China trip – 15. Beijing train museum

I like travelling by train.  I went the entire length of Switzerland by train after seeing my friend Matthew who I met in Israel who lives in Basel, and I travelled across Morocco to get from Tangier to Casablanca to Fez.   It’s fascinating when railways can be built over impossibly complicated terrain with tunnels and bridges.

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This was interesting but had very little English details of how China’s transportation has evolved over the years.

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Visiting in the driver’s seat of this train was roped off as it was at extra cost.

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The inner working of modern trains as well the vintage ones.

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Models of China’s lines.

In advance, I bought two tickets at US$85 each to get from Beijing to Shanghai, more on that next.

14. Beijing’s metro, close copy of London Underground

16.

 

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China trip – 14. Beijing’s metro, close copy of London Underground

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The Chinese are the master of counterfeiters.  But not always in a bad way.

My journey to go from where I live in Harrow in outer London (zone 5, Metropolitan line) to the middle of the city is something like £3.70 I think one way.   Going on the metro in China is something like 20-50p.

Beijing’s metro has been going since 1969 and has 345 stations.   London Underground has 270 but has been going since 1863.  Some of it quite clearly is influenced by London

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I think this was Beijing’s main central railway station.  The individual stations are named with their English transliteration, but each line has just a number as well as a colour.

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Stations can be very grand in their appearance with this large hanging pictures.

What’s a bit different, is the tougher security, X-ray machines which you are required to put your luggage through at every station, and they still have ticket offices, whereas the London Underground requires payment only by a machine meaning ticket offices are almost a thing of the past.    The Chinese tube has a loud bell ringing when the doors are about to shut.

13. Tiananmen Square

15. Beijing train museum

 

China trip 13. – Tianamen square

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Here is the famous Tiananmen Square, a place where some students made a demonstration against the government in 1989.

Today, this moment in history is a taboo subject in Beijing you can’t talk about.   On my last article on the government filtered internet, I didn’t check this item.

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Like many big famous places, all entries/exits to the site require going through security checks.

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Entrance to the metro station is blocked sometimes.

12. The land of no Google

14. Beijing’s metro, close copy of London Underground

China trip – 12. The land of no Google

Often, folks in the west are concerned about government surveillance of what the general public use their computers and smartphones to do since the big discovery from former US government IT consultant Edward Snowdon.

China’s internet is heavily filtered by the government with much in the way of social media and articles that point out lack of freedom of speech are often invisible to China’s citizens.

In recent times Apple is building a massive data centre to provide online cloud storage that meets the standard of the Chinese government.

I decided to do my own tests whilst I was in China using a) a Lenovo Thinkpad computer which has the bottom held together with tape I got free from my ex-employer, which I upgraded from Windows 8.1 to 10, it contains almost no data and has a poorly performing AMD processor, being a cheap computer I take with me on trips which would be not too much of a tragedy if stolen than a nicer laptop.   I also my Motorola Moto G Android phone which is actually owned by Lenovo which are a Chinese company.

I used a VPN program which is a piece of software to make your computer to appear to have an IP address of another location.   This is not just for countries hostile to freedom of speech.   These apps are used by business people to be able to connect to network drives on the file servers at their employer’s location.

For obvious reasons take great care if you want to blog about your own discoveries, ie: don’t write until you get back home again!

This list was correct in April 2017 when I did the trip, its likely results will change.

These sites work:-
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mao_Zedong (English Wikipedia is ok, but…..)
http://www.bing.com (redirects to http://cn.bing.com/)
https://www.yahoo.com/
https://slashdot.org/ (US based IT news site, reported before on China’s great firewall)
https://www.theregister.co.uk/ (UK based IT site, similar to above)
http://www.bbc.co.uk
http://www.aljazeera.com/
http://www.cisco.com/
http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/security/vpn-endpoint-security-clients/index.html (VPN!!)
http://www.hp.com/country/us/en/welcome.html
http://www.korea-dpr.com/ (North Korea government!)
https://www.whitehouse.gov/
https://www.checkpoint.com/
https://www.rt.com/ (Russia today)
https://www.waze.com/en-GB/ (popular Israel based GPS app for phone now owned by Google)
http://www.chinahumanrights.org/
https://www.aclu.org/issues/free-speech
https://jewsforjesus.org/
http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/
https://backtojerusalem.com/home/
http://alpha.org/

ping

blocked sites can’t even be tested with a PING command

These sites are banned
https://zh.wikipedia.org/ (…Chinese language Wikipedia)
http://www.Facebook.com
http://www.google.com
https://www.wikileaks.com/
https://hola.org/ (VPN)
https://www.hrw.org/zh-hans
https://twitter.com/
http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
http://www.inspirationalchristians.org/biography/brother-yun/ (Brother Yun is a pioneer of the modern Chinese church)
https://chrome.google.com/webstore/
https://www.mossad.gov.il/ (Israel secret service – this redirects somewhere else??)
https://www.whatsapp.com/ (site doesn’t render properly)
https://www.opendoors.org/ (Christian charity on the persecuted church)
https://billygraham.org/
http://www.salvationarmy.org/

Watching what the public is doing with their computers and/or making content blocked in a country by governments is like an arms war, as technical IT people relish the challenge to find a way around things.

Can you imagine trying to boycott China-made IT kit?  I think it would be a case of nah-nah nah nah-nah,  we make everything!   Also, China’s Great Firewall infrastructure that stops citizens seeing certain things, has equipment made by Cisco who is a US company.  Oh well.

Tips:

  1. If you want to make sure you are connected before you leave your home country,  get all the apps you need first.
  2. If you have Gmail on your phone.   Set up an Outlook account and put it on your phone and get Google to auto-forward mail to the Outlook account and you won’t miss anything.
  3. Chinese Android phones have no Google Play store.   You won’t be able to grab any apps for your own phone while in China.   I would avoid buying phones out there, the whole point of the Apps Store is Google vet apps of any malicious stuff in advance before they are published.
  4. If VPN is really important (ie: you are needing to work while away, you will need to pay for one.)   The free ones are ok but are slow and take a while to startup.
  5. Don’t use your phone or PC to do anything to draw attention to yourself whilst you are in China.   Stay safe!!!

11. Bible and Christian books for sale in China’s high street

13. Tiananmen square

 

No Google, Jesus is not from Palestine!

I saw this on Google translate and face palmed.

jesus not from palestine

No Google, Jesus is not from Palestine!

Professional translators and university professors and teachers strong discourage the use of Google Translator and Wikipedia, this is another reason why.

jesus was from what

I don’t really like Internet Memes.   There’s too many of them, and often they are part of someone else’s in-joke.   I like visually assisted sarcasm though.

Jesus was an Israeli and a Jew.   Israel was renamed Syria Palestina much after his death, resurrection and ascension to heaven and after the destruction of the temple.   So around 120AD.   Palestine is a product of the Roman Emporer Hadrian.   Not from Arab people.   Palestine is the name of the land between 120AD and 1948 where the land was occupied by Romans, Turks, British and later on Arabs.

Just like Paul wasn’t Turkish.   But he was from the city of Tarsus which in the nation of Turkey today.

Please challenge pastors and theological people who slip in the Jesus was from “Palestine” this is completely and utterly wrong!!   Even some bibles write maps in the back pages with Palestine from the time of Jesus.   Argh……

 

 

China trip – 11. Bible and Christian books for sale in China’s high street

All Christian news and mission-centric websites that talk about China tell me one of two things:

  1. China has the largest number of people coming to Christ anywhere
  2. Chinese Christians are often persecuted.   Evangelism is challenging and possibly illegal, but it doesn’t stop

Here are words of Jesus on persecution of his believers:-

Mark 13 9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me, you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

Wow, this is so true today when I hear people finding Christ in Africa, the Islamic world as well as China and places where would be unlikely a few decades ago.

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So I saw some very large bookshops in Beijing and Shanghai.  One of them was in a big mall like this.

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So from what I have read, the Chinese government now encourage *some* aspects of Christianity.  But on their terms.  Or respect Christianity at least for its historical value.  Most of the religious books in these shops are about Buddhism.

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Lastly, these bibles were on sale in a church in Shanghai.   The church is a brand new purpose built place.  This has no English speaking people and does not appear dependant on a western ministry for teaching or funding.  More later.

10. Islam in Beijing and elsewhere

12. China is the land of no Google.

 

China trip – 10. Islam in Beijing and elsewhere

China is officially an atheist country but Buddhism is the main religion.

There are Muslims in China, some not many.    Mostly I think in the more rural parts of the western side of the country.

I think a strict government and police force means terrorism doesn’t seem to happen, or public demonstrations or forcing of Sharia law which many people often worry is being introduced into Europe.

The Chinese Muslims I think are mostly Uyghur people who are slightly different ethnically from other Chinese.   For instance, the men wear small rounded hats like African Islamic people, their skin is darker so maybe they are ethnically similar to Indonesian/Malaysian people which are Islamic nations.

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In Beijing a Mosque type building on top of shops and offices seems unusual.

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This outdoor cafe had a number of private little huts to sit in.   I spotted the Shahada Arabic script hanging on the wall.   Regular Chinese people outside would be drinking beer and eating food like pork.  So maybe this room is intended for Muslim clients.

China isn’t really a ‘tolerant’ country but some try their best to welcome different folk.

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This banknote, when viewed up close, has two other languages on it in addition to English and Chinese.  One of these is Uyghuric, which looks like Arabic script.

Shanghai had Chinese Muslims selling small bread rolls with some kind of herbs in out of a small oven on a trolley by the side of the road.   There was also Chinese Muslim restaurants with Halal Arabic script on the window with much of the decoration in green, a colour commonly associated with Islam.

For Christians like travelling and watching what’s happening with the boom of the gospel of Jesus in China, there are many other strongholds and challenges.   More on this soon.

9. China’s super rich

11. Christian books spotted in Beijing high street

 

China trip – 9. China’s super rich

Around the corner from my youth hostel were many luxury hotels.  Some more from typical western type places, and some with more of the character of China itself.

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DSCF9445 1024China seems to be enjoying something of a massive economic boom in recent years.  There are shopping malls of top clothing brands from the west alongside traditional type simple stores and markets, being all made here in China of course.

As well as luxury cars parked outside the hotels, some big hotels have large windowed showrooms being rented out to sell new prestige cars.

Also, this vintage vehicle was there.   I think this belonged to a previous leader of China, maybe even Chairman Mao.

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8. The Great Wall of China Mutianyu district

10. Islam in Beijing and elsewhere

 

China trip – 8. The Great Wall of China Mutianyu district

At the Youth Hostel in Beijing, there was the chance to do several organised tours, there are live theatre events and guided tours around Beijing, but of course, trips to the Great Wall.   Actually, there are four different parts to the great wall you can visit.

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The bus ride from central Beijing to Mutianyu is about a couple of hours.  Once you get there, you walk upto the hills where the Great Wall, but many people pay for a cable car and so we did to save time.

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The Great Wall has characterised by these towers every so often maybe 3 per kilometer of wall, but the connecting bit where we went to has these small balcony sections, which are good for organised groups to visit and gather.

The Mutianyu district is the modern section as this was rebuilt in the 1500s.  My travel companion for this visit was a pilot for a well known US airline, young chap in his late 20s.

Things I learned about the Great Wall:-

  1. Its huge and spans much of China’s massive nation
  2. Its not visible from space, (old wives tale)
  3. The weather was quite nicely warm, actually really pleasant (was there April 2017)
  4. The atmosphere and nature here are wonderful, you can hear the buzzing of bees, lots of different types of trees and occasional honk of a pheasant.
  5. It’s physically demanding walking it, bits of it are very steep, its essential to be fit.
  6. In the event you get sick or an injury getting help could be difficult
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  8. You will see a lot of other foreigners including people from your own country.
  9. The bricks are black on the Mutianyu section.
  10. Not everyone is respectful of this beautiful world-famous landmark, there is graffiti in some of the towers.
  11. Perhaps this wall is the first example of the Chinese being the most industrious nation on earth.

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7. Beijing’s Happy Dragon Hostel and visitors

9. China’s super rich

Please help my friend’s church in Pakistan

I’ve helped create a blog for a friend’s church in Pakistan.

https://pakistanforjesusblog.wordpress.com/ 

Please show this to anyone who wishes to help the Pakistani people with prayer and donations.   This is a country I have not been too, but been chatting to my pastor friend for a number of years now, and am encouraged by how the gospel is reaching these people, and how the local body of Christ provides help to the poor and the needy in their community.

More content will be added soon.