Month: December 2019

The Great Wall

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We recently explored the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, which is in the Huairou District about 70 kilometers NE of Beijing City Center. It felt so good to be out of the city and surround ourselves with mountains and fresh air.
At the entrance, several vendors sold dried fruits and nuts, as well as clothing, hats and scarves for souvenirs. When you’ve traveled as much as we have, the souvenir stands don’t capture our attention like they did years ago.

What did get our attention though, was Burger King!!! Who knew that clear out here in the middle of nowhere, we could buy a burger and fires and enjoy tastes that don’t include fish sauce, and soy sauce!?

We hiked up to a platform where cable cars took us up the mountain to the wall.

A dry river bed lay below us and dormant trees covered the mountainside. Even though the sun was shining, it was so freezing cold.

The site on top was impressive!

The Mutianyu Wall was built in 1368 by Xu Da, who was a general in the Northern Qi Dynasty.

This section was the military hub, defending the capital and the imperial tombs, and has several famous watch towers – all well preserved.

Built mostly of granite, the wall is about 8 meters (24 ft) high and about 5 meters (15ft) wide.

The 22 watch towers along this section still stand tall and solid, and some are larger than others with multiple sections inside.

Mutianyu is surrounded by woodland which covers 90% of the land, and the closest village (Mutianyu Village) is known for its glassware.

Once we were thoroughly frozen we worked our way back to the cable cars, descended and enjoyed our meal at Burger King, then returned to Beijing with fresh air in our lungs and bellies full of good old American fast food.

The Summer Palace, Beijing

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Lauren and I decided to brave the cold and venture out again – this time to the Summer Palace.

The grounds are an ensemble of gardens, lakes and palaces covering 1.1 sq miles, and were used as an imperial garden during the Qing Dynasty.

Many of the buildings are on Longevity Hill, which is about 200 ft high. The rich colors of paint stand out so beautifully against that drab winter surroundings. I can only imagine how beautiful it is in the summer time.

We climbed many flights of stairs, which were surrounded by beautiful landscaping of rocks and trees opening up to Kunming Lake.

The temples on the Summer Palace grounds are so colorful and and some have statues of Buddah inside.

Ancient round entryways add character to the surroundings,

as well as short tunnels leading to the various areas.

On a small lake, picturesque boathouses stood frozen in time – waiting for the spring thaw when tourists flood the grounds to enjoy the scenery.

Each entry way is elaborate, welcoming you into the next area.

Since the Palace was not built for long periods of stay, but rather a place to be briefly visited and enjoyed, long corridors were constructed with many intricate paintings throughout them.

The Qianlong Emperor enjoyed peaceful walks through these corridors, stopping to rest in various gazebo’s like this one that my nutty niece is posing in.

When glancing up at the ceiling in the gazebo’s, one can see the attention to detail and creativity displayed.

The Stone Boat is 12 meters long and is a replacement of the original wooden boat which was burnt in 1860.

As temperatures plummeted at sunset, Lauren and I made our way along Kunming Lake where monks walked and crowds gathered for beautiful pictures.

Our fingertips burned – feeling frozen, but each minute brought with it another beautiful hue of the setting sun against beautiful buildings.

The Palace, which cost 4.8 million silver taels, can be seen a more clearly from the opposite side of the lake. It rises up three tiers and is surrounded by gardens and walls.

Lake Kunming is man made, and soil that was removed to make the lake was used to create the hill of Longevity where the palace is.

As we made our way to the exit gates, we couldn’t help but notice how quickly the temperature was dropping, feeling the cold reaching deep into our limbs and joints. I jokingly told Lauren that I think the hardware in my lower back was frozen too.

We are proud of ourselves because we are quite comfortable using the metro system now, and after over 7 miles of walking we bought our tickets and climbed aboard – ready to return to the hotel to tell Danny about the beautiful things we’d seen.

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

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Yesterday Lauren and I visited the Temple of Heaven, which is in the southeastern part of Beijing, called Dongcheng. The complex consists of many temples arranged in three main groups, and the first we saw was for sacrificing animals, and was built in 1420.

Animals were slaughtered and burned as sacrifice to Shangdi, the Supreme Deity.

Six of these large bowls were used for burning the sacrifices in – a practice called Border Sacrifice which ended in 1911.

All the buildings in the complex were intricately painted and well maintained as a sacred place for Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties to come annually and offer prayer to Heaven for good harvest.

Long hallways and grounds covering 1.05 square miles lead to the various temples.

It was interesting that sitting on the railings in one of these hallways in particular, were hundreds of people gambling.

Many of the people were quite animated as they played.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is a triple gabled circular building, and is where the Emperor prayed. The building is wooden with no nails

The interiors of all these buildings are very simple.

Further hallways led to the Imperial Vault of Heaven.

The building is built on marble. Number nine is a sacred number and many balusters, carvings, altars and pillars are arranged in series of nine.

Beautiful giant red doors stand tall at many of the entry and exit points between buildings.

An interesting area was called the Echo Wall, which is an area that was supposed to help the prayers communicate with Heaven through resonating against guardrails.

Red and yellow are significant in the Chinese culture. Red is the symbol of prosperity and represents good luck, joy and happiness. (Not to be worn to Chinese funerals). Yellow, or gold, is considered the most beautiful color and is used for Royalty and is reserved for the Emperor.

These two colors are seen everywhere on the temple grounds.

Green represents money and wealth.

I look forward to visiting more historical places here in Beijing. This place is overflowing with them! We did finally see something other than man made materials – a grove of trees…
I breathed deep, filled my nature craving bank, and enjoyed the site.