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Next stop Ti'an


View Doyle and Dan's Adventure on doyledan's travel map.

After the dumplings we managed to get a nice group photo with our Beijing guide Jason, not before Sam, Jenny and Sophie took some funny photos whilst I went to toilet. Haha!

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At 9pm we set off from Beijing for our first sleeper train adventure. Just like most things in Beijing the train station is massive. It is like being at an airport with security checks, huge waiting areas and screens. The sleeper train is made of carriages with bays containing 6 beds stacked up in close proximity. It was a mad rush to get in and everyone was claiming their bunks and chucking bags around but once we were sorted we were actually pretty comfortable despite the cramped conditions.

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For most of the trip we all were fast asleep, I woke up in the night with a slight panic as really we didn't know when the sleeper train would stop at the right station. We had an arrival time but it wasn't for certain and we had noticed that not all the stations had the names translated into English and reading Chinese characters is no ones strong point. As I was awake and wasn't going to get back to sleep due to the air conditioning being right by my bed blowing out cold air I sat by the window and watched the scenery pass by in the night. From what I could see most of China we travelled through was fields with every so often a new town with tall high risers being built, now doubt to accommodate the vast population who still live in poorer conditions.

Fortunately my fears of missing the train were nullified as our ticket man came into the carriages and started tapping on the beds for those who needed to get off at Ti'an. Phew!! Otherwise we could have ended up as far as Gullin without knowing it!

By the time we got to Ti'an it was daylight and we met up with our new guide Summer (who named herself that because it is her favourite time of the year and they choose their own English names she would later tell us). She was really sweet and very excited that we were there to see her home town and also give her a chance to practice her English as she had only given three other tours before that had required it.

Despite her positivity we all were tired from the trip and really needed a good breakfast to kick start our day, however what we got was the worst meal of the trip. It was described as a 'buffet' but in China they eat the same food at breakfast, lunch and dinner so having rice, seaweed, some kind of boiled egg that looked green and stank and what can only be described as a stress-ball of dough for bread, was unsatisfying to say the least.

Later we made our way to the hostel and only had an hour to rest and get prepared for our trip to the Confucious Temple. It was going to be a long day! The hostel was set in an old government building and many locals had shops set up within the grounds, the rooms were good and to our delight the beds were comfy.

The destination of the Confucius temple was about an hour away from Ti'an in a town called Qufu, so we jumped on our tour bus and made our way. It was all beginning to feel like a bit of slog as we had only managed to recuperate from travelling and already we were on the move. Most of us slept on the bus but it wasn't long before the uneven roads made it too bumpy to sleep.

Confuicous Temple was really interesting and what was good was that Summer our guide began to talk in more detail the history of the temple, the teachings of Confucius as well as the Chinese traditions.

The first tradition she spoke of was how men and women should step over the threshold of the doorways to the temple, which are high to stop evil spirits from getting in. In China the male is always on the left and the female is always on the right. Therefore when stepping over the man should lead with his left leg and the women with her right leg. Other stories we were told were the meaning behind the statues. All around the temples there were statues of dragons that have been morphed with other animals. In China the Dragon is a symbol of power and is very important to their culture, the story goes that the dragon had 9 sons and each son had different strengths meaning they changed their appearance to accommodate this ability. For instance one of the sons was good at carrying things and therefore changed into a big turtle so it could carry heavy things like tablets. It was good to hear these explanations because we had seen this statue but really had no idea why the turtle had a dragon face!

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As we entered the wall of the temple we walked through the main arch and then came to a bridge which we were told that when u make it to the middle you must look each way in order to have wealth in your life, which we made sure we did. The temple courtyards were quite similar in design to the temples in Beijing but having Summer meant it was still interesting. We found out that Chinese people come to the temple to make wishes/prayers to Confucious for the future and they are written on these red plaques which were hung together.

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After the temple we made our way to the Confucious Mansion which was the Emperor had built for Confucius and his descendants. Only the oldest male in that generation could live in the mansion with his family. The females of the family were not allowed to interact or be seen by other males and certain parts of the house reflected this tradition. To get water for example the male servants had to pour it through a hole in the wall that lead to the female part of the house. Today the mansion is now a heritage site as the descendants live in the USA and they only come back for certain ceremonies each year.

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The final stop of the day was the Confucius cemetery where Confucius and his male descendants are buried. On approaching the cemetery there are several guards and if you touch them on the bum you get wealth, the head was good luck and touching the teeth was good health; so we all gave it a good pat!

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Being at the cemetery was a far cry from any we had been to in the UK or countries, even if they were a tourist attraction. The respect of silence was replaced with huge crowds of Chinese tourist groups who had come to see Confucus' resting place each with their own guide with head piece and booming speakers. It was quite overwhelming at times and wore down our patience after such a long day, particularly when we became part of the attraction being papped.

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Stay tuned for more tales.

Dan

Posted by doyledan 00:54 Archived in China

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