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China 2 – A few days in Beijing

November 19, 2009

After a couple of days of roaming Inner Mongolia it was back to Beijing and 16 million people.  Cars, motor scooters, bicycles and people – we were caught in an ocean of human movement.  Our first night back in Beijing we went to the Peking Opera and saw a couple of performances.  These were traditional productions where musicians played simple stringed instruments and cymbals while singers gave us harsh, screechy songs of old.  Clearly, this kind of music was not too catchy… no one goes around singing this stuff, not even in China.  All the costumes were bright and I enjoyed the The Monkey King the most. 

Monkey King


The next day, our tour got off to a good start – we went to the zoo and the Panda House.  They were VERY CUTE.  After that, we went through some of the old areas of Beijing.  We visited the huge Lama Temple, a complex of many separate temple buildings.  There were thousands of people passing through the maze of this Buddhist temple and the smell of burning incense was everywhere.  Next we went to a Confucian temple and then to lunch.  The food was terrific!  After lunch we had a rickshaw ride through Yandai Xiejie, an 800 year old hutong (old neighborhood).  We visited Prince Gong’s mansion.  Later, we climbed up the Drum Tower (built in 1420), a tall building that used drum to signal the hours of the day and travelled down 700 year old Nanluoguxiang Alley. 

One of the buildings of the Lama Temple


The following day we went to Baoquo Temple Antique Market and Liulichang Antique Street.  Some of you will get gifts from these places.  Later in the day, we worked our way up the hill in Jingshan Park.  The hill was made from soil dug to build the huge moat around the Forbidden City.  The hill offered us a great view of the Forbidden City.  It allowed the old Emperor to look out his window and see a pretty hill.  We ended the day by going to an action packed Kung Fu Show… this was a very athletic performance!  

The Great Wall of China


The next day we took the 50 mile journey to the Great Wall of China.  On our way, we passed by the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube, two new structures that were part of the Beijing Olympics of 2008.  Construction on the Great Wall started around 600 BC and accelerate around 220 BC when Emperor Qin wanted to keep the Mongols out.  The 4,000 mile long structure took over a million people to build and is truly impressive as it winds over mountains and across valleys.  We hiked on the Wall for a little over 2 hours… it was 90 degrees and humid.  We had our liquids in our back pack, our toilet paper and our hand cleaner.  In case you are wondering, there are the hole-in-the-floor toilets at the guard towers.  Our trip to the Wall also included a stop at the Changling tomb and museum from the 1400s.  This was part of the Ming Dynasty tomb complex, a series of Emperor tombs scattered along the side of a small mountain.  The site was chosen and developed according to Feng Shuui (geomancy) principles.   The trip finished at a Jade factor, claimed to be the largest in China.  While there, we watched artisans carve intricate ball-within-a-ball-within-a-ball pieces.  Some of you may have received gifts from this stop. 

Entrance to the Forbidden City


Our Beijing tour included many other interesting visits:  a traditional Peking Duck dinner (originally, a meal served to emperor); Tiananmen Square; the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.  We also hiked through a small part of the Forbidden City, the 9,999 room residence of the Emperor built-in the 1400’s.  It was called the Forbidden City because one needed the permission from the Emperor to enter through the gate.  This is the world’s largest palace building complex (over ½ mile long) and it is made up of walled court-yards, each court yard being a residence with several rooms.  Each of the 100s of concubines had their own courtyard.  These all connected and there were walls around clusters of walled complexes.  Eventually, the whole city was surrounded by a 26 feet high outer wall.  The photo above shows the southern entrance, the Wumen (Meridian) Gate.  This is located on the North/South axis for the city.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2009 8:02 pm

    Beautiful pictures! I loved Beijing! Your pictures make me miss it and want to go back!

    • November 19, 2009 11:10 pm

      Thanks. Im just starting on this blogging thing. I have more pictures of China that I will eventually load on flickr and I have some more stories to share. Again thanks!!

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