China Tour Travelogue Three

Dear Friends,

There is perhaps no greater symbol of the country of China than the Great Wall. It is centuries old and extends for more than 4000 miles across the massive continent. On Wednesday morning the Georgia Boy Choir had the amazing opportunity not only to see the Great Wall but to walk on it. The portion of the Wall where we went is a short bus ride from downtown Beijing. It extends from one mountaintop to another with extremely steep stairs. Have you ever wondered why you hear people refer to “climbing” the Great Wall? It is because it is so steep as to be almost like climbing a ladder in some places. The steps are not spaced evenly, and the going is not easy. The ascent to the top of this section of wall is about 1 mile. As the Choir began its trek, the distance between the boys became greater and greater. There are guard towers placed intermittently along the way. These served as good resting spots and also as incentive to keep going until the next one. About 1/3 of the boys made it all the way to the top tower. They were rewarded with a remarkable view, and the privilege of having the shakiest legs when they finally got all the way back down.

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After lunch, we visited a cloisonné factory and saw the workers creating the magnificently detailed and beautiful pottery, vases, and jewelry. The boys were fascinated with the process and eager to take some of the treasures home with them.

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If the Great Wall is an icon for ancient China, a symbol for contemporary Beijing would be the amazing buildings constructed for the 2008 Olympic Games, particularly the “Water Cube” and the “Bird’s Nest.” The Water Cube is a rectangular-shaped building which housed the Olympic aquatic events. It looks from the outside like a block of bubbly water. It was here that Michael Phelps stunned the world with his incredible swimming prowess. The Bird’s Nest really does look like a giant nest with its steel girders placed at raucous angles. It is really the primary Olympic stadium. It was here that many of the events took place, including the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Between these two buildings, there is a massive pedestrian zone. When the Choir visited there on Wednesday afternoon, it was filled with locals and tourists alike enjoying the early summer afternoon.

It is always an amazing result when you mix the following ingredients: 29 boys, three Frisbees, one soccer ball, and one football. Instant joy! Games break out, boys run and play, leap and shout, throw and catch. The locals seemed fascinated watching the boys having such a wonderful time. Some even joined in. As the playing wrapped up, the Choir treated those nearby to a couple of fun songs. The crowd which immediately gathered seemed delighted.

We couldn’t linger long, though for we had a train to catch. After a delicious dinner, the bus found its way to the Beijing train station. As we made our way to the main entrance, it seemed as though someone had opened the flood gates and a vast sea of humanity was rushing toward the narrow gate. The polite American boys were having considerable difficulty getting through until Mr. White and Joe Sokohl acted like the offensive linemen on the Atlanta Falcons and held the pressing throng back just long enough for the last boy to get through. We made it to the train and each member had his own bunk. It was quite an adventure as the train began to move and chug its way toward the city of Xian. After about an hour, the lights were turned off and everyone went to sleep. We rose about an hour before the train pulled into the station in Xian the next morning. Upon arriving at the hotel, we were all grateful for the scrumptious breakfast and a warm shower.

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We were in this beautiful city for one primary purpose – to view the phenomenal Terra Cotta Army. In 210 BC the very first emperor of China had more than 8000 life-size soldiers created out of mud and clay. They were buried surrounding his own tomb in an effort to protect himself in the afterlife. After many years, they were forgotten about, but in 1974 an unsuspecting farmer discovered some on his property and one of the most significant and enormous archaeological projects in history was begun. At this point, they have unearthed and restored more than 1200 of the life-like creatures. The boys in the Choir were in awe of the immensity and detail of the soldiers. More than a few of the boys purchased miniature versions of their favorite statue to take home with them so they will never forget this awesome experience.

Of course their primary purpose in coming on this tour is to sing. A portion of Tuesday evening’s concert in Beijing can be seen below.

Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir China Tour Team