Everyone calls it the Olympic Park, but the official name for the area in which the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games were held is officially Olympic Green. Below you’ll see the Beijing National Aquatics Center, Beijing National Stadium (also known as the Bird’s Nest), and other sights remaining at this former Olympic site. You’ll also see a very large dragon known as Pangu Park.
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Let’s face it, nobody knows jade like the Chinese know jade. Sure, the stuff is beautiful, but if you don’t know what you’re getting then you will probably feel ripped off later.
At the government-owned jade factory you will most assuredly leave feeling good about your purchase. You’ll find that you most likely made some really great buys as you compare at other stores during your China journey. I’ve read other travel blogs that have labeled this a “tourist trap.” Those bloggers obviously didn’t check retail outlets later for both quality and price or they never would have made such a blatantly silly statement. The government-owned pearl store? That’s another story. We didn’t buy there.
Upon our arrival to this government-owned factory our wonderful China Spree guide Chen “Jim” Mao handed us off to a very knowledgeable host who first showed us the delicate craftsmanship that goes into working jade. By the way, jade is not “carved.” It’s simply too tough. Instead, jade is worked through a delicate and time-consuming abrasion method. The demonstration below shows the incredible work that goes into crafting out of a single block of green jade an intricate, nested series of spheres that all rotate independently of one another once completed.
Following this portion of the tour we were then given a lecture on the various types, colors, and translucent qualities of both jade (nephrite) and its more expensive, denser, harder, and much rarer cousin jadeite.
We were also schooled in the art of determining real from fake and then shown some rather exquisite pieces.
Remember those nested spheres? Here are examples of the various stages leading to the finished product:
The store has in back a separate room for what is classified as “museum quality” pieces. Of course, this is where Ursula migrated.
Several bloggers have also said that prices here are “set,” and that it does no good to haggle. Baloney. Show interest in something expensive, but insist upon walking away, and eventually — if you’re persistent enough — your salesperson will go fetch the “manager” to see what they can do for you. It’s almost like a car dealership back home.
The store portion of the factory is huge by any standard, with pieces separated by quality and type (jewelry, statuary, bowls, etc.). It’s a truly fascinating experience, and one not to be missed on you travels to Beijing.
You may be surprised at the array of colors displayed in both jade and jadeite. But, whereas jadeite can be polished to a high gloss mimicking that of glass, jade is duller in finish and often waxed to produce luster.
The highly prized jadeite found in China is actually mined in Myanmar (formerly Burma). Other sources around the world account for only a small portion of the jadeite that has been mined there.
As for both jade and jadeite, color is not the only measure of desirability. Translucency plays an equally important role in determining the value of a piece.
I hope you enjoyed the tour of the jade factory and store in Beijing.
Today we’re going to take a look at the more serious side of White Sands National Monument. Unfortunately, I was not there during optimum lighting. That occurs not in the bright overhead sun, but rather closer to either sunrise or sunset. Proper exposure is tricky with a landscape this white, as we’ve discussed before, so most images were taken with a +⅔ exposure compensation. Even so, some post processing was required, and thankfully I had shot images in Raw + JPEG.