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Entries about beijing

Forbidden City

The Wangs storm the Forbidden City.

sunny 81 °F

We woke bright and early and started the day with breakfast and a walk in the Japanese style garden at the hotel. A group of six older people practiced Tai Chi in the garden and it was very soothing to watch their movements. On the agenda for the day’s tour was a trip to the Forbidden City, a visit to a pearl factory, The Summer Palace, The Temple of Heaven and a teahouse. We were anxious to get going and were pleased that we had the same guide as the day before, Sally.
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The Forbidden City is so named because for 500 years, no one other than the emperor and his family or officials were allowed inside the gates. Any uninvited guests were executed. The only males allowed in the city other than the emperor and his offspring were eunuchs. The emperor housed 16,000 concubines in the Eastern and Western palaces as well as his empress and all of their children. Each gate had a specific function. The South gate was for the emperor only. The only exception was when he married his empress. For that one time only, she was allowed and expected to enter through the South gate. The North gate was for the empress and concubines. The West gate was for officials and the royal family and the East gate was only used for the removal of the dead body of the emperor when the time came to dispose of his body. Inside the city there are no trees except for in a central imperial garden. The emperors were too worried about assassins and if there were tall trees in the city a person might be able to enter that way and kill the emperor.
Another worry in the city was fire. A thunderstorm could easily spark a fire. For that reason, 305 huge gold-coated copper vats were located all around the city. They were placed on top of a stone ring that had an opening to build a fire in the wintertime. The fire kept any ice from forming in the vats.
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The city held 9,999 buildings. Why that number? Because the God of Heaven had 10,000 rooms and the emperor dare not compare himself to the God of Heaven (9,999 is pretty close, though). Only a handful of the buildings are open to the public today. The city is over 600 years old and portions were recently renovated in preparations for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
We were able to peek inside of about 10 palaces. All of the buildings were called palaces or halls. The interiors were in need of TLC, but the exteriors were vibrant and colorful. While the buildings themselves were beautiful and historic, the main impression of the Forbidden City was the sheer size of it all. It is huge. The main courtyard area in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony can hold upwards of 100,000 people. That’s all of the fans in Beaver Stadium, folks.
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Posted by SusanConradWang 05:13 Tagged beijing forbidden_city hall_of_supreme_harmony Comments (0)

The Great Wall at Badaling

You've got to see this to believe it.

sunny 75 °F

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The bus ride to Badaling took about an hour and we took the time to take a short nap. I woke up after about 20 minutes and watched the scenery passing by the window. At places along the way we could see old parts of the wall that were crumbling away into the mountainside. There was one spot with a restored wall but we did not stop as the wall was just a small portion of the original wall rebuilt in just the last decade. We wanted the authentic experience of walking a distance on the wall.
When we finally reached the wall, we decided to take the gondola to the top of the mountain so that we could begin our walk pretty close to the highest point. Dan and I really wanted the high vantage point so that our pictures could capture the stretch of wall snaking over the mountains. The gondola was a little frightening. I’m so used to having someone to help me on and off of rides such as this. In China, no one is there to help you. You just jump in as the gondola slows down along the ramp area. We jumped in and held on as the gondola made its way up the mountainside. I was beginning to worry about the maintenance schedule for the transport when I saw a huge birds nest built in one of the ladder chutes used for workers to check the cables. It was huge and looked like it had been there awhile. I wonder when they last checked that particular supporting tower?
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At the top we popped out of the gondola (without any assistance) and walked down a twisty ramp located within the mountain. When we reached the outside, the area was mobbed with people. Mobbed by US standards does not compare with the Chinese equivalent. I don’t think you can truly understand the amount of people unless you actually experience it for yourself. I was watching the people as much as I was experiencing being on the wall. And apparently, people were watching me, too. As I made my way up The Wall with Dan several people stopped me and asked if t hey could take a picture with me. I obliged even though it felt a bit strange. By the time I reached the top, I felt like a celebrity. The Australian in our group was asked to pose in a bunch of photos, too. He was both tall and blond.
The Wall itself is not a bit as I imagined it. I knew that it was twisty, but I did not imagine that the steps and inclines of the wall would be so steep. Some of the steps were as high as my knee. In parts it felt like I was doing lunges as I walked up. There was a rail provided for those who needed it and there were quite a few octogenarians walking with one hand on the rail and the other hand using their cane. I was shocked by how many elderly were making this very vigorous climb. According to our guide, if you were able to reach the top you were considered a “hero”. There were a lot of “heroes” on the wall that day.
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After we stood and took in the view for a bit we descended and took the gondola back down. At the base of the mountain was a little shopping village with knick-knacks and food. I bartered with a woman for some postcards (Vero- I will send one soon!) and just took in all of the people. There was a man with a camel charging for pictures of you riding the camel. While the camel was cute, there was no way I was jumping on that thing. They can be ornery. Another man dressed as a warrior and balanced on top of a ball. At first we thought he was a statue. He was a well-balanced individual indeed.

Posted by SusanConradWang 05:08 Archived in China Tagged beijing great_wall gondola badaling climbing_the_great_wall Comments (0)

Jade Factory

How to spot a fake.

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As a part of each tour day, the government arranged for tours of different factories so that the visitors could see how different products were made by artisans Translation: Go see our factory and buy our goods! We were a “captive” audience. I didn’t mind the stops to see the factories. Dan was very annoyed as he does not like to buy souvenirs.
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At the Jade Factory they taught us how to determine if Jade is real or fake, a piece of information I found to be useful. After they taught us how to determine real from faux, we were set loose in the gift shop and mobbed by salesgirls. I tried on a jade bangle, which was very pretty and very expensive. I finally decided to purchase a pendant with my zodiac animal, the goat.
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After making our purchases, the group went upstairs for lunch at a government restaurant. The food was pretty simple and the dishes were just ok. The highlights of the meal were the eggplant and the conversation with our fellow tourists.

Posted by SusanConradWang 05:06 Archived in China Tagged china beijing jade Comments (0)

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