Last week I visited Qinhuangdao with Roma on a four day holiday. It’s a “small” city (perhaps a million or two in population) north of Shanghai on the coast, a few hours away from Beijing. It’s the place where Roma grew up, and where his family lives.

We ate so much! Meal after meal of amazing food either at his parent’s home, at his relatives’, at friend’s homes, or out at a restaurant. Wherever we went, food was piled high and the glasses were ringing toasts over the table. Some dishes I have never seen or heard of and other things were familiar but not eaten quite that way in the US. It was a special treat.

Two things I noticed which seem to be common to all cultures: all of the family gathered around a table of food, eating and talking, and his grandmother trying to slip some money into Roma’s pocket on the way out.

Qinhuangdao is a dry region despite being on the coast, with a small lovely dry mountain range nearby. We also visited a colorful Buddhist monastery in those mountains, where all the beautifully sculpted Chinese Buddhist gods look angry, and the copper incense stands and towers were surprisingly ornate.

Buddhist temple

angry gods

more angry gods

Somewhere further in, past these gate guardians, was a huge statue of Kuan Yin. It was there that I learned that Kuan Yin is actually a man, or perhaps androgynous.

copper (incense?) tower

wall in the distance

The next day we walked around the “neighborhood” of Shanhaiguan (they call it a district of Qinhuangdao) where there remains most of the not-so-old original wall. I think it was built in the 1300’s.

center of Shanhaiguan

Although I became a bit ill in the stomach after eating the first night (I think it was the dish of crawfish-like things from the ocean), all in all the 4-day trip was wonderful. I felt adopted by Roma’s family.

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