The sheer grandeur of the area was striking. It seemed that every time we walked through one gorgeous area of the city, we would pass through a gate that led to a bigger and more impressive area, saving the best for last. So take a word from us: If you ever visit yourself, start at the back (north) gate. While there, we met many visitors from more rural areas of China who were not as familiar with foreigners such as ourselves. One group, whom we were told is from Shaanxi province, was particularly eager to meet us. We left one of them with a unique gift from his visit with the American tourists: a Tootsie-Pop. After our visit was over, we passed through more gates until reaching the front (south side), which borders Tian Anmen Square. We were told that the picture in the middle is of Sun Yat-sen, who is regarded as the father of Modern China, and that the picture is only in the square at the national holidays, 1 May and 1 October.
After lunch, we made our way to the Temple of Heaven, where immediately upon entering, we saw many dancers. After many of us danced amongst ourselves (and even with some of the locals), we found some musicians and singers as well. Apparently, many of the folk who come here are retired, and so they just spend their days hanging out in the park. How wonderful is that? Though the main attraction for us there was the Hall of Prayer, we couldn't escape the local charm. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel before dinner and the alumni reception, which was hosted by the CEO of COFCO Wines & Spirits (which was selected as the exclusive supplier of wine for the 2008 Olympics), Mr. Ning Gaoning, a graduate of Pitt's business school. A few of us went out afterwards; among other things, we saw many of the embassies that are in our area of Beijing, and then we came back, truly tired from all the walking, for a great night's sleep. There are many more pictures to show… you can see many of my favorites from Day 3 here. Coming up: Today (Friday), is Labour Day here in China. We will visit the Beijing Zoo, Summer Palace, and a jade workshop, before heading to the Olympic Park for pictures. We will conclude the day with our first concert at the Central Conservatory of Music in conjunction with Beijing's Financial Street Choir.