As we traveled north out of Beijing and toward the Great Wall, we stopped at a jade production factory. The shop is government owned. We were given a brief seminar on the qualities of jade. I learned that jade comes in multiple colors and to help distinguish between imitation and real. We saw in their display area very large art pieces of jade that sold for thousands of dollars. The tour also provided time to enter the very large jade jewelry store and buy pieces. Several members of our family will be getting jade jewelry presents for Christmas.
After a 30-minute drive we finally arrived to the Wall. There were many tour buses there. We were given two hours to tour the Wall. To the left the Wall was steep but it was a quick climb. To the right it was a slow long slop with easier steps to climb. We decided to take the most difficult side to reach a higher level in less time. As we climb we notice that the number of steps was constantly uneven. Some were one step and others were three high. It was a strenuous climb and after walking for 30-minutes we reached a plateau where we stopped. We sat and looked at what we had climbed and over to the other side. Now it started to sink in, "We Are Here!" We were now sitting on one of the World Wonders. WOW!
Built approximately 7,000 years BC so it's construction started 9,000 years ago. It was build to defend from the horse riding Mongol tribes of the north. Personally, I thought it would be easier to train men to be horse soldiers to repel and defend the empire rather than to invest so much to build the Wall. How many men to build it? How many men did it take to work the Wall year-round since it had almost 1,100 outposts on the Wall? It's very hard to imagine the size of the administration and resources (money and material) to build it. We find it very hard to fully comprehend the entire human effort to have built it. I believe the Great Wall construction project overshadows the construction of the Great Pyramids of Giza.
I had time to reflect while we looked over the horizon. Trini, my wife, and I have within the last three years visited the Pyramids of Teotihuacan (Mexico), the Mayan ruins in Yucatan in Mexico, the Vatican plus the Coliseum and in South America the Cape and Machu Picchu (Peru). Now we see the Wall and in a few days we will also see the Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City and the Terra Cotta Army in Xian.
For a moment it was a feeling do exhilaration and excitement. So much ancient and wonderful history. So much to learn. It's truly phenomenal what we as a human race have created and built over the centuries. The personal experience of being on the Wall is beyond words. It exceeded my imagination. It's incredible what our ancestors across the world accomplished. It's mind boggling to consider what we have and can create. We will all remember the experience of being here for the rest of our lives. It's a major moment of our existence.
The group gathered to prepare to return to Beijing and it seemed we were savoring the overall emotional experience of actually being here.
We returned to the bus and looking forward to return to our hotel rooms to rest but we were informed that there was another stop on the schedule.
We stopped to visit the historic summer palace of the emperors. It's now a large public park area known as the Kunming Lake. It has a large man made lake and across it is the once summer palace buildings of Empress Dowager. It was a weekend and there was very little open space around the lake. To make matters worse in terms of crowding there was the big inflated yellow "Giant Rubber Duck" on the lake. The people, or better stated, the crowd, were there to view it. Apparently this now a famous sculpture that is traveling around the world.
We finally arrived to our hotel and our feet were hurting. So much walking! Trini and I had been working out at the gym to prepare for this trip. We both agreed that when we return home we will have to spend a great deal of time working on the step exercise machine. I can't remember climbing so many stairs as we have to date.