Nancy’s boss must have told her to entertain the African because today she took me site seeing and then to the Pandas. Now I’m not one for zoos but pandas are an endangered species and if left alone in the wild, with all the external pressures on their habitat (hunters, lack of land) they would probably go extinct. They need a specific environment and only eat one variety of bamboo (there are 78 different varieties of bamboo) so you can’t simply raise them in Arizona. Their only true habitat is in the Sichuan province. Another thing I found out later in the day is that excess pandas (when the sanctuary reaches capacity) are sometimes offered to foreign countries. They normally ship them in two’s, male and female, and if they have an offspring the baby panda belongs to China and must be shipped back to China at the foreign zoo’s expense.
Anyway, back to the start of the day. Nancy took me to an ancient shrine made for the original emperor of the Shichuan Province (it was the country of Sichuan back in those days – the conglomerate of China would only come later). The shrine is about 2000 years old and is centered around the masoleum of the emperor. It was turned into a museum/shrine about 400 years ago and opened to the public, so it was interesting to hear Nancy say “this is the original structure and this is the new bit which is only 400 years old!
The place is beautifully maintained with sculptured gardens, water features and plenty of bonsai trees (she claims Japan stole the idea from the Chinese – going to have to read up on that one).
She then took me through an adjacent shopping area which is pretty normal for all tourist attractions but this one was much more classy. The stalls you normally see are similar to Greenmarket square in Cape Town selling cheap trinkets (go to the wall and everyone is selling miniature walls) but this one was more upper-end and more to my liking. Here’s my thinking on this. You are only really going to by a miniature wall at the Great wall of China and a terracotta warrior at Xi’an, but then it comes to clapping monkeys or rubber snakes for R10 a pop, they will eventually be sold on Greenmarket square or the side of the road in Cape Town. So the only things worth buying in China are the expensive things – proper Chinese art, real silk clothing, and so on. This shopping district had that sort of stuff – take a look at the eggshell below – it is hand carved, and the glass ball below that is painted from the inside! Both are expensive.and not really my thing so they won’t be coming back in my suitcase.
One thing I nearly did buy was silk pyjamas. Ooooh silk feels so good against your skin. But I resisted. Maybe next trip to China.
Next blog will be the pandas.