Day 5 took us to the Jade Buddha temple where we learned a little more about the different religions of the Chinese people. They worship Catholicism, Islam, Taoism and Buddhism, with the last two being the most common. Even as our guide was telling us about the temple and when it was built, the people around us were burning sweet smelling incense and praying to Buddha and his followers. Even though I do not practice Buddhism, I respect the religion and I was amazed to find so many similarities between Buddha and Jesus.
After touring the temple, we went to a silk factory. The woman who led the tour showed us how they made regular silk out of silk worm cocoons with one worm in them and then how they made a silk duvet with silk cocoons with two or three worms in them. She explained that when two or more silkworms wrapped themselves together that it is nearly impossible to unwrap the cocoons without breaking the threads, so they use those cocoons for filling their silk duvets. After the interesting and informative silk demonstration, we were allowed to shop around in the attached store next to the factory. It was the whackiest set up I’ve ever seen: one third of the building was a museum on the history of silk production, the second third was the factory itself, and the last part was like a department store. It was a beautiful shop though, with almost every kind of clothing or bag made entirely out of real silk. The prices were a little high, but mostly reasonable. I mean, it’s real silk, so it’s going to have a substantial price, but you’re paying for the quality of the product.
After saying goodbye to the silkworms, we headed to a little hole-in-the-wall shopping plaza that was bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside. It was in the Bund district, and there were so many different kinds of food and stores, ranging from kitschy souvenirs to beautiful cut crystal figurines, and even a department store or two. This shopping plaza also contained American cuisine, AKA McDonald’s and KFC, so most of the group elected to eat American. Dianne and I instead followed our noses and we found a Turkish restaurant and a place that sold Japanese mochi ice cream. We looked, we shopped, and then we headed back to the meeting point: a small jewelry store that sold-get this-pearl jewelry and tea. I find it ironic that we did those things in Beijing and that we could’ve killed two birds with one stone here, but I digress.
After our free time, we got to visit a beautiful garden that was once owned by the Emperor and his family. It was originally intended to be a retreat for the Emperor and his family, a quiet place to study and meditate or simply to relax and feed the koi fish. The garden was filled with gingko trees, bonsais, magnolias, every kind of flower you can think of, and natural rock formations pulled from the bottom of a lake somewhere. The whole thing was simply gorgeous and so serene, but we couldn’t stay for long. After the garden, we went back to the hotel where we were allowed to freshen up before going to dinner and then to an acrobatics show. The dinner was exquisite; we had pork that melted in your mouth, rice, beef, sweet and sour tofu, hundred year eggs (surprisingly delicious) and frog with potatoes, garlic and green beans. It actually tasted just like chicken, but it had more bones than I was expecting. After dinner was the acrobatic show which was captivating and enchanting; They had people jumping through rings, riding unicycles while juggling, a woman who balanced about 25 glasses on her forehead, a guy who did card tricks, some very funny clowns, and then topped off with six motorcycle riders zooming around inside a giant metal ball cage. It was just like being at the circus, only about 50 times cooler.
After the show, we all went back to the hotel, where I’m here now getting ready for bed. I finished my homework and am finally caught up on my blogs (yay!). Good night everybody and expect my next email before this time tomorrow. I love everybody and will be home in a few days, even though I wouldn’t mind staying for a week more.