We had a great time with signs!
Inexplicably, everything in China is labeled in English. You would think
if there were ever to be a place on earth where you would see only Chinese,
it would be deep in the heart of China. Wrong. English is everywhere -
street signs, the ubiquitous ads, businesses, commercial buildings. An
extremely common sign, with or without words, is "No Smoking." One more
place the guide books had it wrong. Smoking is as outré in China
as it is in California.
Over yonder there, you can step up to the bar and get
Taking more care over one's belon gings is good advice anywhere.
Glimpsed hurriedly out a taxi window, this one exhibited a very unusual
approach to beef butchering.
And it didn't need to be in English!
The whole world knows you don't fool around at Tienanmen
When they say "Care of the Green," you know they
mean either keep off the grass
or look out for the guys in the green uniforms!
This one was near the Big Bell Temple.
This one was simply everywhere.
This one about says it...
How about another sign...it says:
The Beijing World's Top Tourist Attractions - The Yongle Big Bell
Presented By The Beijing Assessment Committee of the World's Top Tourist
Standing back a bit from it, we see the approach and the building it is
on. Inside this building is the largest bronze bell in the world. It takes
up the entire building. It was cast in the 1400s, a staggering technical
feat. On the grounds around it are other buildings containing hundreds
of bells, plus a great many very large bells in outdoor concourses.
This is the bell, as best I could photograph it from inside the building.
It is covered inside and out with poetry, a dizzying piece of work. You
can climb stairs to get up to the top, where you are allowed to throw coins
into the center of the top of the bell, for good luck (everything in China
is for good luck somehow).
Heath paid 4 kwai and got to sound the bell with the big striker. Then
we all ran down and inside the bell, and listened. It was extraordinary.
The grounds of this temple are set in a rather seedy industrial neighborhood.
Inside the walls, on perhaps two acres or a bit more, are lovely, well-tended
gardens and a cluster of buildings housing hundreds of bells that were
removed from various Buddhist temples that were decommissioned and torn
down since 1949. So there's a bittersweet edge to the place. It's a museum
now, not really a temple.
Among the exhibits of big bells, little ones, and hand bells are bells
from other cultures (including a replica of the Liberty Bell). Here is
a scan of a postcard of the pièce de resistance, the 15th Century
whopper of Yongle.
In one of the buildings, there are sets of bells for orchestral music.
The big black ones are bronze, and the greenish-white things to the right
are slabs of jade, tuned to different pitches. The biggest bells (in the
second photo above) were struck with the long pole with the red padding
on the ends.
Mallets for playing the regular bells in the set above.
We were curious to know what this one sounded like, so the curator/guard
was kind enough to whip off a few runs for us. She also sold me a CD of
music played on these instruments, including some old pieces and some contemporary
ones composed just for the instruments in the room. It's quite a lovely
Also in the building with the big bell was a small bronze bowl filled with
water. By wetting one's hands it was possible to rub the handles and set
the bowl singing - and set the water inside it vibrating and making wild
little wave patterns. Here's Jody attempting to play "Greensleeves" on
Right outside the Big Bell Temple were these fire buckets. Add a couple
of long spoons, and another set of orchestra bells was simply waiting to
be brought to life! Did the Fire Inspector have an sense of how funny this
From the top of the Big Bell building, over the roofs of the museum buildings,
one glimpses the state of Beijing today: complete overhaul and modernization.
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This site began as a practice version of an article I
wrote for The Old Time Herald, and that article has been published.
Be sure and read this fine magazine, which you can access
by visiting their website at http://www.oldtimeherald.org
Click here to read Jody Stecher's
different and quite wonderful article which he wrote for Fiddler Magazine
This little scrapbook is a work in progress. More pictures
are bound to come, and more jabber to go with them. Check in again.
Most of the photos are mine, but a few good ones are
Heath's and Jody's. Xie xie!
In case you hadn't noticed, many of the pictures have
built-in captions that light up when you put your cursor over the image.
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last fooled with on 25 February