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Highlights of Beijing

March 26, 2000.  After returning to Sydney from the Australian gold coast, we board our flight to Singapore and then on to Beijing.  We arrived in China, passed through customs and exited the airport with little fanfare. Our guide, 'Jane', and her driver met us and whisked us away to the Palace Hotel.  Situated in the older part of the city and on the edge of a high-rent shopping area it was easy for us to grab a quick shower and start walking the neighborhood.

Forbidden City South GateS Gate of Forbidden City from Tiananmen Sq

Our first major tourist view was of the outside walls of the Forbidden City, which originally was off- limits to commoners for 500 years and is the largest and best-preserved group of ancient Chinese buildings.  Laid out in 1406-1420 by Emperor Yong Le, the walled city suffered numerous fires and is now mostly post-18th Century buildings due to restorations and remodels.  

West Wall of Forbidden CityView of Forbidden City North Gate

Looking from northeast corner of wall of Forbidden City

We walked around the western edge of the Forbidden City until we arrived at the northern gate.  A good view of the Forbidden City looking north to south is from the Jingshan Park across the street. Note the air quality is not the cleanest.

JingShan ParkEntertainment at JingShan Park





Since it was Sunday, we were entertained in the Jingshan Park by local musicians and and singers some of which were dressed in ancient costumes.

We decided to stroll through the Forbidden City for a brief introductory visit.  We entered at the northern gate where the tour buses park and the tourists were herded into the city .

Tower at North Gate of Forbidden CityRoof Details





North Interior CourtyardEave Interior

After a brief introductory walk through the Forbidden City, we exited the south gate and crossed over to Tiananmen Square. 


China's FlagTiananmen Square


To our immediate right was the Great Hall of the People.  Although this is said to be the heart of the People's Republic, it is from this building that the police have quick access to any disturbances on Tiananmen Square. On the opposite corner is the whimsical shopping mall that contained numerous stores including the cyber cafe which we frequented for trading emails. 


Great Hall of the PeopleShopping Mall across from Tiananmen Square






On the south end of Tiananmen Square is the Chairman Mao Zedong Mausoleum  & Memorial Hall. Here the body of Mao is open for viewing for a modest fee and upon relinquishing your camera, purse and other personal effects .
Statue at Mao Memorial HallMao Memorial HallStatue at Mao Memorial Hall

March 27, Great Wall at Badaling.  Early in the morning we were driven northwest of Beijing to the most popular viewing site of the Great Wall also known as the "10,000 Li Wall" or 'where Clinton visited the wall'. Originally the wall was begun 2000 years ago during the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC) and it is not built contiguously nor continuously.  The walls at Badaling were restored in 1957 and numerous tourist attractions have been added at the parking lot level. 

Great WallWindy day at the Great Wall

We realized early in our visit that the restoration phenomena is more the norm for anything espoused to be ancient Chinese.  Every place we visited there were signs of modernization for the benefit of the tourist - much of the time there was no mention of such assistance.  Due to the variation in the riser steepness and the gusty winds, our hike up the stairs was challenging.

View of Valley from Great WallDetail of "Restored" Painting at Great Wall base

Upon leaving the Great Wall we headed toward the nearby Ming Tombs.  Lunch was at the Jiulong Amusement Park situated on a man-made reservoir which resembled an abandoned Coney Island.  After lunch by ourselves in a huge banquet style restaurant we spent the afternoon at the Changling Ming tomb built for Emperor Yongle in 1427. 

Detail in GardenGardens of Changling Tomb

Entry Changling Ming TombBudda inside Changling Hall

Gate toward tombTombEave of Tomb

The surrounding area entombs 13 of 16 Ming emperors. However only 3 of the tombs have been restored and opened for visitation. As the Egyptians, the Chinese traditionally were buried with their loved ones and most prized possessions.  Due to the oxidation damage that occurs upon breaking the seal of the tombs, the Chinese government ordered that the remaining tombs remain closed until technology can catch up to preserving the quality of the contents. 

After dinner at a famous Beijing duck restaurant, we attended a live operatic performance.

March 28, Coffee at Starbucks.. Chinese Starbucks- same but more $$



We started the morning with an official tour of the Forbidden City where we entered from the south gate. We had a better appreciation for the restoration that the city has undergone recently primarily due to the money derived from American films ie. The Last Emperor. 

Forbidden City View of North GateProcessional Approach through Great Halls

The decorative details are consistent with the Ming Dynasty emphasis: male/female dragon figures, Phoenix figures, gargoyles, cranes, turtles.  The outer rooms were used as more public spaces while the inner areas housed the emperor, empress, family members, concubines, monks and eunuchs.

 Turtle DetailBeijing's Forbidden City Inner Courts


Emperor's ChairEmperor's Day Bed



Hall of Preserving HarmonyNorth Hall of Forbidden City

Peace, Harmony and Tranquility were the names of the major halls of the compound. 

Doorway of Harmony HallInterior Courtyard


The green and red glazed tile of the Forbidden City is symbolic of the emperors colors and is visible throughout the grounds.

Major Construction within the City





Construction and restoration never ceases within the City.  It is the attention to detail which sets the City apart from other ancient Chinese buildings.

Interior Wall within Forbidden CityBuildings within the City

Our next stop was the Lama Temple or Yellow Hat Tibetan Temple that has remained relatively intact from the ravages of the revolution. This working temple was very laid back and community engaged.

Care at the Gate of Lama TempleLama Temple Garden

Statute at Lama TempleDetail of Lama Temple Eave

Lama Temple BuildingsBridge of Lama TempleMain Temple Building

After lunch at Harmony Garden, we arrived at the Emperor's Summer Palace built originally in the 18th Century and situated along Kunming Lake. Empress Dowager Cixi most influenced the summer quarters. She used the money for the navy in 1888 to rebuild the palace and commission elaborate paintings and artwork for the compound. 

View of Lake approaching the Summer PalaceSouth Lake Island linked by 17 arch bridge

The Summer Palace occupies a park of 692 acres.  It was here that the Emperor and his extended household traveled to escape the heat of the city.

Close up of the Buddhist Virtue TempleLooking across Lake Kunming to the Buddhist Virtue Temple

Along the lake is an ornately decorated Long Corridor (728 m long) in which the cross beams depict mythical stories (8000 paintings)  for the purpose of preserving knowledge and awareness. Many of the scenes were whitewashed during the Cultural Revolution.

Jane, our guide, in the LongCorridorDetail of the Long Corridor

Walkway beside the Long CorridorView into one of the residences on the Summer Palace grounds

The original palace was divided into four sections: court reception, residences, temples and outdoor strolling or viewing areas.

Care and Jane talking in the Courtyard of Cici

Marble boats grace the lake where once they were used to host parties for the emperor and his extended family. The emperor did use wooden boats to maneuver the connected waterways from the Forbidden City to the Summer Palace.

Concrete boat at the Summer PalaceThe Concrete Boat for Entertaining


Boats on Lake KunmingBoat Houses for the Summer Palace

March 29, Temple of Heaven. Probably the most photographed temple in Beijing is this building covered by blue glazed roof tiles and designed in a circular form to represent heaven while surrounded by a square wall representing earth.  Vertical levels have significance: the first tier represents hell, the second is the mortal level and the third tier is heaven.

Processional Gates to Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is the emperor's personal temple which is one of the reasons why the layout is very processional for holding ceremonial events.  Scattered around the grounds are sites where animals were sacrificed for such ceremonies.

Ceramic from Temple of HeavenGates surrounding the Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven

We escaped our guides this afternoon and walked through Beihai Park and took a hutong ride in one of the older neighborhoods - after spending considerable time bargaining for a reasonable rate. 

View from Bei Hei Park

Care ready for our Hutong rideTypical Entry in Hutong

Above is the entry of a typical family residence.  Note the masonry and roof details below.

Riding along in the HutongTile roof and wall detail

March 30, travel day to Xian.














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