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Short Stories

China 2007
by DeAnne Trompeter Appleby

Our tour started in the capital city of Beijing. This huge, modern city is home to over 18 million people. The skyline is filled with row upon row of highrises and the streets are filled with new cars. Amid the everyday fast pace, the city is furiously preparing for the Olympics. Olympic village is a flurry of activity as workers create the highly anticipated “bird’s nest” stadium. Modern Beijing surrounds some of the world’s most famous and historic sites, such as the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven. These cultural sites have been carefully preserved to offer visitors a glimpse of Chinese ingenuity and grandeur.

Grandeur is a fitting word for the new Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze River. The dam is the longest in the world at 1.25 miles and houses 26 turbine generators. This monumental project involved almost a decade of planning and construction, millions of tons of materials, and over $25 billion dollars. Much of the money was spent on the daunting task of relocating numerous cities above the reservoir line and rehousing over 1 million people. During our cruise along the Yangtze we saw first hand the incredible amount of time and effort the Chinese people have committed to this project in relocating entire cities, orchards, fields, temples, ship yards, factories and piers. The new dam will provide a huge fresh water reservoir, control flooding downstream and provide lots of much-needed electricity for China’s growing cities.

Our next stop was the ancient capital city of Xi’an. It is a more traditional city than Beijing, and has managed to keep its identity of history and culture to a greater extent. This large, crowded, modern city surrounds its original city wall, and inside the wall are remnants of old Xi’an. The first emperor of China established Xi’an as his capital city, and he was buried nearby, guarded by his army of 8,000 terra cotta warriors. The T’ang Dynasty of 6th century Xi’an was considered the Chinese Renaissance. During this time of openness and learning, music, poetry, art and theatre were enhanced to the point of becoming the most advanced in the world. Also during this time, Buddhism was introduced from India.

Shanghai was our last stop on the tour. This city is an exciting mix of Asian and European styles. A walk along the famous Bund, the highlight of Shanghai, is a wonderful treat. Along one side of the Huangpu River stand the European style banks, offices and hotels built by the “foreign occupiers” of the early 20th century. These majestic buildings offer a glimpse of Europe’s historic architecture and style. Along the other bank, modern highrises, some the tallest in China, blanket the horizon as far as the eye can see. Shanghai has been one of the most contemporary cities in China. With a population of 14 million, it is also a very crowded one.

The 2008 summer Olympics will make China the world’s stage and will introduce a new generation of travelers to the wonders of this fascinating land.

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