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The Third Day ...
- Hutong Tour (胡同)
It was a cloudy day so it was much more comfortable
to tour around Beijing today.
In Beijing, hutongs are alleys formed by lines
traditional courtyard residences.
Many neighborhoods were formed by joining one siheyuan to
another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another. The word
hutong is also used to refer to such neighborhoods.
Since the mid-20th century, the number of Beijing hutongs has dropped
dramatically as they were demolished to make way for new roads and buildings.
More recently, some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an
attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.
- Gong Wong Fu (Prince Gong's Mansion, 恭王府,
Mansion was constructed in 1777 for minister He
Shen (和珅) during the Qianlong
Because of being accused of corruption, He Shen was executed and the mansion
was confiscated in 1799, under the reign of Emperor
Jiaqing. In 1851, Emperor
Xianfeng assigned it to his
brother Prince Gong. It is his
name that is currently given to the compound. From
1920s to 1980s, it has been used for several different functions such as
school and factory buildings. Since November 1996 the buildings
and the gardens have become a new publicly open scenic spot for tourists.
One of the main problem to take pictures in such a tourist spot was how to
avoid crowd and only get your family in the frame ....
- Beihai Park (北海公園)
Beihai Park (Northern Sea), initially built in the 10th century, is an
imperial garden to the northwest of the Forbidden City. The guide
particularly led us to the Nine-Dragon Wall in park.
It was built in 1756
and is one of three walls of its kind in China. It is made of glaze bricks of
seven-colors with nine complete dragons playing in
the clouds, decorating both sides of the wall.
- Yong He Gong, Lama Temple (雍和宮)
Yong He Gong was
built in 1694 as
the residential palace of Prince Yin Zhen, the
Emperor (雍正). After
Yongzheng's ascension to the throne in 1722, half of the building was
converted into a lamasery, a monastery for monks of Tibetan Buddhism,
while the other half remained an imperial palace.
After Yongzheng's death in 1735, Qianlong
successor, gave the temple imperial status signified by having its turquoise
tiles replaced with yellow tiles which were reserved for the emperor.
Subsequently, the monastery became a residence for large numbers of Tibetan
Buddhist monks from Mongolia and Tibet,
and so the Yonghe Lamasery became the national centre of Lama administration.
All the halls' names are written in four
different languages (Chinese, Manchu, Mongolian, and Tibetan).
- China House, Tianjin (天津瓷房子)
After lunch, it was about 2.5 hours bus ride to Tianjin. Tianjin, one of
four direct-controlled municipalities in China,
is the sixth largest
city of the People's Republic of China in terms of urban
population (~ 12 million in 2009), and its urban land area ranks 5th in
the nation, after Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou,
The China House, a century-old French-designed building,
embedded with more than 400 million ancient china pieces, 10,000 ancient
vases, 5,000 ancient bowls, 500 porcelain pillows, 300 stone lions, 300
stone Buddhist statues and more than 20 tons of natural crystals.
But honestly I did not like it very much as I did not feel very comfortable
with the porcelain pieces all over the walls and ceilings.
Ancient Culture Street, Tianjin (天津文化街)
Tianjin Ancient Cultural Street is designed as a place for tourists to
experience Chinese folk custom, and as such, contains examples of nearly all
the Tianjin local culture in one place. It is
located on the west bank of the Haihe River, and was
formally opened in 1986. It provides special architectural
styles, classic cultural features, various folk crafts, and delicious local
Tianjin snacks. We found a craft store and bought tens of framed
reed crafts (蘆葦手工藝品).
The Fourth Day ...
- We took an early train ride back to Beijing. The high-speed train only took about 30 min between Tianjin and Beijing with
the top speed faster than 330km/hr.
- Temple of Heaven (Tian Tan, 天壇)
The Temple of Heaven, where the emperors of the Ming
and Qing Dynasties held the ceremonies of worshipping and praying for good
harvests, was first built between 1406 and 1420 during the reign of Ming
Emperor YongLe (永樂). It is the largest and
best-preserved ancient group of constructions for worship in the world; it
is about two kilometers from north to south and covers approximately 2.75
square kilometers of area
(more than twice the size of the Forbidden City).
The main Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (祈年殿) is
38 meters high without a single nailed used in its construction.
Hall are 28 tall pillars, each made from a single tree trunk. The four posts
around the inner circle represent the four seasons. The 12 posts around the
middle circle represent the 12 months. The 12 posts of the outer circle
represent 12 Chinese Hours (ShiChen).
- National Center for the Performing Arts (國家大劇院)
an ellipsoid dome of titanium and
glass surrounded by an artificial lake and
colloquially described as The
Egg, seats 5,452 people in three halls and is almost 12,000 mē in size.
We had a private tour to go inside the
opera house and
with detail introduction. There was also a casual concert on the top
level going on to introduce classical music to kids. It was a cool
visit to this modern place on such a hot day.
- Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall (北京規劃展覽館)
The only interesting exhibit in
exhibition hall was a big room
featuring a miniature model of the entire Beijing metropolitan area
and we could use it to have a better idea where we had been for the last few
- Qianmen Street (前門大街)
Located at the
center of Beijing near Tiananmen Square, Qianmen Street, no more than 2
km long, has been a prosperous area for more than 600 years and has
accumulated some long-standing stores. It has
been through a year long of renovation before the Olympic Games in 2008.
We were tired and not very enthusiastic in street shopping, so we got
into a McDonald's and took a snack break.
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