Mom’s Beijing Visit

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My mom passed by Beijing on her way back to Texas.  Since she doesn’t want to go to too touristy spots like Tian’anmen, Great Wall, or the museums, I decided to take her to the bell tower and drum tower – touristy, but not too touristy.

Good thing is, though the drum tower is not very big, but you could spot this bright red structure the instant when you are within its vicinity.

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Looks like another renovation is about due.

Once you found the drum tower, the bell tower is just right behind it.

To climb straight up some one hundred steps, my 60-year-old mother just needs a break.

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And the big drum room on the top.

The old Chinese wooden structures were all built like this, they would connect several tree trucks with steel bands to make pillars.  Those bands would come out when painted, indicating the connection points of the tree trunks.

My mom and I

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The last, and the only original drum from this tower.  There were 24 drums signifying 24 seasons in Chinese lunar calendar and a main drum.  When the Eight-Nation Alliance came to Beijing after the Opium War, they destroyed everything in this building, leaving only this main drum broken.  Nowadays, this drum became one of the most important source for reproducing the other drums of this tower.  All others are the reproductions.  Like traditional drums, they were covered with ox skins to produce sound.

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There was a performance very hour in the afternoon.

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Looking out south, you could see the Jingshan Park and Beihai Park just next door.  Jingshan is the park right behind the Forbidden City.  It was original a huge burned coal dump produced by dwellers of the Forbidden City.  Later on the Emperor ordered it to be beautified into a garden.

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The side of the drum tower is the typical historical district of Beijing.

Now the bell tower

Another huge set of stairs for my mom to climb up, sorry, they don’t have elevators for those who do not possess limber limbs.

Unlike the drum tower, the bell tower only carries one huge bell.

and it already has used up several tree trunks as its strikes.

my mother and I

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Looking out the bell tower you could see the drum tower.

the big bell from another angle.  There was a story for this bell:

To make the biggest bell for the Qing nation, the Qing emperor gathered all bell makers to the capital and ordered them to cast a bell.  However, the steel technology wasn’t the best back then and they had a hard time to produce enough heat to mold a bell.  The king was impatient and angrily order them to cast the bell or all of them will be beheaded the next day.  The daughter of a bell master begged her family to let her see her daddy at work.  So they let her go.  When she went over to see them, they were about to lose another try.  Then she pointed to the sky, “daddy, look there!”  Her dad looked up: a couple clouds in blue sky.  Then she jumped into the steel melt, her dad tried to grab her but only got one of her shoes.  Just then, the fire lit up again, better than ever, then her dad felt compelled to order,” cast!” and the bell was cast.

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Then we went to Houhai not far from the Bell Tower.  Houhai is a famous bar district, around the lake

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That night we went to Xiangsheng (相声), or Chinese traditional stand-up comedy, not far from Beihai.  I’ve never seen live Xiangsheng before.  One day I was strolling around Houhai and found this place.  It was hard to find someone who actually liked and wanted to come here since half – if not most- of my friends are not native Chinese.

They even had the table set up just like what I’ve seen in TV, a pair of handkerchief and a pair of folded fans waiting for the comedians.

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Besides recruiting mom, I also recruited Haike, the fluent-Chinese-speaking American.  After staying in China for 4 years, Haike is on his way back to USA.  He also never saw live Xiangsheng during his China stay, so he was super excited to join me and my mom. Unfortunately, it was only then we found out that the tickets were sold in pairs.  Though the theatre took in Haike’s extra ticket and helped him to sell it.

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We bought some overpriced snacks

I love those  conjoined seeds….

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The first pair talking about studying names, a great opening since they got us laughing till my stomach hurts

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Since Xiangsheng is traditionally performed by two men, they are so far the first, if not the only women pair in the entire China.

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The enthusiastic audience

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Walk this way….

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A typical Xiangsheng pair composed of a fat and a thin men, and/or a tall guy and a short guy.  One person acts like the crazy guy and the other acts like a normal guy that explains things on the side.