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Family visits China

PUTNAM - A Putnam family recently had an opportunity few North Country residents can ever expect - a visit to China. Tom Bain of Putnam Station, along with his wife Christine and children Caitlin and Tommy, visited the world's most-populist nation as part of an U.S. Army tour. "This was an eye opening experience for my family and me," Bain said. "I expected a grimy, run-down city full of tanks and soldiers. What I saw was a rich history of a proud people and great care taken to preserve the cultural resources they have in their possession. "The markets showed me that capitalism thrives even under communist rule, and that preconceived notions of a country are usually wrong," he added. "If given the opportunity to visit China before the Olympics, I would recommend that you take that trip and see for yourself the cultural wonders of this Asian country." Bain is an Army chief warrant officer four stationed in South Korea. The Bain family was allowed to visit Beijing and some of the country's historic sites as part of an Army tour. They started their trip with a tour of Beijing in a rickshaw, a three-wheel bicycle, that took them to a Chinese family's home for dinner. "The homes of the Chinese are changing dramatically with the modernization of China," Bain said. "The traditional Chinese home, as it has been for thousands of years, is a walled compound with several small houses in it. The oldest family members live in the central house and the rest of the family live in the houses against the walls of the compound. As the family members pass away, the central house is occupied by the next senior family member. As China modernizes, these family compounds are being demolished to make way for high rise apartments. This is necessary due the huge population growth occurring in China." After a show at the Beijing Acrobatics Theater, the group went to their hotel. "The hotel room was very clean and specialized in western visitors," Bain said. "We were informed by our guide that we got television stations inside the hotel that were not available to the populace of China due to the censorship laws. The hotel had a number of shops and restaurants available to the visitors and all of the staff was very accommodating." The next day visitors were allowed to shop in Chinese markets and went to Tiananmen Square. Chinese claim Tiananmen Square is the largest square in the world. It holds the burial place of Chairman Mao, the father of communism in China. It was also the site of a bloody pro-democracy uprising in 1989 during which government forces killed an estimated 3,000 protesters. "Adjacent to the Tiananmen Square, which was a testament to the communist era, was the Forbidden City, a testament to China's past ages," Bain said. "This huge complex is comprised of a series of gates, each leading farther to the center of the city where the emperor lived. The architecture and colors here are amazing, and the opulence in which the emperor lived is not lost over the centuries." Bain and his family also visited the emperor's Summer Palace and the Great Wall of China. "The Great Wall near Beijing runs across a series of mountains and shows the determination of the emperors to create a great monument," Bain said. "The walls were only marginally effective at keeping invaders out, as it was not complete and had many breaks in it. The portion of the wall we visited was in the high mountains and the scenery was fantastic." The tour also included more shopping and sight-seeing that included the Temple of Heaven and China's Olympic venues. The Chinese will host the 2008 summer games. "The Temple of Heaven is a group of temples that were used by the emperors to request good crops and rains for the upcoming year," Bain explained. "The main temple is a huge ornate tower with brightly painted woodwork and gold trim. This is where the emperor would stay when on the temple grounds. One of the architectural wonders of the park is a wall so smooth and round that a whisper at one point can be heard at an opposite point on the wall."

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