Second Visit in Xi'an 西安

Xuan Zang (602 - 664), a great Buddhist, Traveler and Translator in Tang's age

Xuan Zang, an ambitious learned Buddhist priest, ventured on a long difficult journey across the deserts to India in the year 629 and, after studying hard in the home of Buddhism, came back in 645 taking more than 600 pieces of Buddhist Scripture with him. He had to suffer great hardship during the trip, as often told in the novels and biographies written by subsequent generations about him.
Xuan Zang’s painstaking translation of the Heart Sutra was introduced later in Japan, and up until today it has been earning the great respect among Japanese Buddhists as one of the most authoritative texts teaching the truth of mind.

Dayanta Pagoda in Ci'en'si Temple








The following are just a few of the numerous artistic treasures of ancient China which are preserved in the Shangxi Sheng National History Museum in Xi'an.









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First Qin Emperor's Holy Place in Xi'an 西安


Xi'an, a big tourist city today, had been the capital of the dominant dynasties for almost 1,000 years since 221 B.C. when the First Qin Emperor unified the whole country for the first time. During the Tang Dynasty in particular, the city enjoyed its utmost prosperity as the eastern starting point of the Silk Road and as one major player in commerce between the East and West.
Times have changed, but the charm of the ancient capital has not changed. A lot of valuable historic remains and sightseeing spots, most of them found within the urban areas and one-day trip distances, have been fascinating tourists from all over the world. You might need more than one month to have a quick look around the attractive places.
At the beginning of September, one morning, I took a bus on Route 5 in front of the bustling Xi'an Train Station, which goes between the city center and the First Qin Emperor's Holy Place, the museum of his terracotta warriors and horses. It was one hour's drive to the bus terminal on the congested highways. After getting off at the last station, I took as much as 20 minutes on foot to get to the museum. I paid 150 RMB (about 3,000 Japanese yen) for the admission ticket at the service counter. Though it was a rainy weekday, I saw a great number of visitors in the buildings and neighboring gardens.
The following are the appearances of the inside.









A photo showing a young lady engaged in rehabilitation service

An ancient bronze model measuring 1/2 of the real thing in size

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A Trip to Qing Dao 青島


Qing Dao, a major harbor city located on the northeastern coast of China, enjoys worldwide fame for the quality beer today, but its unhappy history is not much known abroad. The area was under occupation by the Germans for 17 years from 1898, and then by the Japanese in the early 20th century.
During the occupation period, the Germans were eager in developing infrastructures in their district, such as ports, buildings and roads, and left many of them behind in the aftermath of World War I as "a parting gift" to the local people. Among the typical examples are the beer brewing facilities preserved in the Qing Dao Beer Museum. I have been curious to look at the historic monuments existing today with my own eyes.
On the 1st day of September, I took a taxi at the hotel early in the morning to go, at first, to Xiao Yu Shan Gongyuan (or "Small Fish Mountain Park"). Qing Dao was still hot and humid. The taxi driver looked reluctant to drive me there probably because the destination was not far enough to make good money. But the outlook from the Park was, as I was told at the travel agent in the hotel, really wonderful with a panoramic view of the former German district and the Yellow Sea.

A view from the Park



Catholic Church


The map shows that the Qing Dao Beer Museum is not a long way from the downtown, but it took as much as 40 minutes by taxi because of the traffic congestion. Qing Dao was flooded with cars everywhere. At the reception counter, I was greeted by a Japanese-speaking young lady, requested to pay an entrance fee of 30 yuan (or about 500 Japanese yen), and urged to enter the inside.
The floors in the building exhibit old-fashioned brewing machines that were used during German rule, showing the whole process of how the beer was made from barley. The facilities include huge brass boilers, power motors bearing the name plate of Siemens, maturing cellars with countless barrels, bottling and packing machines, and life-size wax figures taking a working posture.
At the end of the tour inside, in a small bar in the museum, I was served a glass of free unblended premium beer. It was a great time of refreshment for me.

Qing Dao Beer Museum





The tour is finished with a glass of unblended beer served free.
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Mutianyu Changcheng 慕田峪長城


A northern view from the top of Mutianyu Great Wall

The mountains looked dim amid air pollution.

Great Wall of China, an amazing artificial structure

     The Great Wall of China stretches over 3000kms long, but sightseeing routes open to ordinary tourists like me are limited to only a few spots; Mutianyu Changcheng is one of them (Changcheng in Chinese means a long castle, but it is actually an endless fortress). Mutianyu's Great Wall is known for its magnificent view and keeping what it used to be in olden days. It was built in the 6th century, and underwent extensive repairs for reinforcement during the first half era of the Ming dynasty, which lasted from 1368 to 1644. It witnessed the offense and defense between the dynasties and the northern nomadic people in history. The structure, simply made with stones and bricks, really inspire an imagination about ancient times.

      At the end of the last month, September, while staying in Beijing, I took part in a group tour to visit Mutianyu's Great Wall, and left the hotel around eight o'clock in the morning. On the way, the tour guide, speaking in fluent English, took us to the Olympic stadium park to visit, and then into a national jewelry production factory with incredibly large selling floors. A sales lady, pushing me to buy a precious jewel, complained that they would often have a lot of Japanese customers before, but few recently. Her comment was true; during the 4-day stay in Beijing I saw few Japanese tourists either.

     Stopping in like that along the way, our minibus arrived at the gate to the Wall after 11 o'clock, about one and a half hours late than in the direct driving course. We were lucky, however, since there weren't large crowds of tourists in the areas. "In a few days", said the guide, "the Wall will be flooded with millions of local people because we have the vacation on National Foundation Day, starting on the 1st day of October. So today is the last day you can enjoy the sightseeing at ease"
. The Chinese really love the Great Wall.

     On the way back to the city, the tour group dropped in at a famous tea house named "Dr. Tea" to enjoy a tea ceremony, where young ladies served various types of Chinese tea, explaining how healthy the tea was and selling their quality products in the shop. Perhaps their skillful demonstrations in good English helped a lot for them to achieve a good sale.

I hope the following pictures convey magnificent views of Mutianyu.


Tea House "Dr. Tea"


A precious stone, huge but on sale at a national jewelry production factory

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A Short Trip to Tianjin 天津

On September 17, I took a train on the CRH (China Railway High-speed) in Beijing for a short trip to Tianjin. After a 30-minute ride on it, I was in Tianjin Station. Tianjin, a leading trading port and industrial area in the northern part of China, formerly flourished as one of the most successful commerce points between the West and the East. Streets in the central area are lined with stately buildings of those days, as shown in the pictures below. I spent most of my time in the city strolling along Jiefang Beilu Street in the old district and looking in at stores on Hebeilu Street, one of the busiest shopping areas.


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Expo 2010 Shanghai 上海



Swiss Pavilion


Shanghai Culture Center Pavilion

Sri Lanka Pavilion
A scene of a craftsman cutting raw ores into gemstones


The funnel-shaped tower in front of the entrance gate to the Asian Zone

Spanish Pavilion

Growing Foreign Investments in the Chinese Economy

     On September 21, 2010, I visited the Shanghai Expo. It was a day in autumn, but Shanghai was still under a scorching sun. Walking on the streets early in the morning made me feel tired. Fortunately, the Expo site was close to the subway station. As going into the site through the gate of the Asian Zone, I noticed a huge funnel-shaped iron tower rising in the front. I also saw an oriental-style, red building just across the street; it was the Chinese main pavilion. The scale of the site was great, but not very surprising to me because I occasionally saw the pictures on TV in Japan. As broadcasted by the media, there were a really great number of visitors forming a long line before the entrance of every popular pavilion.
     However, what was most impressive to me was a global atmosphere prevailing in the site. It was like a competition of economic cultures and advanced technologies by 246 participating countries and world organizations. I tried to enter popular pavilions, but I often had to give up going inside when I heard the length of time to stand in the waiting line.
     The great interest in the Expo probably reflects the growing existence of foreign businesses in the Chinese economy. Some official statistics about the world economy on the Internet show that in 2009, foreign capitals occupied 55.9% and 54.2% in the Chinese export and import values respectively. So about one half of the economy is supported by foreign companies.

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An enjoyable time of the people

Yuan Ming Yuan 2-1.jpg
In Yuan Ming Yuan Park
An entertaning parade in the folk costume of olden days

    Late in April, I took a 4-day trip to Beijing. What made me anxious before leaving Japan was the yellow sand known for making the region unhappy around this season. But it was an unnecessary worry. The breeze was cool and dry, making the walking outside rather comfortable. It was my fifth visit in China, and during this trip, what drew my attention was their eating custom, which I found is rather different from that of the Japanese.
    There is a restaurant called “ Azabu Juban” (or “ Ma Bu Shi Hao” in Chinese) in the basement of a department store in Wan Fu Jin District, the main commercial part of the town. I got interested in their name because it was the name of a well-known, wealthy district in Tokyo. I entered the inside. The interior was spacious with stylish decorations. A young cheerful waitress brought their menu, and I ordered a plate of fried rice and a vegetable salad. I was expecting to have a Japanese-style, modest-volume rice bowl.
    After a while, my orders came. I got upset when I saw the plates being heaped with so much rice and salad. It was as if for almost three persons in volume in Japan. I wondered whether one person really eats such a lot of food at one time in China, and looked around in the restaurant. Almost all the tables were occupied with guests, but there was no table with only one person sitting at, except mine. They were grouped with "fellows" (perhaps, friends or families), sharing dishes on the same plates. I understood why my dishes were so big ones. It is a custom in this country to share foods with others when eating outside.
   I heard later from an acquaintance that the Chinese are reluctant to go out alone for having a meal. If no companion would be coming together, they would rather choose to stay and eat at home. It is also the case with coffee shops such as
McDonal's and Starbucks, where you might rarely find anyone drinking tea alone.

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Yuan Ming Yuan Park

Yuan Ming Yuan Park

Yuan Ming Yuan, one of the largest parks in Beijing, is the place of a former imperial palace of the Qing dynasty. It was built in the 18th century, and during the golden age the people enjoyed extremes of luxury, including the construction of European-style buildings. In the middle of the 19th century, however, all structures were burned down during the Second Opium War.
The following pictures show awful scenes of the European Buildings Area in the park, where ruins of the buildings destroyed during the War in 1859 still remain.


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Book Review

Yang Yi’s Prize-winning Japanese Novel
"In the Morning Blurred with the Times” (Translated from the original title "Tokiga nijimu asa")

Ms. Yang Yi, a Chinese lady residing in Japan, has recently been awarded the “Akutagawa Sho”, one of the most honorable literature prizes for people seeking a literary career in Japan. She has become the first novelist with foreign nationality to win the prize.
The work honored by the prize is one of her novels titled “In the Morning Blurred with the Times” or in Chinese, “Zai shijian yunwu de zhao” (Both are my quick translations from the Japanese original). The prize is thought of native writers, so her winning gave a big surprise to the Japanese. She came to Japan in 1987 as a student and has been living here ever since.
The stage of the story, set in both China and Japan, covers ten years from the end of the 1980s to the beginning of the 2000s. In a press interview after winning of the prize, Yang Yi said that she wanted to leave some notes about the Tiananmen Square Incident; no reference is made to political ideologies or propagandas in the book, however.
She puts the main spotlight on two boys as the heroes in the novel, and the story develops in a provincial town in China. The two hero students, after entering the same university with an earnest desire to do something for the nation, gradually become involved in student movements aspiring for national political reforms. They are interested in American democracy as well. But their aspiration suffers a setback in the domestic political situations, and they are finally expelled from the campus. The author depicts the situations in an objective, restricted-tone approach, least bringing in her personal feelings.
One of the heroes later lives in Japan and, associating with his country fellows, continues to involve himself in democratization activities. Working and raising his own children in a foreign country, however, he gradually loses interests in politics, and at the end some of his friends decide to move back at the risk of being blamed in their homeland. The title of this book tells their painful parting in the morning one day, at the airport near Tokyo.
Written in fluent Japanese, the work tends to take more local customs, such as campus life in China where teachers and students live on campus together. In addition, the author talks very little about the hero’s personal communications with Japanese locals. While those may be her skillfully plotted story-telling approaches, such writing style may have led to the different evaluations about the novel among the members of the prize selection committee. According to a press report, it was at the second voting that the awarding was decided at the committee. It should also be mentioned that one of the members issued a comment later that although she was certainly a good writer, this work left less impressions in mind than her last one.

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Evening walks

Evening walking

Young girls are fond of walking hand in hand. That will be an unspoken expression of their friendship.

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Summer 2007 in Beijing

Learning Chinese at Chinese Language Training Center

From 16th to 23rd of July, 2007, I stayed in Beijing to take Chinese lessons at Chinese Language Training Center of the Academy of Arts & Design, Qinghua University. As the length of my stay was limited, I was recommended to take one-to-one individual lessons rather than attending class lessons. I followed the advice and registered for the lessons from Wednesday to Saturday.
     My teacher is Ms. Lao, who looks young but is actually in the middle of her 30s, married, and looks like having good experience in teaching. She speaks in a clear voice, and aloud like other ordinary Chinese. The textbook is focused on pronunciations and pattern drills. As having a very few opportunities to speak in Chinese in Japan, I face a lot of troubles with oral communications with her. But she is touch; if I make a mistake on some drill, she gets into a temper. The lessons are conducted in serious atmosphere. The textbook is composed of as much as 242 pages. For more understanding by students, the explanatory portions are written in English.

Preparations for Olympic Games

There remains one year until the opening of the Beijing Olympics 2008. Newspapers and magazines at kiosks and signboards on the streets carry a lot of preliminary publicity for the Olympic Games. The media are very active in promoting the event. Old buildings are dismantled and new ones are under construction. Subway lines are under repair or construction to cope with the expected traffic congestion. A lot of workers are engaged in road construction in main districts; the outdoor work must be harsh and painful under a scorching sun. 
     At present, three million cars are in ownership in Beijing, and the number is further increasing by 1,000 every day, contributing to the smell of heavy gas exhaust. During the morning and evening rush hours, many roads are congested with bumper-to-bumper cars. The air pollution is likely to be approaching critical conditions. Some actions need to be taken to cope with the situations as soon as possible, especially as far as family cars are concerned.

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Evening rush hours

Construction booming

A crossing point of Chong Weng Men Inner Dajie and Jianguo Men Dajie during the evening rush hours, a place adjacent to the biggest shopping center in the city.

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Summer Palace,Yi He Yuan, Beijing


Summer Palace Photo 6

Commemorative facilities facing the lake in the Garden

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Entrance to the Garden

Summer Palace Photo 5

Main entrance

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Summer Palace: Main Tower

Summer Palace Photo 4

Main tower of the palace

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Summer Palace: Lion Statue

Summer Palace Photo 2 A lion statue welcoming visitors inside of the entrance 

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Summer Palace: Entrance

Summer Palace Photo 1

Entrance gate to the Summer Palace Garden

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Summer Palace, Yi He Yuan 頤和園

Today is September 1. I get off the subway at the station Xizhimen in the midtown west of Beijing City. I soon take a taxi to visit Yi He Yuan Garden, the former summer palace of the Qing dynasty of China and a World Heritage Site. The palace is located in the suburbs of the city, 40 minutes by car from the downtown area.
     The taxi runs on highways with four to five lanes on one side. The roads are lined with huge, high-rise buildings on both sides endlessly. Building facilities in this area are modern and stylish. Some of them are office buildings with signs displaying the names of famous foreign companies. Block by block, a lot of people are gathering or walking on the squares and streets. These uptown districts represent a newly developed area accommodating educational institutions and residences for middle class people.
     After about 20 minutes of driving, I am in front of the entrance gate to Yi He Yuan. The autumn has started today, but the sun is hot as if scorching. A number of tour buses and taxies are already parking, and people are forming lines in front of the office to buy entrance tickets. Passing through the gate called Dong Gong Men, I soon come up to a large, old temple in front of which a bronze statue of a Chinese traditional lion sits, staring the visitors. The garden has an area of 2.9 million square meters and almost 800 years of history.

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Beijing Station

Beijing Station and main station building 


Beijing Station and the main gate and square

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The Great Wall, Badaling







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