Have you ever wondered what led us to today? Have you ever seen what led us to today? Some of the best preserved historic sites lie here in Beijing, welcoming people all over the world. Though you would probably think that the future is everything, let’s sit down and appreciate history.
Ni Hao! My boarding took place on June 1st, as my mom and I visited Beijing. The airplane landed at Shanghai, and we took the high speed train to Beijing. With the sky darkening, entire streets were lit up. In such a beautiful city, our adventure began…
The Great Wall (Badaling)
‘You aren’t a true man if you have not been to the Great Wall.’ So the saying goes in China.
The Great Wall rises and falls with the contours of the mountains westwards for over 6700 km. The wall features walls, passes, watchtowers, castles, fortresses, lookout holes, window embrasures, and castle crenels. It is made of large stone blocks. Emperor Qin Shihuang united all of the walls built by provinces for protection when he formed “China”, though most of the walls were fixed or rebuilt during the Ming dynasty.
My mom and I took a gondola up the mountain. Before long, it parked by the wall as we hopped off to step onto the Great Wall. The wall was crowded. It seemed harder to push through the crowd without falling off than walking along the steep stairs. I finally reached the Hero Wall– the wall with the saying of the Great Wall. Now I can proudly say… I’m a man! It’s not hard to imagine that it’s very old… The stairs aren’t even the same height! As I stood highly on the Great Wall, I imagined soldiers setting fire to their arrows and the fire tower, and horses charging at the wall. Surely, the Great Wall is a historical masterpiece.
The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is one of the largest and best-preserved mass groups of palaces in China. It is also where the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties lived.
Before entering the Forbidden City, we reached the Tiananmen, which means the Gate of Heavenly Peace. Seven bridges lie before it, arched above the golden river. In the past, soldiers scoped on the archer tower in front of the Zhen Yang Men, to protect the Tiananmen.
Now, the Tiananmen is open to public, but the seven bridges weren’t for everyone. The middle one was for the emperor, the two beside it was for his relatives, the next two for his nobles, and the last two for his low-ranked nobles and his soldiers. Basically, this act showed that citizens had no access to the Forbidden City.
The Forbidden City consists of three parts: the outer court, the inner court, and the imperial garden. The outer court was also separated into three buildings: the Hall of Supreme Harmony where the king performed, the Hall of Central Harmony, where the king rehearsed for his performances, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, used for banquets and later for imperial examinations.
Within a few of the walls were the last remaining artifacts after the attack of the Eight Allied Powers and the Anglo-French. Empress Dowager Cixi, one of the last empresses, threw one of the Kings low ranking wife’s into a well here, because Cixi said that she was too beautiful and the king loved her too much. Later, after the attacks of the Eight Allied Powers, the Qing dynasty ended. What remains, though, are some photos of the royal family and nobles, the nine dragons wall, beautiful jewelry treasures, ancient Chinese architecture, and jade carvings.
History told us that for a country to be strong, its people have to be happy. This way, they won’t start a revolution, which significantly lowers the stability and economy of the country. The military also has to be strong, or else the country won’t be able to defend itself against other opponents.
Temple of Heaven
While the emperor dominated everything, he still deeply respected the power of heaven. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Temple of Heaven, which is basically the altar of heaven, was built. This was the place the emperor prayed to heaven for good harvests. The complex was built by emperor Yongle during the Ming dynasty, extended by Jiajing, and renovated by Qianlong during the Qing dynasty.
The main highlights of the temple of heaven complex include the Temple of Heaven, Echo Wall, the Mound Altar, and the Three Sound Rock. With the technology of sound waves and physics, the Echo Wall was built so that even whispering on one side of the wall, a person on the on the other side can still hear your voice clearly.
During the Ming and Qing dynasties, agriculture was everything. Without good crops, the people wouldn’t be able to feed themselves, nor earn money. Today, we don’t need to call on heaven for good crops. As science and technology developed, we were able to foresee the weather and make preparations for it.
Enjoying life was the Emperor’s specialty. His workers built massive parks during the Ming and Qing dynasties, including the Summer Palace, Bei Hai park, Jing Shan park, and Yuan Ming Yuan, now known as the ruins of Yuan Ming Yuan due to the fire during the Qing dynasty.
The Summer Palace is the largest park still standing, after Yuan Ming Yuan, which was burnt to smithereens and mostly no longer standing. The Summer Palace’s gardens were probably the best of their kind in Chinese garden architecture, as the first tile in each of the columns of the roof tiles also included a design, making the park special in both ways. The palace served as a summer resort for Empress Cixi, and nowadays, a major tourist attraction. A temple laid on the longevity mountain, containing the sculpture of Thousand-Hand Guanyin Buddha. Empress Cixi often prayed here.
We took a ferry to the 17 Hole bridge, the bridge connecting the mainland to a small island including various temples. I relaxed by the Kun Ming Lake and the Longevity Mountain from the seventeen whole bridge. Surely, this was a great place to spend summer.
Bei Hai park was built during the Ming dynasty. It’s Chang Lang, a very long hall, connects to a bridge that leads to the Jade Flower Island, where the White Dagoba sits. The architecture and scenes of the Bei Hai park can be described as ancient masterpieces. Many people took a boat to row. Lotus flowers float on the lake with their large leaves touching each other, making a big cluster. To me, it seems like giant green carpet. This park was gorgeous in every way.
The Jing Shan Park sits in front of the Forbidden City featuring a hair raising view of Beijing. A temple, along with sculpture of Buddha, lies at the top of it. Looking down the mountain, you overlook the Forbidden City, and many miles more.
Yuan Ming Yuan is the largest park in China, but was unfortunately burnt. It used to be the Summer Palace, but after the raging fire, The Summer Palace title was given to Yi He Yuan, the current Summer Palace. After the attack of the eight allied powers, the wood was gone, and little of the European stone buildings survived. I cannot imagine how beautiful this park would have been, but no matter how powerful and beautiful a country, without a good ruler, it’s going to be destroyed.
As much as we enjoy the attractions in old Beijing, such as the Summer Palace and the Great Wall, how about a walk around the block? Modern districts are dotted all over Beijing, with visiting tourists every day.
Hutong has a very special position in Beijing’s culture. The word came from the Mongolian language 700 years ago, meaning alley or lane. One Hutong joins with another, to form a block, and blocks together to form a whole city.
A few of the more famous Hutongs include Nan Luo Gu Xiang, Da Shi Lan, and Hou Hai. I had roasted duck in the Da Shi Lan, and Beijing noodles in Nan Luo Gu Xiang. Da Shi Lan is named after the fence that was put up due to all of the thieves in the past.
Hutongs used to be the houses for the richer citizens, but now, it is home to all types of businesses, from restaurants to entertainments. Some of the city’s residents still live in the traditional courtyards within the second ring road.
As the population of Beijing increases, the amount of Hutong decreases. However, the government has set up the protection of Beijing’s Hutongs. I hope that Hutongs will be preserved for as long as possible.
Olympic Centre of Beijing
Welcome to the setting of the 2008 Summer Olympics! While watching the stunning soccer and swimming competitions, the amazing architecture — some that is ‘Worlds first’, captured our interests.
The Bird’s Nest, officially known as the National Stadium, sits beside the Water Cube, also known as the National Aquatics Centre. The Bird’s Nest is a tightly woven iron mass, with a total weight of over 45000 tons, including underground rooms and waterproof walls.
The Water Cube is really not a cube. It’s a rectangular structure with interlocking bubbles for the wall. You may think that they might pop in the wind, or by a bird, but there are coated with a transparent set of metals, made translucent so that birds will be afraid of it, and won’t peck it. This is also the place where Michael Phelps won 8 gold medals during the 2008 Olympics swimming competitions.
Thinking about old Beijing, and you’ll see the difference; from being destroyed by cannons to such a modern, international, and welcoming city. This is the real Beijing.
Beijing is now a developed city. I took the high speed train to Beijing from Shanghai, one which took only 5 hours, whereas even an airplane used to take at least 2 hours. For such a crowded city, the traffic was well managed. There were numerous subway lines and underground tunnels so that people don’t have to wait for the traffic lights when crossing the street. In Beijing, I enjoyed famous roasted duck, BBQ lamb skewers, noodles, and pastry. I also bought a souvenir T-Shirt and bookmarks containing wacky pictures. Historic and modern Beijing left great memories for me.
Once again, I stepped onto the high speed train, and the city became a blur until we blasted back to Shanghai. Though we had a 5 day trip in just one city, there’s still more to see and enjoy. I’ve eaten my favorite food, gone to heavenly places, and gotten, well, fun! Zai Jian!