Our Trip to China, Spring, 2006

We finally made it to China! This was a three-week trip all over the country, and we took a lot of pictures. The first group I am posting is just from around Beijing. Over time I will post more, with the great city of Shanghai coming next.

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Day 1 - Tiananmen Square Beijing is the capital of China. In Mandarin, the name means "Northern Capital." Tiananmen square is named after the Tiananmen (literally, Gate of Heavenly Peace) which sits to its north, separating it from the Forbidden City. This is the gate with the big picture of Chairman Mao. It has great cultural significance as a symbol because it was the site of several key events in Chinese history, the most famous being the Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 4th, 1989. The Tiananmen was built in 1417 in the Ming Dynasty. In 1699 (early Qing Dynasty), the Tiananmen was renovated and renamed to its present form. During the Ming and Qing eras, there was no public square at Tiananmen, and instead the area was filled with offices for imperial ministries. These were badly damaged during the Boxer Rebellion and the area was cleared to produce the beginning of Tiananmen Square.

Beijing Day 2 - The Forbidden City The Forbidden City or Forbidden Palace (Zijìn Chéng; literally "Purple Forbidden City"), located at the exact center of the ancient city of Beijing, was the imperial palace during the mid-Ming and the Qing Dynasties.

Temple of Heaven The Temple of Heaven (Tian Tán, literally the Altar of Heaven) is a complex of Taoist buildings in southeastern Beijing, in Xuanwu District. Construction of the complex began in 1420, and was thereafter visited by all subsequent Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is regarded as a Taoist temple, although the worship of Heaven, especially by the reigning monarch of the day, pre-dates Taoism.

Summer Palace The Summer Palace or Yiheyuan (literally "Garden of Nurtured Harmony") is a palace in Beijing. The Summer Palace is mainly dominated by Longevity Hill (60 meters high) and the Kunming Lake. It covers an expanse of 2.9 square kilometers--three quarters of which is water.

Beijing Hutong Tour Hutongs are traditional Chinese neigborhoods. There are thousands of hutongs in Beijing City. Most of them were built in the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasty (1271-1911). Every hutong has a name. Some hutongs have had only one name since the hutong was formed, but some have had more than five names in the past. We visited the hutong in the vicinity of the Bell tower and Shishahai Lake. It is well preserved, several hundred years old, and attracts tourists who can tour the quarter in pedicabs.

The Beijing Opera This was just an hour-long survey of particularly famous Chinese operas to give us tourists a taste. There were three stories, ending with one about the famous Monkey King.

Cloisonne Factory One of the many opportunities we had to buy stuff. Cloisonne is a unique art form that originated in Beijing during the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368). In the period titled 'Jingtai' during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), the emperor who was very much interested in bronze-casting techniques, improved the color process, and created the bright blue that appealed to the Oriental aesthetic sense. After a processing breakthrough, most articles for his daily use were made of cloisonne; in time cloisonne became popular among the common people; their favorite called 'Jingtai Blue'.

The Great Wall of China The Great Wall is the world's longest man-made structure, stretching over 6,352 km (3,948 miles), from Shanhai Pass on the Bohai Sea in the east, at the limit between "China proper" and Manchuria, to Lop Nur in the southeastern portion of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region [1]. Along most of its arc, it roughly delineates the border between North China and Inner Mongolia.

The Ming Tombs We walked the Sacred Way and then visited one tomb. The Ming Dynasty Tombs (Míng cháo shí san líng; lit. Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty) are located 50 kilometers due North of Beijing at an especially selected site. The site was chosen by the third Ming Dynasty emperor Yongle (1402 - 1424), who moved the Capital City of China from Nanjing to the present location of Beijing. He is credited with envisioning the layout of the ancient city of Beijing as well as a number of landmarks and monuments located therein. After the construction of the Imperial Palace (the Forbidden City) in 1420, the Yongle Emperor selected his burial site and creating his own mausoleum.

Beijing City Shots These are mostly shots out the bus window or walking the streets, taken over the few days we were in Beijing. One place we visted was a Kung Fu school that is partially supported by Grand Circle Foundation, connected to our travel company.