We were served tea and a range of small delicacies including pastries (prepared according ancient recipes from the imperial kitchen), dried mango and dried watermelon seeds. I tried eating one of the seeds whole. Then Aidong showed us the correct way of eating them. You used your teeth (or any other means available to you) to break the shell and then ate the kernel inside only. Oh well. Being novices, we didn't do this particularly efficiently and more often than not, at least part of the kernel remained in the discarded shell.
The show went for about two hours. Probably of most interest to us were the amazing acrobatic acts. In each one a girl came out and balanced glasses, parasols, fans or even spinning carpets (!!) on various parts of their body. The Peking Opera and music were less accessible to us non- Chinese speakers (except when one guy started to do his spinning jump kicks!) but Aidong managed to translate the gist of each song - after reading the text that was projected on the wall to one side of the stage. It is difficult to understand what someone is singing even for native speakers as the melody overrides the tones that actually distinguish each word. The evening ended with a comedy act with two, apparently, quite famous comedians. Aidong translated a bit for us however I must admit that I thought their jokes were a bit daggy.
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
March 15, 2002
From journal Bumbling Through Beijing