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By Carlo Petrick

A Journey Through China

A Journey Through China

Flying 2 miles above Siberia, I looked down at the desolate, snow-covered landscape knowing that soon our plane would land in Shanghai, China. I did not know what I would find there. After more than half a day in the air, we stumbled off the plane, cleared immigration and customs. Bleary eyed and dragging our luggage behind us, Michael, my travel companion, and I were greeted by Matt, our Gate 1 tour guide. “Welcome to China. Go wait over by the arrivals board. We’re waiting for a couple of more passengers.” So it began. 13 nights in China and our journey of discovery. This book is a photo diary of that journey, the places we went and people we met.

A Journey Through China By Carlo Petrick

By Carlo Petrick

A Journey Through China

A Journey Through China

A Journey Through China By Carlo Petrick

A Journey Through China “Why China?” Growing up in the 1960s, The People’s Republic of China was Red China, a strange and dangerous country shrouded in mystery and secrecy that was locked tightly behind the Bamboo Curtain. It was the place you’d end up if you dug a hole through the center of the Earth. “For all the tea in China” was a common expression. But mostly, it was a place and culture we knew very little about. Our stereotype of China was a poor, backward country led by a communist who was a danger to all of us in America. His little red book was carried by a monolithic mass of farmers and workers who depended on the Big Brother Soviet Union. It was a godless place where the state had replaced religion.

But, in 1971 China was also a sleeping giant about to awaken on the world scene and shatter that stereotype. It started with ping pong. When the US table tennis team visited China suddenly the floodgates opened, filling our TV screens and magazines with images of The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, Emperor’s Palaces and other places of great beauty and grandeur. Less than 50 years ago China was an inaccessible place torn by Cultural Revolutions, famine and The Great Leap Forward. Today, China is still a place of mystery and intrigue, but now it was open for me to experience. Finally, I could follow in the steps of those ping pong players.


Welcome to Shanghai 上海 Shanghai is one of the biggest cities in the world with a population of 24 million. A gleaming center of Asian commerce, Shanghai’s ultramodern skyline claws ever higher into the heavens as new buildings and skyscrapers emerge, fueled by powerful economic growth in China. However, pollution from that growth is evident in the city’s haze filled air and brownish green water.

The Bund


(L-R clockwise) Tourists and fashionable locals walk along the Huangpu River. The river is a busy shipping route for vessels carrying goods that are exported around the world from the many factories and industries in the area. The area known as the Bund has dozens of historic European style buildings originally home to banks and trading houses from Europe, the United States and other western countries. Today, the area still remains a thriving financial center in the city.


(Above) Shanghai residents dry their laundry on poles and lines outside their apartments and condos. The “International Flags” are displayed throughout the city. (Previous pages) The brilliantly illuminated skyline of Pudong Island on the east side of the Huangpu River, across from the city center of Shanghai, is home to more than 5 million people. Less than 20 years ago it was almost vacant and an undesirable location on the wrong side of the river. Today it is a trendy area with restaurants, office towers and condos. The building with 2 globes is a TV broadcast tower with restaurants in the lower sphere.


(L) The Bund and river walk glows brightly at night. (Above) Busy Namjing Road, just o The Bund, stretches for blocks in the heart of Shanghai. The road’s busy pedestrian mall is filled with upscale retail shops, multi-story shopping centers, music, nightclubs, dancing and restaurants where large crowds enjoy its vibrant nightlife.

čąŤĺœ’ Yuyuan Garden, in northeast Shanghai, was constructed in the late 1500s by Pan Yunduan for his father. The exquisite sculptures, ponds and jade boulder rockeries are key features of Yuyuan Garden, which provided a sanctuary and respite from the stress of daily life for its owners.


Yuyuan Tourist Market The Yuyuan Tourist Market, next to Yu Garden, is a busy shopping destination crowded with food stands and local restaurants rubbing elbows with international transplants like KFC, Starbucks and Dairy Queen. Its fusion of local and world ranks it as the number one Large Retailing Enterprise in China. Besides food, the many shops sell jade carvings, tea, clothing, musical instruments, jewelry and tourist items.

上海豫 旅游商城股份有限公司


Pavilion in Lake Center, the oldest tea-house in Shanghai, is in the center of the Yuyuan Tourist Market, right by the entrance to Yu Garden. The garden is separated from the Market by the wall in the background. The wall kept disturbing noise, and interlopers, out of the privately owned garden. Nine-Turn Bridge is in the foreground. (Inset) The Nine Lion Study, in Yu Garden.

The Master of Nets Garden 网师园 The Master of Nets Garden is another private garden in Suzhou. The garden is an excellent example of Chinese garden design which combined water, art, nature and architecture to create a metaphysical space of peace and harmony. Like Yu and other private gardens in China, it features natural jade stone rockeries, ponds, ornate buildings, sculptures, furnishings, carvings and plantings.

The pond and Pavi#ion



A Visit to the No. 1 Silk Factory Though an ancient process, Silk remains a major industry in Suzhou, a little over an hour’s drive from Shanghai. Silkworms, who live in the leaves of Mullberry trees throughout their lifecycle, form a cocoon from which a single strand of silk filament is pulled. The filament, which can be up to 1 1/2 miles long, is twisted together with others to make silk thread. In the factory, workers sort and process the cocoons to make thread for weaving, embroidery, rugs, fabric and clothing.

Silkworms feed on mulberry leaves


The silk cocoons are placed in hot water which softens them and makes it easier for the workers to find the end of the cocoon’s filament. The workers, who stand over sinks of steaming water, pull the filament from the cocoon and thread it through these machines which combine the filaments into silk thread that is wound on reels. Cocoons that are not suitable for thread are processed and stretched into thin layers (opposite page) which are piled on top of each other to form batting for silk comforters.


Stretching silk to form a comforter The showroom at the No. 1 Silk Factory featured a wide selection of ornate rugs made by hand on the factory’s looms. Some of these hand woven rugs have thousands of knots per inch. Ornate silk fabric, pillows, sheets, embroideries, tapestries, clothing and art objects were also available in the factory shop.


Grand Canal - Suzhou 大運河 The Grand Canal in the city of Suzhou, also known as “the Venice of China,” was originally built in the year 600 AD. The Grand Canal is the world’s longest canal. The waterway begins in Beijing, snaking more than eleven hundred miles through the Chinese landscape to Hangzu. Smaller “baby” canals branch off the Grand Canal and run through the town. Residences, businesses and restaurants easily accessible by boats, line the canals.

the grand canal


The Grand Canal, Suzhou The Canal was not always so long. During the Sui Dynasty, segments of shorter individual canals were linked to create the Grand Canal. The Canal provided Dynasties from the north access to the rich agricultural regions in southern China. The Grand Canal was an engineering marvel. Its many locks allowed boats and barges to navigate through elevation changes along its route across flatlands and over mountains.

Baby Canal, Suzhou


Xi'an Shanghai


Xi’an, more than 3,100 years old, is one of the most historic cities in China. It is one of China’s four ancient capitals. Its’ rich heritage is celebrated in the Tang Dynasty show. Xingging Park is a gathering spot in the city where locals can escape the busy urban lifestyle. It is built on the spot where Xingging Palace originally stood.

Ba#room Dancing in Xin%ing Park 21

Morning Dancers and Exercise at Xin

gqing Park, Xi’an



Every morning, thousands of people gather at Xingqing Park to socialize, participate in group exercise, sing, dance in traditional costumes, learn ballroom steps, play sports including badminton, or just to enjoy the winding paths, ponds and the natural serenity the park offers.


Night time glows with vibrant, colored lights and buzzes with crowds in Xi’an’s historic Muslim Quarter. Shops and restaurants line the street where much of the food is cooked in open air kitchens and sidewalk woks. Numerous small booths in the busy market were well stocked with merchandise, apparel and fresh produce. Overflowing baskets filled with walnuts and many other types of nuts, some recently roasted in large pots over gas burners, were for sale throughout the market.


西安 The Shaanxi Provincial Museum in Xi’an displays over 300,000 relics of Zhou, Qin, Tang, Han and other dynasties. (L-R clockwise) Kites in the courtyard outside the museum, jade sculpture, a bronze pot, the museum entrance, a walkway outside the museum and terra cotta horses.


秦陵兵马俑 Terra Cotta Soldiers Just outside of Xi’an, a great army of soldiers was constructed of terra cotta and buried. These figures date from the Qin Dynasty in the 3rd century BC. Virtually all of the figures were discovered broken apart. Hundreds have been painstakingly restored and placed in position where they were originally buried. Over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots and 670 horses were constructed and buried near Emperor Qin’s mausoleum.

More than 570 horses are at the site. The Terra Cotta Soldiers were discovered in 1974 by an illiterate farmer digging a well. The farmer took the mysterious clay head he found to local authorities who began the process to excavate and restore the life-size soldiers, horses and wagons buried to protect Emperor Qin Shi Huang in his afterlife. Today, the farmer poses for photos and signs books in the museum shop.






藏區 Tibet is a four hour flight west from Xi’an over the Himalaya Mountains. Entry intoTibet requires a special permit from the Chinese government. Foreigners are allowed to visit only in tour groups to help prevent political protests supporting Tibet’s independence from Chinese rule.

The Himalaya Mountains provide a breathtaking backdrop along the highway from the airport to Lhasa. The rivers are rich with fish and the valleys are used for raising cattle and farming. Early November weather is comfortable in the afternoon and cooler in the morning and after dark.


布达拉宫 The Potala Palace, one of the most sacred places in Tibet, was the primary residence of the Dali Lamas, the country’s spiritual leaders, from 1649 until 1959 when the 14th Dali Lama, fearing abduction by Chinese authorities, fled to India. The 1959 Tibetan Uprising was marked by rebellion and violent protests against the Communist rule of Tibet.

Tibetan Buddhism is entwined with the culture of the country. In Lhasa, the capitol of Tibet, shrines and prayer wheels predominate the landscape. The prayer wheels, inscribed in Sanskrit on the outside, contain long paper scrolls of prayers tightly rolled inside. Rotating the wheel in a clockwise direction is the same as orally reciting all the prayers on the roll.


Tibetan families trek the 400 stairs to Potala Palace


Potala Palace at night as seen from Potala Square, which lies across the street from the foot of the Palace. The fountains in Potala Square are illuminated at night and are synchronized to music that plays on loudspeakers in the square. The square features colorful plantings, reflecting ponds and pagodas. The Palace, 13 stories tall with over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and 200,000 statues, is built on the “Red Hill,� about 1,000 feet above the surrounding valley.


Sera Monastery

སེ་ར Sera Monastery, named after the Tibetan words for rose, was founded in 1419 and is one of the most important monasteries in Tibet. The Monastery has a sad place in the history of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising. Hundreds of monks were killed and the Monastery was severely damaged by the onslaught of Chinese artillery rounds. After the Dali Lama fled Potala to find asylum in India many of the surviving monks left Tibet to join him in exile. Today, the monks of Sera gather most afternoons in the courtyard to debate and learn the teachings of Buddhism. The monk leading the debate will point or slap his hands together loudly to emphasize a point or respond to an answer he considers incorrect or poorly thought out.


Street-side shops cater to the local population selling yak meat, yak butter, vegetables and many fresh fruits. Yak butter is taken to the temple as an oering and is used for candles and to make butter tea. The butcher will work behind the rack of hanging meat in this open-air market, separating slaughtered yak flesh from bone. Small restaurants line the street, along with scores of shops selling textiles, electronics, bikes, fishing equipment, knock-os of western clothing, housewares, herbs and other goods.


Lhasa, because of its elevation and location, has a mild, dry climate. Cool and arid conditions make the area suitable for agriculture. The many nearby rivers and grazing lands keep the markets in the area filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat and fish. (Above L-R clockwise) Produce in the markets is plentiful and fresh. A woman embroiders in front of a small market at the foot of the Sera Monastery. Just down the sidewalk from her, a yak feeds out of a shovel.




Barkhor Square Buddhists chant prayers while circumambulating clockwise through Barkhor Square toward the sacred site of Jokhang Temple. They gather in the square for their morning prayers before making the trek to the temple. Incense rises from large stone burners, filling the Square with a thick cloud of fragrant smoke. All activity in the city happens under the watchful eyes of the police, who are everywhere. Armed troops march through the streets as a reminder of Chinese authority.

Incense fills Barkhor Square


Stone incense burners The Barkhor is an area of narrow streets and a public square in the old part of the city located around Jokhang Temple. It is at the center of Lhasa, which has an elevation of 11,450 feet. The city’s name is literally translated as “place of the gods.” Walking along a route known as the “kora” to Jokhang Temple, people pause to toss incense in stone burners located at the 4 corners of the square.


The ritual creates thick clouds of incense smoke on Barkhor Square. The twig-like sticks of fragrant wood burn up in the burner’s red hot flames - a symbolic offering to obtain contemplative gratitude and inspiration as well as spiritual purification. Incense is not the only substance used. Typical offerings include flowers, food, fruit, water and other drinks which are sometimes tossed into the burner or left next to the tall stone structures.


大昭寺 The Jokhang Temple is located on Barkhor Square. The sacred site has for centuries been a destination for pilgrims and a location at which hundreds of Buddhists gather each morning for prayers. The temple, built in 642 AD, is a labyrinth of narrow halls, shrines, chapels and areas where monks study and pray.


Jokhang Temple is considered the most sacred and important temple in Tibet. Two golden deer flank a Dharma Wheel (wheel of life) on the temple’s roof. The dim interior of the temple is lit by flickering yak butter candles, skylights and small incandescent bulbs while the air is filled with sweet incense. The 4story Temple is crowned with a gilded bronze roof and rich ornamentation.


ནོར་'་(ིང་ཀ་་ Norbulingka, the Summer Palace of the Dali Lama in Lhasa was built about 100 years after the Potala Palace. Newer structures were built during the time of the 14th Dali Lama who escaped from Tibet to exile in India during the 1959 Uprising.



The faces of Tibet


Kyi River

,ིད་. Kyi River (or Kyi Chu), a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo River, runs through the southern part of Lhasa. Prayer flags hang along the river. The five colors in the flag represent sky (blue,) air/wind (white,) fire (red,) water (green) and earth (yellow.) The flags, as they catch the wind, carry good will and blessings to all beings.

Pilgrims chanting, carrying prayer wheels and beads, walk along the Kyi River on their way to the temple, pausing to pray along the way. Darchor-style (vertical) prayer flags, adorn the trees on the walkway. Prayer flags do not carry prayers to god, but promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom for all. New flags are placed next to the older, faded flags symbolizing the ongoing cycle of life.



Xi'an Lhasa


The Great Ha# of the People

北京 Beijing, our final stop in China, is the country’s modern capital . It is a mix of ancient history and the seat of contemporary political and economic power. The Great Hall of the People, (above) is the congress building of the Communist Party. The National Grand Theatre (Left) is a modern performing arts center near Tiananmen Square.



Journey through Beijing at night. It is a journey through ancient cities and modern times. Bright neon streets and towering monoliths. Monuments to political struggle and a nation’s accomplishments.


Beijing artisans carve nephrite jade, a white or greenish colored semi-precious stone, and jadeite, a type of jade which is emerald green, pink, lavender, orange and brown, into ornate jewelry and other works of art and sculpture. (Facing page) This very elegant tableau of horses is carved from a single large piece of jadeite A bronze at the shop commemorates traditional Chinese carving methods, while modern techniques and equipment (above) are used today.


北京动物 The Beijing Zoo is home to a vast variety of animals from around the world, including the Giant Panda. The zoo was founded in 1906 and today hosts more than six million visitors each year. The Panda exhibit is one of the most popular at the zoo, which also features over 14,000 animals, including many endangered species such as (Facing page) the White Bengal Tiger.


The world came to Beijing in 2008 for the Summer games of the XXIX Olympiad. The Water Cube (Upper L) is where Michael Phelps won a record 8 gold medals in swimming events. The iconic “Bird’s Nest” Beijing National Stadium was home to many athletic events, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. The stadium took 5 years to build at a cost of more than $400 million dollars. Maintaining the structure, now used for occasional sporting events and shows, costs a million dollars a year.


Near Tiananmen Square Beijing, like much of urban China, is a dichotomy of classic Asian architecture and remnants of old-line Communist authoritarianism beside modern commerce and trendy, western-inspired fashion. Though it is governed by the Communist party, China describes itself as “socialist with Chinese characteristics.�


天安門廣場 Tiananmen Square is at the center of Beijing, literally and emotionally. It may be best known as the site of deadly protests in 1989, but it’s massive sculptures also celebrate the heroes of the Communist Revolution. At the edge of the Square, people stand in line for hours outside of Mao’s mausoleum (R), to see the former Communist leader’s preserved body.


The Great Ha# of the People

(L-R clockwise) Monument to the People’s Heros, Mike Ogrodowski and Carlo Petrick at Tiananmen Gate on the north side of Tiananmen Square, video wall showing Chinese progress and The Great Hall of the People where the Communist Party Congress meets.


The Forbidden City 紫禁城 The Forbidden City was the Emperor’s imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty through the Qing Dynasty and was the home, and eventual prison, of the last Emperor of China. It was built in 1406-1420. It has the largest collection of ancient preserved wooden structures in the world. The palace gets its name because entrance to all but a few select people was forbidden.

The Forbidden City


The Outer Court and Hall of Supreme Harmony


The Forbidden City is divided into the Outer Court and the Inner Court. The large Hall of Supreme Harmony and the smaller Hall of Central Harmony are in the Outer Court. The Inner Court was where the Emperor lived and conducted meetings in ornate rooms and gardens

The Forbidden City was the home to 24 Emperors. The last Emperor to live in the Forbidden City was Puyi, who abdicated in 1912 but lived in the Palace until 1924, when a coup forced him to leave. (Above) The East Glorious Gate.

Seventeen Arch Bridge

颐和园 The Summer Palace was an Imperial garden built on the shore of Kunming Lake. (L-R clockwise) The Tower of Buddhist Incense overlooks the Palace from Longevity Hill.. Dragon boats take tourists across the lake, passing the Seventeen Arch Bridge. Yu Feng Pagoda is built on Yu Quan Hill across Kunming Lake.


Kunming Lake is not a natural lake. It was excavated and the soil used to build Longevity Hill.

Kunming Lake

(L-R clockwise) Decorated Paifang (gate,) the Long Corridor covered walkway, Marble Boat, water garden and Jade Belt Bridge.


Dragon Boat The Summer Palace, originally named Qingyi Yuan or the Garden of Clear Ripples, was first built in 1750. It was razed by Anglo-French Allied Forces in 1860. 26 years later the Qing Dynasty began to rebuild the destroyed Palace. Now a park, the Palace grounds covers 2.9 sq. kilometers, three quarters of which is covered by water.


Beijing is open to foreign retailers such as WalMart, KFC and others, but still maintains its deep roots in traditional Chinese art, design and culture alongside relics of the 1949 Communist revolution. A delicate balance of capitalism and Communism, China’s economic strength makes it one of the most influential countries on Earth.


万里长城 One of the world’s wonders, The Great Wall of China winds 5,500 miles through China, up and down mountains, across deserts, grasslands and plateaus. More than 2000 years old in some sections, parts of the wall are crumbling ruins or have disappeared after years of weathering. This restored section of the Great Wall is in Beijing.

The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, generally built along an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China in part to protect the Chinese Empire against intrusions by nomadic groups or military incursions by warlike peoples.



The journey: A Coda

老子 “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” ― Laozi (Lao Tzu) 6th century Chinese philosopher “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ― Ernest Hemingway 20th century American writer

A Journey Through China  

A photo diary of China and Tibet

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