GSO in China, Day 1: Beijing Posted on January 21st, 2008 by

gso_toh3.jpgBeijing is vast and varied. After arriving at 6 a.m. local time and meeting our hosts from Music Celebrations International, the Gustavus Symphony Orchestra & Co. boarded motor coaches for transport to the Beijing Best Western Premier. The trip into the city took us past plenty of new highway construction in preparation for the Olympics and for the opening of a new airport terminal. The contrast between well-used semi-modern Beijing and current/future Beijing is striking. The new China Central Television (CCTV) building overlooks remnants of old, single-story Beijing hutongs, where extended families lived in closely-packed handmade-brick structures connected by narrow alleyways.


After breakfast, we visited the Temple of Heaven, where emperors went to talk with gods and offer animal sacrifices in return for good harvests. The temple resides within an enormous complex of structures, all originally imperial in nature and function. Sunday, the grounds were abuzz with Chinese enjoying a day off, playing mahjong, poker, singing and dancing, and a variety of tai chi-like activities involving weighted balls and rubbery paddles. A few intrepid Gusties laid their heads on the Center of Heaven Stone, the central element in a tiered structure designed to reflect mathematical relationships between sacred elements of 16th-century China. FYI, the number nine was reserved for the emperor’s use only—use it and lose your head.


After lunch at a colorful local restaurant offering a wide variety of favorites from Chinese bread (steamed) to fried, paper-thin pork on a stick (how very State Fairesque), we retired to the hotel for a brief breather. Roughly half of the GSO took off for the Beijing flea market, a weekend-only, open air market with a vast array of local vendors hawking wares. Haggling was the order of the day, with varying results.

Tomorrow we head to Tian’ Anmen Square and the Forbidden City before rehearsal and an evening concert at the Central Conservatory of Music. In the meantime, we all could use a little shuteye before our next eye-opening experience. By the way, you can click on any of the images here to see a bigger, somewhat better version.



  1. Ann Finocchiaro says:

    Hello Everyone,
    Keep the narration and photographs coming.
    We enjoy them and feel like we are part of the GSO.
    Rock-on !

  2. Noah Westphal says:

    Hey Mom how is it going? sounds like you are having fun but anywho are you getting us a wii? i hope u do if u can find one

    Miss you and love you,

    Noah and the family

  3. Dede Brown says:

    Hi everybody!! Nihao! Looks and sounds like you’re having a great time! Thanks for sharing your photos and commentaries with us. Have a wonderful time and we will look forward to your return and hearing all about China! Safe Travels,