3:15 PM Today we saw three different sides of contemporary Beijing. First we visited the mausoleum in Tiananmen Square where the body of Mao Zedong is preserved (thirty years after his death) for viewing behind a glass enclosure. The guards informed us that absolutely no pictures were allowed. Before entering the building, people had a chance to buy flowers. Upon entering the building, we encountered an enormous statue of Mao. A number of people stepped forward, bowed, and placed their flowers at the foot of the statue. Then we filed silently and quickly past his body. Security was very tight and they kept us moving. Afterwards I bought a “little red book” of the sayings of Chairman Mao (the second bestselling book in the world, behind only the Bible) for 15 RMB, a little less than $2. Then we paid a return visit to the pearl market, a multistoried emporium where shop owners line the crowded aisles, shouting and tugging at passersby to stop and see their wares. You can buy pearls or the latest fashions or any sort of electronic gear you can dream of, and you are expected to bargain to get the best price. The faint of heart should stay away. This is street-level Beijing capitalism, most of it run by energetic young people in their twenties. Then All of this is yet another side of China. Then we visited the Temple of Heaven where Chinese emperors came once a year to offer sacrifices to the God of heaven. Although the emperor was a god to his own people, he himself offered sacrifices to the God of heaven, an act that seems to demonstrate that God has put eternity inside every heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and that the truth about God is written in every heart and can never be completed erased (Romans 1:18-20). Three radically different sides of China in just a couple of hours. And tonight we will experience yet another side.
3:10 PM A wise friend gave me this analogy yesterday about matters of faith in China at the present time. “It’s like spinning a yo-yo while walking up the stairs. Things go up and down, but slowly you make progress in the right direction.”
3:05 PM Tonight I begin the first of three presentations to influential leaders regarding the Chinese translation of one of my books. I was told to expect up to 150 people. I will talk about the book (through a translator) for about an hour and then take questions. People will come from many different backgrounds and I was told to expect questions about anything at all. The only thing I absolutely won’t talk about is politics (if that comes up) because that has nothing to do with my book. Tonight’s meeting will last about three hours. Tomorrow we do the same thing two more times in smaller, more intimate settings. Those will be almost like small group discussions in which all sorts of questions and concerns will be shared. As a side note, consider that in America there are 10,000 new Christian books released each year. In China there are perhaps 50 new Christian books each year. Things are changing for the better and that number–and the outlets for distribution–will increase in the years to come.
2:45 PM In general you can eat out much cheaper in China than in the US. Last night Marlene and I had supper with Charlie and Joy Brainer at a Korean barbecue. Total bill for a very complete meal for four people: $8. Today we ate at a Chinese hot pot restaurant in the fancy Wang Fu Jing shopping district in central Beijing. Total bill for Marlene and I plus Nick and Mark: $48. Mark noted that we were paying more because of the upscale location. Wang Fu Jing is the Michigan Avenue of Beijing. Both meals are unique “group participation” experiences. At the Korean barbecue, a waiter placed a bucket of hot coals in a grill in the middle of the table and we cooked our meal and vegetables and ate them on the spot. At the hot pot, meat and vegetables are cooked in a container of boiling broth in the middle of the table. It was messy fun. I thought I was the messiest until I saw Nick’s area. He pointed me to Mark and we agreed that Mark was the winner.
9:44 AM Mark has posted some new pictures of the visit to Harbin last weekend.