Visit to Guangzhou

Trip Start Jan 14, 2008
Trip End Jun 30, 2008

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wednesday, January 23
We took off for Guangzhou so that we could do some sightseeing and then get Melissa on her plane home to Shanghai.  First we checked into our hotel-the Nan Yang King's Gate. It is a brand new hotel and is very

impressive-very Victorian with lots of gold and fancy trim and marble.  The lobby is just gorgeous and we were really happy to have gotten the rooms at a great price. You even get a

free breakfast.  We checked and the young lady led us to our rooms-we were a bit surprised when she led us outside, through the parking lot and around to another building. But the rooms looked great with huge bathrooms and nice large beds and all the extras of a high quality hotel.  More on that later.
We left the hotel to go walking-and found a Papa John's-much to Travis's satisfaction. He's always defending GZ against claims (from Melissa) that Shanghai has more attractions.  It seems that whatever Chinese city you get to know first, you become loyal to.  There is lots of comparison.  So far, I am neutral, like the Swiss.  But the pizza was good and then we were ready to go looking for things to see.
We decided to hit the Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family or the Chen Clan Academy first . We got there and took some pictures of the lovely grounds around the site and some of the really neat statues. Then we went to pay to get into the site proper. There we had a wonderful surprise! It was free entrance that day only to all historic sites!  That's a nice little gift to folks as their kids get out of school for the Chinese New Year . 
The Academy was really neat.  The site is well maintained and the carvings are just lovely.  Here is a quote I found on a Guangzhou tourism site describing the Academy:
In the late of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a man named Chen got the third place in the highest imperial examination and had conferred upon him a distinguished office title which made the Family Chen well-known. Later someone suggested that all the Chen's families raise money to build a temple to sacrifice to the ancestors and encourage their offspring likewise to study hard. Therefore, the temple was finished in 1894 with the money donated by Chen's families in 72 counties of Guangdong Province as well as some overseas members of Family Chen.
The temple is a compound complex consisting of nine halls, six courtyards and nineteen buildings connected by corridors, all separated by walls from the outside world. A pair of stone drums in front of the entrance door, measuring 2.55 meters (about 8.36 feet) in height and two colored drawing pictures of door-god of four meters (about 13 feet) height are said to be the best in Guangdong.
The compound was constructed in the traditional Chinese symmetrical style and the main hall, the Juxian Hall is in the center of the temple. Juxian Hall was once a place for clansmen to assemble before the establishment of the temple and now it is used as an ancestral hall. In front of the hall is a stone gazebo surrounded by stone balustrades. In the hall there is an exquisitely carved folding screen which is an excellent example of woodcarving. ( hou/chen_family.htm)

Also, inside the Chen Clan Academy is the Guandong Folk Arts Museum which display many wonderful local crafts. In particular, the fabulous carving of bone and ivory are just amazing.  There exhibits of different carvings and some really intriguing things like the hundred-dragon ink slab, some intricate paper cutting exhibits and other articles made in the province.  Throughout the grounds there are statues that showcase the talent of local artists.
Next we went to the Western Han Nayue King's Tomb and Museum.   This site has both the Tomb   and a museum housing all the artifacts found in the tomb. You go in and tour the tomb and see how they excavated it and then you walk to the really impressive museum and see the lovely things they found inside. It is really an interesting, informative and well presented historic site.  Here is a description of the tomb and museum holdings-it is a fabulous site!
The Western Han Dynasty Nanyue King Mausoleum Museum is the oldest and largest Han tomb with the most funerary objects in Lingnan (South of the Nanling Mountain) Area. As one of the 80 famous museums in the world, the museum covers 14,000 square meters (150, 699.6 square feet) with 10 exhibition halls.
The owner of the tomb is the second king, Zhao Mei of Nanyue State of the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-24 A.D.). Hidden 20 meters (65.6 feet) underground, the tomb is made up of 750 huge stones with colorful murals. The over 1,000 pieces of cultural relics, bronze ware and terra cotta ware in particular, feature the Yue Culture of south China(Nanyue Culture). Represented also are traces of central Chinese culture, the Chu culture of south China, the Bashu culture of southwest China, the Hun culture from the northern grassland, and even foreign cultures.
Highlighting the mausoleum is a silk-jade garment made up of 2,291 pieces of jade. Though jade garments with pieces connected by gold, silver, or copper are not uncommon, this garment with jade pieces connected by silk is the only one of its kind in the world. Nor are historical records available to verify other jade garments connected by silk thread. In addition, the style of buttons down the front is unique among unearthed jade garments. This silk-sewn-jade garment shows the early development of jade garments as well as development of the Nanyue culture.
In addition, three sets of bronze serial bells, thirty-six bronze vessels, thirty-six bronze mirrors, and three gold seals give visitors a glimpse of the ancient Nanyue Culture. The oldest and largest folding screen used in China is also here, as are two of the world's oldest bronze patterns for textile stamping.  ( hou/nanyue_king.htm)
That evening, we decided to try a German restaurant, 1920 is the name,   right on the Pearl River-it was great!  We had nice sandwiches and fries and some good beer but the best was the dessert-real cheesecake. I thought Melissa and Travis were going to die from ecstasy. Sweets are hard to come by in China-at least sweets that Americans like-and cheesecake is especially difficult. This was wonderful cheesecake and we enjoyed the heck out of it.
After that, we went back to the hotel.  The showers in the bathrooms were great-one large shower head and then several small ones spraying out at different angles. The floor of the bathroom was heated-it was all very nice.  However, it seemed a bit cold in the room-there was no heat!  The thermostats seemed to work and yet no heat.  In the room Melissa and I had, the bed with its huge white and gold headboard seemed comfortable-for a Chinese bed.  We each enjoyed the huge shower (Melissa said she thought she'd just stay there for the night-it was a great shower) and watched tv-then Melissa leaned back on the headboard and the lights went out!  We looked around and found that some miscalculations had occurred in the furnishing of the room.  The light switches that were supposed to be next to the bed were behind the headboard. And none of the lights pointed at the head of the bed so that when you tried to read, you had no light available-they were all pointed at the footboards.  The biggest problem was the lack of heat.  Travis's room had none either.  Neither did the lobby in the building.  We bundled up and went to sleep.  Sleep would've been easier if people didn't decide to argue loudly outside our windows.  Travis said he almost turned on the heat for the bathroom floor and slept in there!  It was pretty chilly in there. We think they just hadn't quite finished that annex yet and perhaps that explains why we got the rooms at 1/3 the normal cost at a hotel that has earned 4 stars. 
Thursday, January 24.
The next morning, we ate A LOT of the free breakfast to make up for the lack of heat. 
Then, we decided to go back to the market area to get some more gifts for friends before getting Melissa to the airport shuttle.  We were leaving the market after walking and seeing some interesting shops-our favorites were  "The Empire of Stew" and "The House of Gruel."  Sounds great, eh?  I'm not sure how Stew establishes an empire but apparently it had.   Then we got a phone call from Wing, the CIW assistant.    She said we had to call home immediately. This started a long chain of events that changed the whole plan for all of us.  We raced over to the Garden Hotel and found a long distance calling card.  We tried and tried to call and finally had to get the concierge at the Garden to help us negotiate the mysteries of calling cards written in Chinese with access numbers that had changed.  We finally got through to Tom, my husband, and he told us that my father's health was failing and they gave him 4-5 days at the most.  We knew Daddy was in frail health when I left and the kids had worried about what would happen too.  We finally decided we couldn't do anything from China except wait and think of Mother who we knew was scared and worried.  We got Melissa on the shuttle to the airport to go back to Shanghai and Travis and I took the bus back to ZC to worry. 

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