Monday, December 15, 2008

Beijing Tour I

Tiananmen Square
I was in junior-high when tanks ran over protesters at this very spot. I searched those faded images in my head and superimposed with my vision: tanks speeded up and transformed into vehicles flowing on the Chang An Avenue that seperates the gate and the square; armed soldiers marched to haul down the flag which ritually attracts crowds gathering where they evicted the protesters. I couldn't find any traces of the June 4th Incident there, just propoganda and annoying solicitors.

I paid 15RMB to go up to the Tiananmen (08:00~17:00). Before entering, I was asked to deposite my camera bag (RMB2/bag for 1 hour) and was frisked. Ribbons blocked tourists about 2 meters away from the marble railings obstructing the panoramic view of the square from the balcony. Some areas closed to the public made the Tiannamen one of the overpriced tourist attractions.

More info:
  1. Getting there: Subway line 1, Tiananmen East or Tiananmen West Station.
  2. Raising and lowering flag ritual: At sunrise and sunset respectively. Check Beijing Evening Newspaper or call 114 for the exact time.
  3. Audio guide: No

Forbidden City (National Palace Museum)
Standing over 500 years, the forbidden city was the imperial palace for Ming and Qing Dynasties. The vivid color of renovated buildings vs. patinas on censers; ancient furniture and setting vs. the modern heating/cooling system, the city is a place where time conflicts itself. My attempt to do justice to the magnificence of the Forbidden City was futile. In spite of the fact that most of the rooms were closed to public and most of the valuable art collections were taken to Taiwan when the Republic Of China retreated from the mainland, the forbidden city can offer not only the majestic Chinese ancient architecture but also its mysterious stories and history that have been told over 500 years.

More info:
  1. Opening time: 08:30-16:30, Oct. 15th-Mar. 31st, 15:30 stops selling tickets; 08:30-17:00, Apr. 1st-Oct. 14th, 16:00 stops selling tickets
  2. Price: Apr. 16-Oct.15, RMB60; Oct. 16-Apr. 15, RMB40
  3. Audio Guide: RMB100 deposite, RMB10 for Mandarin, RMB20 for English
  4. Transportation: as the Tiananmen square.
  5. Great info and 3D virtural tour:
Summer Palace (Yihe yuan)
This royal garden was designed in images of garden architecture styles of various palaces in China. The man made Kunming Lake was an imitation of West Lake in Hangzhou; view over Kunming Lake towards Yu Quan Hill with Yu Feng Pagoda was a design of "borrowing views" that incoporates elements from a distance far away from the garden. Artisans used different kinds of Chinese landscape garden designs such as imitation and borrowing views, etc. to harmonize the Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, the two basic frameworks of the garden, and won the garden a place on UNESCO's World Heritage List as a "masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design".

Covering an area of 2.97 square kilometers, the Summer Palace can be divided into 3 parts: Political area (Renshou Dian as the representive building), living quarters (Leshou Tang as the representive building) and recreation area (vast west part of the garden) based on the functions they served. After a few hours traveling in time through the palace with my audio guide, I was lost in legends. Willows swung in the breeze; autumn colored leaves shimmering in the afternoon sun, a walk to the west part of the garden was a good way to reconnect to the time continuance.

More Info:
  1. Transportation: Subway Line 10, Bagou station. A 5 min ride by taxi to Shinjiengon Men of Summer Palace (RMB10). No taxi at the Shimen (West exit); it takes about 30 min by bus to subway Bagou station.
  2. Summer Palace Official Website: Opeing time and pricing etc.
  3. Audio guide: Multi-languages to choose from
Temple of Heaven
The temple of heaven comprises three main groups of construction: the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and the Circular Mound Altar. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is the representative construction of the complex and is easy to be confused to the place where the ceremonies of prayer to heaven took place.

The Chinese emperors were considered as the son of God and inherited divinity. An altar like this was a place where emperors were once human again: voices could only be heard by worshiping on the altar that was built to compliment God.

More Info:
  1. Temple of Heaven official Website
  2. Temple of Heaven on Wikipedia
  3. Transportation: Subway Line 5, Tiantandongmen station.
  4. Audio guide: Multi-languages to choose from

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