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Asian Travelogue

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FC: Travels in Asia by Don Adriano de Armado of Spain | Neither Near Nor Far | Ni Cerca ni Lejos

1: The Safavid Empire | The first stop on mi viaje was the Safavid Empire, deep in the heart of Persia. From Barcelona, I took a ship over the stormy (winter is not the best time to travel, I assure you) Mediterranean Sea to Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, and traveled overland through this empire until I came to the borders of the Safavid Empire. I visited the marvelous cities of Arzinjan and Baghdad, but my ultimate goal was the Safavid capital of Isfahan.

2: While riding through the Persian desert in my caravan, I became well aware of the blistering heat and lack of agua. The Safavids, it seems, have taken note of this, for the road system throughout the empire are marvelous. These flat surfaces made my journey a hundred times easier. Additionally, the Safavids have built small huts, called "carivaserais", of which there are muchos along the major highways. | The people of Isfahan are also incredibly different from the Europeans. They dress in eccentric--yet stylish--clothes, and are infinitely more agreeable than my European friends. Additionally, their social system is based on wealth and profit during your life rather than on birth! How strange. If this were the case in Europe, I'd be a pauper!

3: When I arrived in Isfahan, I found the city to be splendidly different from my European home in Barcleona. The architecture was probably the most striking thing about this city. Its churches--called "mosques" among the locals--have fantastic domed roofs with spires pointing into the sky, similar to our crosses, which point up towards God from the church spire. | Isfahan, capital of the Safavid Empire

4: While exploring Isfahan, I was able to come to a better understanding of the Safavid's political system. It is much like the European | system--there is a king, called the "shah", who rules from his beautiful palace, Ali Qapu. However, the shah is also the religious leader for the empire. In European terms, the church is combined with the state. | Ali Qapu, the royal palace | Ismail, the founding shah of the Safavid dynasty

5: I also was able to grasp the main concepts of the strange Safavid religion, called "Islam." The religion praises one God, called "Allah," similarly to Christianity in Europe. They recognize the existence of Jesus, Abraham, and other prophets, but do not believe Jesus is the son of God. The people believe that Mohammed, the founder of Islam, was the final prophet from Allah, and follow the teachings of his book, the Qu'ran. | The prayer hall of Jameh, the main mosque in Isfahan

6: the Mughal Empire | I left Isfahan and traveled through Khyber Pass into the Mughal Empire. I planned to visit the Mughal capital of Delhi and the nearby citiy of Agra, and finish in Aurangabad before heading on to China. The Mughal highways are nice but not as well-kept as those in the Safavid Empire, and there are no caravaniserais.

7: The main mosque in Delhi, Jama Masjid | Delhi, capital of the Mughal Empire | My first stop was Delhi, and what a magnificent ciudad it is. As it is the capital of the Mughal Empire, its buildings are extravagantly beautiful, and many of the styles I saw in Isfahan are present here in Delhi. For instance, the main mosque in Delhi (these people are mainly Muslims, like the Safavids) is similar in architecture to the mosque in Isfahan, with its domes and spires. I spent many an hour wandering the splendid grounds of this wonder.

8: I've been in Delhi for several dias and am ready to get on to Agra, but I've learned some interesting things while here. One is that, though the architecture is predominantly Muslim, it's only because the ruling class is Muslim. Most of the commoners I've met are Hindu, but the majority of Hindu temples were destroyed with the domination of the Muslims. Seems like there's much more civil unrest than in Europe--in Europe everyone's Christian! I've also learned about the social classes. They aren't much different from our European classes, with the ruling, the merchant/specialist, and peasant classes. However, I did learn to play an interesting new game the Mughals have invented--it's called "chess."

9: The political system of the Mughal Empire is still largely the same as that of the European and Safavid states. The Mughals have a king, but he is not the religious leader, as in the Safavid Empire. The nobles and royalty are predominantly Muslim and the commoners are Hindu, so the religious leadership wouldn't really work. However, the Muslim rulers have tried to impose Islam upon the commoners. It hasn't worked. The rulers are mostly beneficial to their subjects, and art is appreciated throughout the empire. | Akbar, a Mughal king who particularly favored art | The Red Fort, the main palace during the reign of Shah Jahan.

10: Agra

11: The Taj Mahal, a mausoleum built by Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal | I spent a short time in Agra, and the highlight was my visit to the Taj Mahal

12: Aurangabad | Bibi Ka Maqbara, a monument built by Prince Azam Shah. Its style resembles that of the Taj Mahal. | Aurangabad was the last stop on my Mughal Empire section of the journey. I spent most of the time visiting sites rather than learning about the people. Here are a a few I saw.

13: The Aurangabad caves, excavated in the 6th and 7th centuries.

14: The Chinese Empire

16: iBuenas noches! I have just spent the day in Shanghai and it was ifantástico! I just got back from the most enrapturing play- it was a new work, and very good. Apparently there are many new plays now, as well as new music and literature. Hopefully I will get to hear some music tomorrow evening.

17: These are some beautiful gardens I saw on my way back from the play | Shanghai

18: The pottery was absolutely stunning- jade with intricate designs carved into it. I spent an hour viewing that and the new paintings. These paintings are very different from the ones at home in Spain- they are much flatter and not as lifelike- but still beautiful in their own right.

19: Gorgeous jade pottery

20: Buddhist Temple

21: I also got a chance to view the mix of religions they have here- Daoism, Buddhism, and ancestral worship. Unfortunately I did not get an opportunity to see a Buddhist ceremony- maybe later. Some years ago there was some religious tension here, with the native Chinese and Jesuit monks. Obviously the monks were correct, and that Catholicism is the true religion, but these other religious practices are fascinating! This diversity is not really seen much in Spain, where we are mostly Catholic. However, it is getting late, and tomorrow I intend to see more of this wondrous city. iAdios! | Taoist Temple

22: iHola! My second day in China was just as amazing as my first. This morning I spoke to a very short and round Chinese man well versed in trigonometry, which was recently perfected here in China. It was very interesting, and I learned a lot. Afterwards, I saw many vendors selling art, pieces which to me looked like priceless works. My trigonometry teacher and guide told me these were replicas, designed to mislead the naive traveler. iQué horror! This is much different than anything in Spain.

23: This is an example of the trigonometry I learned in China.

24: While walking around, we talked a lot about the government and social system of China. Their government is similar to ours- both have monarchies. The social systems of the two places are more different. In Spain we value our merchants more than they do in China. Additionally, China has no aristocratic elite, something that Spain has. These differences sparked some interesting conversation, and I spent the rest of the day in this man’s company. | This is a portrait of one of the jesuit monks

25: He took me to the best place for dinner, and we ate while discussing the issues of the monks in China. It was fascinating. I must sleep now though, because tomorrow promises to be as amazing as today was. I am going to begin the journey to Korea. iBuenas noches!

26: The Korean Empire

28: A beautiful paintings of nature I saw while walking the streets of Korea | Waegwan

29: iHola! iBuenos días! Yesterday afternoon I got off the boat from the port Yancheng in China and I am in Waegwan, Korea. It’s a beautiful city! I walked around the streets and saw many artists sitting and painting what’s around them. Everywhere you go you see paintings of nature and landscapes from the city. They have many paintings of nature where I come from in Spain, but these are different because they had a Confucian take on them. Many of the paintings included bamboo, orchids, and plums which gave the beautiful landscapes such details.

30: The talented dancers I saw performing the Eight-Row-Dance

31: I saw a painting of a plum orchard in a temple of Confucius and I almost felt like grabbing the plums off of the painting and eating them. They looked so delicious! Good thing I didn’t, or I would have been kicked out of that place and not been able to see the Eight-Row-Dance being performed in the courtyard. This dance consisted of eight columns of eight dancers. Originally, this dance was only performed for the Emperor, but quite recently, Confucius received the title of king so he is now allowed the imperial honor. Being a Catholic, I have never seen a dance performed in a religious place before. It was so beautiful to see all the dancers in unison. I felt like part of the community, even though I wasn’t involved in the dance. As much as I would like to keep writing about how delightful the dance was, I must go eat breakfast. I have a busy day ahead. iAdios!

32: iHola otra vez! ¿Cómo estás? I am doing fabuloso! Today I really explored the scientific political side of Korea. I don’t know if you heard, but the water clock, with astronomical devices, was recently invented in Waegwan. A water clock is a device that measures time by the regulated flow of liquid in or out from a container, where the amount is then measured. It’s muy fascinating and ingenious!

33: This is the amazing water-clock I observed that was recently invented!

34: I also learned a little about the Korean government from a man I met on the street, who helped me find a place to eat. His name was Chin Ho and he worked as a night guard for King Yeongjo, the ruler of Korea at this time. He told me that Korea is ruled by the Choson Dynasty, an imperial dynasty established in the capital, Hanyang in 1392. Chin Ho told me something very interesting about the Korean Dynasty. Whenever a natural disaster occurs in Korea, it is blamed on the king, so all the kings are very sensitive to these occurrences.

35: Apparently, where there is severe drought, the king is formally criticized by the citizens. In Europe, Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor is currently the ruler. We don’t treat our king in such nonsensical ways. ¡Qué tontería! What nonsense! | King Yeongjo, the current ruler of Korea

36: Painting depicting the social classes of Korea

37: Chin Ho told me that there is a type of caste system in Korea as well. He and his family are of the chingun class, or the middle-class merchants, officers, and local judicial officers. Ho himself is a merchant, who sells jewelry with his wife. In Spain, we have a caste system of our own, except it is based off of where you were born and your heritage, rather than based on jobs and family history, like in Korea. For example, I am of the Peninsular class, which means I was born in Spain and so were my parents. I’m so happy I met Chin Ho today! Without him, I wouldn’t have learned so much about the Korean government and social system. I must go eat my comida now and then head to bed. I have a long journey tomorrow-I will be traveling to the wonderful Tokyo, Japan! ¡Hasta luego!

38: The Japanese Empire

40: iBuenas tardes! I just got back from visiting a Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Japan. I arrived here last night and got a good night’s sleep before exploring this beautiful city today. The Buddhist temple I went to was very different from anything I had ever seen. It was early in the morning and the monks came into the temple and gathered together. They chanted prayers and meditated for hours. It was so relaxing, I felt like a different person when I got out of there. I had done some previous research on the Buddhist beliefs so I knew the basics about what they believed in. Buddhism puts the focus on the individual. | Tokyo

41: Each person must find their duty in life on their own and continue to reincarnate until they reach nirvana, which is the escape from the cycle of re-incarnation. I had such an enlightening experience at the Buddhist temple...pun intended. Being Catholic myself, we believe that the Holy Trinity (God, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit) should be at the center of all things we do in our life. We also believe that we have one life on this earth, so we must make the best out of it. This is a major difference between Japan and Spain. I have noticed that out of all of the differences between the Asian empires I have visited and Spain, religion is the biggest difference everywhere I go.

42: I also spoke to a native about the Japanese government. However, he spoke little Spanish other than ‘Hola’ and I know no Japanese. The idea I got from him was that the Japanese government was a mixture of feudalism and a centralized government. I also understood that it is quite different from the monarchy we have in Spain. iQué interesante!

43: I also got a chance to view the Japanese clothing. It appeared that many of them were wearing kosodes, which was formerly considered underwear, but now is apparently full clothing. We would never wear our underwear as clothing in Spain, nor in any of Europe. iQué horror! Well, I must go. I still have so much to do, like viewing Japanese weapons. iHasta luego! | These re kosodes I bought from Japan

44: iBuenos dias! I just woke up and had the most splendid breakfast. The rest of my explorations yesterday were just as exciting, so I was too exhausted to write about them last night. I went and spoke with a man who showed me some Japanese weapons, such as the katana and the shuriken. While these weapons were quite interesting, I confess that I knew very little about them, and indeed about swords in general, as in Spain we use guns more often now. | Katana, a Japanese sword

45: However, the man showing me the weapons was very chatty and knew Spanish, so we began talking about social classes. The man I talked to knew much about the social system of Japan. He told me that the Emperor was the most important person in the society, who ran everything that went on in the country, but didn’t have any real power. ¿Qué? I was so confused. If he’s the Emperor, then shouldn't he have power? | Emperor Tokugawa | Shuriken, or throwing weapon

46: But then he told me that the shogun held the real power and was a military dictator. In Spain, the king is at the top of the social system and has real power, which makes sense, doesn’t it? I still don’t understand why the Emperor doesn’t have power, but it’s beyond me. | Here is a picture of a shogun, or a military dictator

47: It’s time for me to head back to my motherland. Words cannot express how much I have learned on this voyage. I would have never known so much if I had not had the experience of actually visiting each place. Thank you for following me through my journey. I hope that we can do this again sometime. iAdiós por ahora! | iAdios!

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