our group split up into smaller groups and spent the night with a Huxian farmer family. A hotly debated overnight stay, since we’d been staying in elegant hotels with all the amenities; I enjoyed it and one night was enough. We helped our hostess make dinner; we danced with her friends in the park after dinner; and slept in very clean rooms with some sort of nasty, crunchy wheat husk pillow where I had the best night’s sleep of the trip. Didn’t even wake up once! The Mr. Farmer ate with us at dinner; the missus wouldn’t. My roommates had difficulty when the mister served us using the same chopsticks he was eating with. I just went ahead and ate everything and didn’t worry about it. These were well off peasants from what I could see—television, microwave, two story house with two bathrooms. Apparently they hired people to work in their fields and they had city jobs. In the morning we toured the whole village and visited the other side of the tracks where people lived really peasantly (with a TV), in mud-brick homes with dirt floors.
We visited the studio of Pan Xiaoling, a very successful artist. Huxian Peasant Painting is a style said to have originated in the late 1950’s when Hu County peasants, who were building a new reservoir, began painting pictures of the work in progress in order to record the work and to inspire the workers to work better (Can you imagine landscape artists and portrait painters along the roadside to encourage the CalTrans, ODOT, and ADOT workers). The first peasant painters used soot, lime and red soil from the area to make paint. The Communist party organized art classes so professionals could teach these peasants how to paint. Huxian peasants continued to paint and during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) their work was shown abroad to prove to the outside world that common, ordinary workers could produce works of art. Ordinary life was the subject with titles like, “Growing Grain and Cotton for our Motherland” and “Never Forget the State after a Good Harvest.” Today the Huxian Peasant Paintings still show the ordinary aspects of life—festivals, parades, harvest, music, village traditions, children, all in a primitive style. Full of color and typical scenes, I bought two of Pan Xiaoling’s paintings for my office. She has published two collected works of her paintings. You’ll see her works at www.panxiaoling.com.
Chengdu, “City of Hibiscus” because of the fragrant trees planted along its streets in the 19th Century, is the capital of Sichuan province. We stayed at the JinJiang Hotel, dripping with elegance and luxury. The city is known for its tea houses where one can buy a cup of tea and spend the whole day sipping refills whilst reading, laptopping, cellphoning (and I despise verbing). Pouring the tea from large brass tea kettles is theatre itself. The tea doctors can hit one’s little cup from 5-6 feet away! I indulged in a chair massage (actually I indulged at almost every opportunity) and looked for the famed “ear pickers,” but couldn’t find one; I would have liked to have experienced someone picking my ears, whatever that entailed. The tea room also had a program of puppets, traditional Chinese opera with amazing costuming and the acquired-taste “singing,” traditional instrument musicians, a young man who presented an amazing hand shadow show, and the famous face changers. The magic of face changing is something to see. The magicians paint their faces with the wild make-up like the Chinese opera and change it right in front of you. They turn their heads to the side and snap back with a different painted face and different make-up colors.
A visit to Chengdu isn’t complete without going to the Panda Sanctuary. Delightful creatures. Great fun to watch. All they do is eat! What looks like an opposable thumb is really an enlarged and elongated wrist bone. Pandas rarely run and they’re not very good at climbing; they look more like a caterpillar inching up a tree—too cute. They really can’t even stand except leaning against a wall or tree. The panda doesn’t hibernate because the bamboo diet doesn’t provide enough fuel for hibernation. The word “panda” comes from Nepal and means “bamboo eater.” Theodore and Kermit Roosevelt were the first western hunters to shoot a panda, whose skin was displayed at the Chicago’s Field Museum—a dubious distinction for all. When Ruth Harkness brought pandas to the U.S. in the 1930’s, Customs listed them as two puppies. The panda is endangered because of China’s need for wood; the resulting deforestation drove the panda from its home down in the deep valleys of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. They’re also endangered because of their low birth rate. The female panda can conceive only two or three days a year and because it takes at least 18 months to raise the baby, the female panda only reproduces once every two years if she’s hot item. Also impacting is the close-kin mating within small groups—limited gene pool. The female’s short conception window and the male’s extremely low libido as a result of only 20% of the bamboo eaten is absorbed so they have little energy for sex (not a man there could understand the concept) contributes to the low birth rate. The science center at the panda resort says pandas seem to have forgotten how to mate so they are required to view panda porn (I am not making this up) showing the mechanics prior to mating season. I asked to see the panda porn instead of the film shown, but was turned down. A newborn panda looks like a pink mouse and is blind and toothless. The films showed how the mother would bat around the baby like a toy or annoying mouse and the researchers would have to rescue the baby before she killed it. And you’ll understand why when I tell you the baby panda nurses up to 14 hours a day for the first year; any mother would lose patience and consider retroactive birth control. Pandas have been around as a species for 8,000 years and are believed to have been carnivores, but adapted to vegetarianism as their environment changed. Chengdu with it subtropical climate is too hot for the panda, so all the pandas have air-conditioned lodgings for the summer months. Along with the adorable pandas, were adorable mini-mobs of Chinese school children on a field trip. Hours of adorableness in a beautiful park setting. And I bought the obligatory mechanical plush panda.
After Chengdu we drove to Chongqing (30 million residents, largest city in China, maybe world; mountain city—no bicycles, weather: up to 115 and humid), where we boarded our Yangtze river ship. Having done the Amazon and Nile in high river boat style, I had great expectations, although knew it was too cold for me to jump in and be towed along for a surf ride. Having my own cabin with balcony and a bathtub on the top level just a few steps away from the viewing lounge and bar was too perfect. Weeks with a group, and growing quite weary of the whining, negative mother-daughter duo from rural Texas, and the retired preacher currently in a barbershop quartet who bored us endlessly about his tofu diet to cure his diabetes, accompanied by his long-suffering, sugar-consuming wife with the ditzy giggle, it was lovely to spend hours by myself with my binoculars looking out at the green terraced countryside, limestone formations and passing scenery of the Yangtze. Every day we had an excursion. Once to a town that will soon be submerged, visiting families who will be relocated; another town that has been relocated to higher ground with new roads and housing (housing, that is, if you could afford it with the paltry stipend the government provided to move). One house was amazingly beautiful with tiled courtyard, big TV, elegantly carved furniture. Of course, the adorable children were everywhere giving us the peace sign and posing for pictures. I’ll never travel again without a digital camera; the disappointment I caused when the kids turned over the camera and didn’t see their pictures was too humiliating. Along the river were markings on the rocks showing the current river level and the level the water would be when the Three Gorges Dam was completed. The Yangtze, a mere 3,900 miles (6,300 kilometers, 300 km more than the Mississippi; the Nile, 4,160 and the Amazon, 4,000) is number three in water volume (after the Amazon and Congo); its source is in west Xingjian province near the Tibet border and the river flows into the Mekong Delta as well as the China Sea. We cruised 400 miles from Chongqing to Wuhan. Loved all the names: Tiger Leaping Gorge (1,200 feet), Dragon Gate Gorge, Misty Gorge, Emerald Gorge. The ancient Ba people lived in the gorges; we could see archeological sites with hanging coffins built into the cliffs. Two archaeological sites, new stone age 5,000 years ago, are feverishly being excavated to beat the deadline as they will be covered when the dam is completed ala Aswan. When the project is complete 11% of China’s electricity will be produced here.1.1 million people have to be re-located (to benefit 15 million, the party line)—the young people are thrilled, the old people with ancestral ties to the land are very unhappy. The sturgeon are also being resettled since they cannot reach the upper reaches of the Yangtze with the dam building.
As the river is very low in April, we stopped during the night since the pilot needed daylight to navigate the narrows and changing sandbars. The Three Gorges Dam is scheduled to open in 2009; currently there are 16 bridges, by 2008 there will be 99 bridges—China doesn’t do small scale. I even enjoyed going through the locks, being lowered 70 meters and visiting the park overlooking the dam—what a monster—18,200 megawatts with 26 turbine generators. However, if you are in a hurry and simply can’t wait for the 5 or 6 other ships to join you in the lock to all be lowered at the same time, you can pay for the privilege of taking the ship elevator. A major honking crane lifts your small, under-3,000-ton, ship in a box of water! Normal building in China is carried on 20 hours a day, 7 days a week. A lot can be accomplished with that schedule. The dam’s building schedule is 24 hours a day; 17 years to build a dam with 28,000 workers from an idea that began with Sun Yat Sen in 1919 and became a village under communist vision built for 100,000 people with all the amenities—the workers need their families to encourage them (TV may have replaced peasants painting).
Disembarking near Wuhan (which is lake country and we had no time to spend—another reason to go back), we flew to Hong Kong. Since I’ve been a couple of times, Hong Kong wasn’t high on my list. But what a difference 20 years and a communist takeover can make. Where I remember over-looking the border from the New Territories and seeing fields of rice paddies in 1967, is now massive housing developments and Shenzhen, a special economic zone. Everything, including the tacky high-rise housing, has been rebuilt. Land fill has increased the size of the island of Hong Kong and the airport has moved to Lantau Island, closer to the HK Disneyland. Mostly wealthy Chinese live on Victoria Peak, instead of Brits as before. There are whole cities and developments where there was once countryside and farms. There’s an escalator from mid Victoria Peak to sea level—800 meters (2,600 feet); it must be the world’s longest escalator. Un-freaking-believable. And the prices—yikes, another reason to go to Shanghai. In 1988 I bought a tailored suit for $250. This time it was $420! I thought I would buy 5 outfits; that concept was significantly reduced! And Hong Kong doesn’t have the excitement and energy of Shanghai; it’s just over-crowded, sluggish and haughty. They still drive on the left side, have their own currency, speak Cantonese, and make sure you know they are Hong Kong, not China! That totalitarian thing really doesn’t work for the Hong Kongians/Kongese/Kongettes.
I could continue waxing eloquently about all facets of China—jade has been revered in China back to ancient times. With diamonds it’s clarity, color, cut. With jade it’s hardness, clarity, color and sound (the higher the pitch, the better quality). Rose quartz=pink jade, lapis=blue jade, onyx, jasper, agate, turquoise all are jade in China—but you’ve probably had enough for volume one. I’d like to return and offer my services to correct a lot of China’s written materials! Hunan is opening for tourism; they have natural hot springs—whoo hoo and ahhhh. Not to mention the Li River and southern China.