Today, an Australian friend and I visited 北海公园 (Beihai Park) near the Forbidden City. The park is situated around the northern part of a lake in the middle of Beijing, and it's a good place to relax, stroll around or ride a boat. But the best part of the park are the 龙 (dragons) - specifically, the Nine Dragon Screen that I'm posing in front of. (They could have called it the 635 Dragon Screen - because that's the total number of dragons on it - but they went with nine because there are nine really big ones on each side.) The wall was built in 1756, but the dragons are in good shape - and they still look scary!
After inspecting the dragon screen, we hopped on a boat for a short ride across Beihai to Jade Island, where the White Dagoba is located atop a hill. (See photo.) It is another Lama temple, built for the Dalai Lama in 1651 - and rebuilt in 1741. We climbed up the hill and through some ancient caves to see the dagoba and to get a view of the surroundings. We could see the rest of the park, Jingshan Hill, the Forbidden City - and other areas of the city.
By this time we were getting hungry. I knew this because I considered eating food from a street vendor in the park. After several failed attempts to get a taxi to take us two 外国人 (foreigners) to a particular famous Peking duck place, we ended up walking along the sidewalk just outside the walls of Zhongnanhai (the Communist Party's leadership compound) and settling for some soup and noodles. (The waitress told me it was shredded pork in my noodles, but I wasn't so sure.)
From my vantage point in the noodle restaurant, I watched the people walking down the street. It's still a holiday weekend here, so there was a lot of activity. I saw one very old Chinese man walking alone past Zhongnanhai, dressed in a suit that probably fit him 30 years ago, but now he's swimming in it. He was wearing three rather large red medals, unevenly attached to the left side of his jacket. I really wanted to know what his story was. I couldn't help but think that he may have been a hero in the revolution (which is possible if he is in his 80s), and how it was kind of sad that he was all by himself on the holiday.