Tuesday, October 1, 2013

China recap: Beijing

Our first stop of the trip was Beijing.  It was the city holding what we wanted to see most in Beijing:  the Great Wall.  I'll have to do a separate post about that.  The main sights we wanted to see in the city were the Forbidden City, Tian'enmen Square, and the Temple of Heaven. 
But of course, we found evidence of the main reason we were there (the cancelled Beijing Marathon):
Note that the logo on this jacket is undated (2012 logo, but no exact marathon date)...

The Forbidden City was home to 24 Emperors over 500 years and is a maze of nearly 1,000 buildings. Each of the royal buildings has a rank denoted by the number of animals along its outer eaves. With ten animals in tow, Tai He Dian, a/k/a the Hall of Supreme Harmony, was known to be the most important building in the entire Chinese empire. 

The Hall of Supreme Harmony, the first hall of the outer court of the Forbidden City, commonly known as the Hall of Golden Chimes.  Constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, it was rebuilt several times after fires.  The present building was constructed in 1695.  Prior names:  Hall for Ancestral Worship, and Hall of the Norms of Government (1562-1695).  It has a three-tier marble base, 11 bays in the hall, 5 bays deep, 35 meters high.  It has a wudian (thatched hall) style of roofing, four hipped double roofs.  Total building size:  2,377 square meters.  Eave corners have 10 animals (as noted above).  Inside is paved with square clay bricks known as golden bricks. The throne inside is on the axial line of the Imperial Palace.  There is an inscription above the throne reading Jian Ji Sui You (People's Sovereign and Great Plan).  The ceiling features a crouching dragon with a bright pearl (the Xuanyuan Mirror) in its mouth.  Outside the hall are a sundial and grain measures, which were symbols of imperial power, and bronze statues (every single time I try to write this word, I type statutes, old habits die hard) of turtles and cranes, which are symbols of longevity. Hall of Supreme Harmony: 
Important ceremonies held at the Hall of Supreme Harmony during the Ming and Qing dynasties:  the lunar New Year, the winter solstice, the emperor's birthday, the coronation/enthronement of a new emperor, installing an empress, sending generals out to battle, and announcing the names of successful candidates in official examinations. 
The next main attraction was Tian'anmen Square, including a visit to Mao's tomb. 
Statue outside Mao's tomb:
Mao's mausoleum:
Next up for us was Tiantan, known to westerners as “The Temple of Heaven,” constructed in the mid-15th century by Emperor Yongle as the meeting place between Heaven and Earth.  For centuries, the sitting emperor made an annual pilgrimage to this temple to fast for three days and pray for a prosperous harvest season.
The Hall of Heavenly Emperor within the Temple of Heaven:

Inside the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest:
Like salt in the wound, a photo of the 2008 Women's Olympic Marathon running past the Temple of Heaven:
This I think was the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest where the emperors would pray for a good spring harvest, also called the Hall of the Prayer for Grain.  Built in 1420, burned when struck by lightning in 1889 and rebuilt in the following years:
Another highlight of the trip was the Summer Palace, where Empress Dowager Ci Xi spent her summers with other members of the royal family.

This was the Thousand Hand Guanyin Buddha -- cast in 1574, originally named the Statue of Guanyin Bodhisattva.  Actually contains 12 faces and 24 arms (four tiers each with 3 faces).  Sitting on a lotus seat of nine layers of 999 petals: 
Other sites of the city (mostly taken on the day I went for a run I think, hence the iphone quality): 


Hard to read because it's upside down, but zero point for highways in China:
A hutong, or old alleyway:
The Peking duck experience (which was had in a hutong) will get a separate post tomorrow:
Here are a few pictures from the Yandai Byway.  We met up one night with one of my running buddies who moved here in about 2010, and this is where we went.  The area was very historic, and along a lake with all kinds of beautiful lights, no cars, people strolling, shopping, and eating.
Old Chinese parables were illustrated on the windows of this restaurant in the Yandai Byway area:
One of our last stops was the Beijing Zoo.  I used to love zoos more than anything when I was younger.  In college, when I had about 20 family members and friends in town for graduation, I broke people into teams and had them do a scavenger hunt at the zoo.  But since I've thought more about animals and captivity and conditions and such, I'm not as sure.  I still think they have a role in educating children in particular, and in general, conditions seem to be much better for the animals in most zoos I've visited.  But since our itinerary in China didn't include going to see pandas for the wild, I wanted to be sure I saw them somewhere -- and the Beijing zoo seemed to be the place.
The zoo was founded in the 32nd year of Emperor Guangxu's reign during the Qing Dynasty (1906 AD).  It claims to be the first state-owned zoo open to the public (but it's not clear if that's in the world or just in China).  It has over 500 species and receives over 5 million visitors per year.  It is 86 hectares (including a large water area), but the panda area is located conveniently near the front.  You can tell many people come in for the dozen or so pandas and then leave.  The panda area has a separate entry fee, but the entire thing is relatively inexpensive.  For Chinese animals, the zoo particularly features the giant panda of course, golden monkeys and crested ibis. 
Zoo entry: 
Some pandas:
They were all inside and all eating!  

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