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China, Day 10: The Temple of Heaven

Lee Family Reunion 2006: China
A Tronkie Travellogue
Day 10: The Temple of Heaven (Tiantan) and Hong Qiao Market

Upper left: My cousin Jon, his girlfriend Michelle, my cousin Emily, her husband Minki, and me in the courtyard of the Temple of Heaven.
Upper right: A closeup of the main pagoda.
Lower left: A row of lamps near the outer gate.
Lower right: Stone carvings on the stairs leading down from the main pagoda.
Click any image to enlarge.

09:00 - 10:30: The day of the big family reunion dawns without fanfare. I get up sluggishly around 09:00 and spend an hour in the garage with my uncle and a CNC repair guy who chews his words as if they were gum. I'm told this is the local accent, but I really can't make out half of what he says.

10:30 - 11:30: Finally! Internet at last! Qapla'
I fire off some e-mails and get caught up on happenings in the KDD Lab over the last four days.

11:30 - 13:00: Cynthia passes out invisible ink pens to her cousins. "Emily will be so popular when she goes back to middle school! All her classmates will be so envious!" exclaims her dad. Apparently, the cutoff age is 30, because someone didn't get a pen. ;-)

Left: Cynthia, aka She Who Opens Her Eyes With Her Hands (SWOHEWHH), distributing pens.
Right: Emily seems to like her pen.

Early afternoon: The Temple of Heaven

13:00 - 15:30: After taking lunch at home, Emily, Minki, Jon, Michelle, Banadad, and I pile into the minibus. We chat merrily about driving in China and about rental cars, when suddenly I hear Jon mumble something about "4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42". Emily laughs and a flash of recognition passes among us, and for the next half hour, we are all transported to Craphole Island. I had heard Emily tell Cynthia a snowman joke ("What did one snowman say to the other? `Smells like carrots.'") last night, but we were so absorbed by her autobiography as told to Kai-Fu Lee that I forgot about asking whether she heard that on Lost until now.

All five of the tweens are rabid Lost fans. We talk about recent episodes, characters, websites, trivia, actors, and even actors' other shows (e.g., Roswell, which Emily saw just because Emilie de Ravin was in it). I learn a couple of new things that I hadn't noticed before, such as Kelvin's presence in the Sayid flashback with Kate's dad, and I relate a few tidbits, such as J.J. Abrams' discussion of the monster (e.g., is it a nanocloud cf. Crichton's Prey?) and the part about the skeletons "Adam and Eve" supposedly being Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart.

I am greatly amused to learn that Emily and Minki, who live in Guangzhou (where Season 1 is airing just now), are fully up to date through the end of Season 2, thanks to the wonders of BitTorrent. For those of you travelling in Asia, there are always the bootleg DVD markets, too - though you'd have to be very careful bringing any significant number of DVDs through customs.

By the time we get to this sign about the EkoEcho Wall, Jon deadpans "I weel preh fo that too, Chahlee" in a perfect Eko voice:

A sign right outside the ticket booths.

As we enter the Temple of Heaven, we wonder whether and how the Catholic-centric episodes featuring Charlie and Eko will be censored in the Chinese broadcasts. I tell Jon that I doubt there will be much censorship, because unless they decide to cut the entire episode, there's really no way to suppress the religious elements of Charlie and Eko's backgrounds.

Far left: A hymn to the late Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Chairman Mao Zedong, performed by locals and visitors.
Center left: An anachronistic scene - Chinese people singing a hymn to Mao in the Temple of Heaven with flute and sax accompaniment.
Center right: The well-manicured lawn next to the Long Passageway of the Temple of Heaven, near the Animal-Killing Pavilion.
Far right: A band at the temple, practicing with traditional instruments, including a single-stringed instrument.

Left: The main pagoda, seen from the courtyard.
Center: The interior of the main pagoda. It helps to be a little taller than most of the visitors.
Right: A view from below the stone railings on the far side of the courtyard, near the lower gate.

Left: A closeup of the main pagoda. (This image is the same as that in the preview above.)
Right: A view of the courtyard from the railing around the main pagoda.

Left: A view of the city, contrasting the ancient with the modern.
Right: The rooftops of the lower gate.

Left: A stone carving of twin dragons, the male mythic totems of Imperial China.
Center: The eaves of the gate of the Temple of Heaven.
Right: A stone carving of twin phoenixes, the female mythic totems of Imperial China.

Far left: My cousin Jon, coming out of the shadow of one of the side buildings, in the courtyard of the main pagoda. I'm rather proud of this one.
Center left: Stone carvings on the stairs leading down from the main pagoda. (This image is the same as that in the preview above.)
Center right: The eaves of the main pagoda.
Far right: Chinese phoenixes (to the viewer's left), gold on green and gold on blue, and Chinese dragons (to the right).1

1 The phoenixes are almost exactly what I imagined the crests of Perya's house (Phoenix) to look like in tanelos. The one for House Wyvern is more of a blend between Slavic and Asiatic dragons, but looking at scores of Chinese dragons has given me some ideas.

Late afternoon: Hong Qiao Market

Xiaotian, my uncle's younger driver, picks us up, and we head over to Hong Qiao Market. With five levels and goods ranging from MP3 players to cultured pearls, Hong Qiao is a veritable bazaar. The only thing I buy, though, is a leather belt of slightly above-average quality. I am able to get it for 30 RMB instead of 200 because Emily bargained the price down to 50 before I came in, and I didn't hear her haggling, so I think 50 is the original offer!

Left: At Hong Qiao Market, you can get coffee, tea, or... whiskey.
Right: The toy market is a microcosm of Beijing and China itself: bustle and commerce, Napoleon's giant slowly awakening.

Left: One of my favorite bits of Engrish. I still have no idea what a promise-keeping enterprise is.
Right: Verry prety.

Evening: Lee family reunion dinner at the Jade Garden

Far back: My biaodi (younger male maternal first cousin), Jonathan Lu; my dad, Charles Kuei-Yen Hsu; my biaomeifu (mother's sister's daughter's husband), Minki Chang; my biaomei (younger female maternal first cousin), Emily Chang; me; my biaoge (older male maternal first cousin) Kevin (Yue-Sen) Kai
Middle: My cousin Jon's girlfriend Michelle; my biaomei Jennifer (Dening) Lee; my mom; my Fifth Aunt, Kai-Ming (Camille) Lee; my biaomei, Melody Peng; my Fourth Aunt, Kai-Ching (Cathy) Lee; my biaosao (mother's sister's son's wife), Kevin's wife Judy Kai
Front, seated: My uncle's wife, Shen-Ling Hsieh; my jiujiu (younger maternal uncle), Kai-Fu Lee; my biaomei, Cynthia (Deting) Lee; my waizhumu (maternal grandmother), Yah-Ching Wang; my Second Aunt, Kai-Rong Lee; my erjiu (Second Aunt's husband), Shien-Quen Kai

Chinese kinship relations are very precise: for example, Jennifer is my jiu biaomei (mother's younger brother's daughter who is younger than self) while Kevin is my yi biaogu (mother's older sister's son who is older than self). Four bits of information are encoded in the term for what is uniformly lumped into "first cousin" in English, denoting whether the cousin is:

  • 1. Male or female (gu/di vs. jie/mei)

  • 2. Older or younger than you (gu vs. di, jie vs. mei)

  • 3. The child of your father's brother (patrilineal parallel cousin) or "everything else", i.e., your father's sister or your mother's sibling (tang vs. biao)

  • 4. The child of a brother or sister of your parent (shu/jiu vs. gu/yi)

  • 5. The child of a parent's older or younger sibling (shu vs. jiu, gu vs. yi)

Usually, only the first three bits of information are distinguished.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 26th, 2006 06:14 am (UTC)
How many of your family live in the United States and how many (pictured) live in China? It is wonderful to see a family who enjoys one another's company and spends time together. My younger sisters can't spend more than an hour with each other before things fall apart.
Jun. 26th, 2006 09:19 am (UTC)
The Lee family
Of my mother and her mother and six siblings, here is the breakdown:

Grandmother: lives in Taipei; Taiwan
Grandfather: passed away in 1993; was a Nationalist legislator in China and a history professor in Taiwan
First aunt: lives in Taipei; son Chuan lives with his wife in Taipei (stepkids are grown); daughter Ning (aka Ann), an MIS, lives and works with her husband in CA (daughter Jodi is a toddler)
Elder uncle: retired, lives with his wife in Irvine, CA (both got their Ph.D.s in biochemistry from Tulane in New Orleans, LA and were at Oak Ridge Associated Universities in Oak Ridge, TN for decades); son Ray is an MD in Dallas, TX and lives there with his wife (also an MD) and infant daughter Siena
Second aunt: lives in Taipei; eldest son (Yue-Sen aka Kevin) lives with his wife in Hong Kong and both are financiers with responsibility for HK/Shanghai and HK/Taiwan, respectively; second son (Rui-Sen) was adopted as a child by elder uncle; third son (Shang-Sen aka San) worked in Canada for a while and is back in Taipei as a production crewperson for Taiwan's Home Shopping Network
Third aunt: a medical technologist (hematologist), now retired and living with husband in son's house in Manhattan, KS; son (banazir) is a Ph.D. in computer science and a faculty member at Kansas State University
Fourth aunt: lives in Rochester, NY with her husband - retired medical assistant (optometry), husband still at Exxon-Mobil; daughter Emily and son-in-law Minki live in Guangzhou and work in the Chinese HQ of Procter and Gamble; son Jonathan and his GF Michelle are also at P&G and will be at the Caracas, Venezuela site (Jon's moving there from Ohio, where Emily and Minki were too)
Fifth aunt: social worker, lives in Taipei and teaches at National Taiwan University; husband is at TCAM, a CAD/CAM startup; elder daughter Melody graduated from the University of Washington last year and is a new finance and marketing exec at Washington Mutual; youngest daughter Flora is in high school
Younger uncle: the star of the family; lives in Beijing and is a VP of Google and founding co-president of Google China; elder daughter Jen is starting 10th grade at Beijing International School, younger daughter Cynthia is starting 4th.

My family is fairly tight-knit, though it doesn't get together very often; like all siblings, they have arguments, but I think we appreciate one another more because it's so rare that we have a big reunion. This is probably the second reunion of 5 or more of the 7 siblings and the grandparent(s) that I can remember in my life. The last one was of all 7 siblings, in 1989, when my mother's father was still living.

Jun. 27th, 2006 06:19 am (UTC)
Re: The Lee family
Thank you for sharing your family with me. They are a very accomplished bunch.

I grew up in a very dysfunctional family, and I was delighted to adopt my husband's extended family as my own. They, too, are/were very accomplished special people. Sadly, the years have stolen many of them away from us.

I'm very glad you appreciate your family. Many people do not realize the worth of family.
Mar. 19th, 2010 08:14 pm (UTC)
It's amazing what you find when you click the google button "I'm feeling lucky".
Thanks for the interesting post. I know it is a couple of years old but I still enjoyed reading it.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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