Friday November 23
Carpets and Opera
Today we set off for the Number 1 Carpet Factory in Beijing. Here we saw Chinese women making silk carpets by hand using an old fashioned loom. It takes 3 women approximately 8 months to complete an 8 x 10 foot carpet. The workmanship is exquisite. The prices are high, as you would expect. This facility also fabricates embroidery pictures. The one Kathy liked was of The Great Wall. Needless to say we did not purchase anything at the carpet factory, but we did enjoy viewing the carpets and embroidery work.
Hand Weaving a Chinese Carpet
Innovative Bobbin Design
An Exquisite End Product
Our second stop of the morning was a visit to the Beijing Opera School. Here students aged 9-20 are trained in the performing arts, in the hopes of becoming a professional performer. We sat in on singing, drama, dancing , acrobatic and martial arts classes. All instructors at the school are former performers of the Beijing Opera. It is a boarding school and students from all over China attend. The school used to be very competitive, but according to our guide, interest in the Beijing Opera training is dying out among young people, who would prefer to go to a good university and make good money.
A Plucky Young Apprentice Practices Sword Play
Martial Arts Performer
While touring the school, Keith noticed that the doors were all hung in a way that is slightly different from Western practice. Whereas Western door hinges are spaced at equal intervals top to bottom, in China the upper hinges are grouped near the top, with a single hinge near the bottom. Keith thought about this, and decided it made better structural sense than the Western way, because the upper hinges carry the tensile forces, which are more likely to pull the screws from the wall. Kathy thinks Keith is completely, absolutely, and utterly nuts to wallow in such nonsense, but it’s the kind of interest that earned Keith a good living for forty years.
A Better Way to Hang Doors
George told us that very few Chinese are allowed to go to college. There is only room in the universities for about 25% of the population. When students are 16 they take a test that is comparable to our SAT, but much more inclusive. It is a 3 day test and covers Chinese literature, mathematics, biology, sociology, physics, chemistry and English. Each portion of the test is worth 100points. The scores from all 7 tests are added together. One month after the test is administered, the government develops a cutoff score, which changes every year. The year George took the test the cutoff was 525. His score was 540. He was accepted at the university in Wuhan, where all tuition, room and board was paid by the government. He was also paid a small stipend each month.
After another good lunch we returned to our hotel. There were 2 optional trips offered; one was to the Summer Palace and the other The Beijing Opera and dinner. Keith and I opted for none of the above. We laid down about 2 pm and slept through to 5 am the next morning. Jet lag is a powerful sleep inducer when combined with fresh air and strenuous exercise!