Alternative to buying a guide book for Beijing
To be honest, the international guidebooks to Beijing are not particularly good (sorry RG and LP authors).
However, a useful and free alternative source to them are the archives of Beijing Today, a weekly free newspaper available at some hotels in Beijing. The online version and archives are available at http://bjtoday.ynet.com/
Sadly, there is no index available, but I am hoping to compile one soon.
I wouldhighly recommend this resource: it has enormous amounts of information about culture, history and interesting places in Beijing. Furthermore, they have a feature each week on places near Beijing.
You can access it in html format or download a pdf file of the original page.
Mid-Autume Day -- Hare Milord
Have you found the pattern in the circular Moon looks like a hare? Of course we know it's reasoning circle mountain on the exterior of the moon. In the past, however, Chinese people thought it was a hare in the moon palace who is a supernatural hare. So we call it hare milord in respect. Every Mid-autume Day, people worship with Hare milord and make it to clay figurine as the picture. The clay figurine of Hare milord looks much more like human except the harelip. In addition, it came to a kind of popular toy go round among chirdren rather then a Joss.
Walking on the Great Wall
It's quite popular walking from Si Ma Tai to Jin Shang Ling. As long as u get a Lonely Planet, u may know this route. make sure bring enough water with u, that's the most important thing.
u can make it as a day trip.
The model maker
Sitting under a naked bulb, an earnest man briefly stares at the mess of junk on the table in front of him. His hand darts and he picks up a piece of coloured clay, shaping it between his fingers. He works quickly, fashioning a boot, adding green padding to it, then scoring lines with a sharp knife around the edges. At the edge of his table, finished models sit: Confucius, Guanyin, Sakyamuni, and three of the heavenly guardians found at the entrance to Buddhist temples. He is working on the fourth. Each statue is about 12 inches high, and exquisitely detailed. The heavenly guardians' beards are flowing and straggly, the hair wild and haggard, faces menacing. The costumes are beautiful, robes fluid and billowing.
The model maker happily answers questions about his work, and shows onlookers his tools: sharp wooden sticks to hold limbs and larger pieces, even sharper knives, and scissors. He concentrates in short bursts, looking intently at the model and his fingers wrap around pieces, pressing, pushing and pulling the soft coloured clay. The proportions are perfect, the scale just right. I look for a ruler or for some way he can measure pieces to ensure that, say, a right leg is the same as the left leg of a model: there are none. He can just tell by looking and feeling. Finished models sell, incredibly, for just RMB150 or US$18. I am not sure whether I am more astonished at the low price for such workmanship, or the fact that he takes just two hours to finish a model. We expect craftsmen to take their time, but the model maker at Houhai combines speed with beauty. RMB150 upwards
Don't use the unofficial taxi's in Beijing. They are twice as expensive as the official taxi's.
Not all drivers speak English. Show them your destination on a map or have a note with the name written in Chinese.