China: Beijing

Bangkok to Beijing: "Royal Tailors"

Royal Tailors
Bangkok, Thailand

January 3, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

 

From Boca Raton , in sunny South Florida , my generous friend and once-upon-a-time mother-in-law, Helga D. sent me this New Year’s message:

"Jan, while you are freezing your ass off in China I will do the same in Antarctica. I am leaving in the middle of January for a cruise on the Explorer II."

Beijing: "Yu Li to Song Na to Xin Ying"

Beijing

People's Republic of China

January 5, 2008

Clear and Cold

Dear Family and Friends,

Sorry, sports fans. "Yu Li to Song Na to Xin Ying" is not the double-play combination on the Chinese Baseball Team in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Yu Li (Lily) and Song Na (Jasmine) and Xin Ying (Elsa) are my never-let-me-out-of-their-sight girl-guides in this capital city of 15.2 million.

Beijing: "Sunday in the Park with Jasmine"

Beijing

People's Republic of China

Sunday, January 6, 2008

 

Dear Family and Friends,

In New York City, the exquisite white marble, Neo-Gothic St. Patrick's Cathedral sits on bustling and narrow Fifth Avenue and not in the middle of Central Park. The venerable French Gothic Notre Dame de Paris sits on the Île de la Cité and not in le jardin des Tuileries. But in Beijing where The Son of Heaven prayed for good harvests, the Temple of Heaven sits in the middle of a 267 hectare (660 acre) public park.

Beijing: "I Climbed the Wall with Elsa"

Beijing

Bandaling District

China

Monday

January 7, 2008

 

Dear Family and Friends,

Here’s what I thought: “Book a tour. Ride a bus. Buy a ticket. Climb up on to the Wall. Then, take a leisurely stroll along the Wall.” I was correct, except for that last part. Listen . . . .

Jasmine went back to work but she enlisted her former colleague and good friend Elsa to be my guide for the day.

Beijing: "Sovereign at the Summer Palace"

Beijing

China

January 8, 2008

 

Dear Family and Friends,

“The rich are different from you and me.” They have homes and compounds in Palm Beach or Palm Springs, or Beverly Hills or Pocantico Hills, on Cape Cod or Cape May, or in Oyster Bay or South Hampton on Long Island.

Royalty are very different. HRH the King of Thailand owns a palace on the seashore and one in the mountains as well one in the capital. South of Thailand, the Sultans of Malaysia collect Rolls Royce motorcars. And the Maharajas of India? Do they collect everything?

Drawn by the curiosity of a bourgeoisie, I eschew the public bus of the hoi polloi and engage a driver and automobile for an excursion to the imperial retreat of “my betters” in Beijing: The Summer Palace of the Emperors of China.

And today I am alone. I am the sovereign of my day.

Beijing: "Le Retour"

Le Retour

Beijing
People's Republic of China
January 29, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

When I was a boy, one of my favorite piano works was a set of short studies called "Twenty Five Progressive Pieces," the Opus 100 of Johann Friedrich Burgmuller. I played all the pieces, including the vigorous "Arabesque," Barcarolle" and "Tarantelle," and the melodic and lyrical "Innocence," "Pastorale" and "Tendre Fleur." One piece had a lasting impression. It is called "Le Retour" or "The Return."

"Le Retour" is written in a short sonata form. One theme is introduced and then repeated; then another is played and repeated. The piece closes with the original graceful theme that is both melancholy and hopeful.

Like "Le Retour," my return to Beijing is a little sad but filled with the expectation that the final days of this trip will repeat the vigorous and melodic themes of my initial visit.

{C}

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