Back in Beijing

We stayed in sleek Shanghai for several days, recovering (first M had the stomach flu, then I played the copycat the next day, though with much milder symptoms).  We saw the impressive Shanghai Museum and the amusingly propagandistic Museum of Urban Planning, shopped in a trendy hutong and in the shops outside (and inside) Yuyuan Garden, walked the Bund and saw the Pearl from across the river, and spent a rainy day in art galleries, all with free lodgings, bikes, and frequent use of a driver.  Our hostess was very gracious, which I hope we can repay when she visits her daughter (our friend K) in Chapel Hill.  I worked a bit, too, attending a few telcons and answering some emergency emails.
But we’ve been back in Beijing for a few days, seeing a few sites we’d missed the first time we were here.  Today we saw a Taoist temple; it was quite a welcome novelty after seeing so many Buddhas in temples and museums… I’m as weary of images of Buddha as I was the ubiquitous “Madonna and Child” motif after months traveling Europe years back.  We also visited a small unrestored temple with gorgeous carvings and statues… they had the original intricate paints, not the cartoonish solid-colors of most of the refurbished temples we’ve seen here.

I was surprised at first to see so many active Buddhists praying in the temples here, since I thought most religion was wiped out in the Cultural Revolution, as it largely was in Soviet Russia.  But M pointed out that the larger number of religions here may have led to a more adaptable approach… Communism is just one more bureaucratic religion that will be absorbed into China, the latest of many.

We then went to a huge bookstore, bustling with hundreds of people; I was hoping to find some English-language translations of Chinese science fiction stories, having read some Soviet sci-fi stories in the past and being interested in the Chinese take on it.   No such luck, though we did get some music CDs and a novel about the Mongolian steppes.

Finally, we ended our stay in China in teahouses… first in one in a hotel, then, coincidentally, dinner at another in the lakes district.