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Archives for August 2015

Beijing, China: Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City

Tiananmen Square is considered to be a large city square that has several distinguished buildings: the Great Hall, National Museum of China, entrance to Forbidden City, and Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall.

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The Great Hall is where banquets are hosted. The memorial hall contains Chairman Mao Zedong’s embalmed body.

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We didn’t spend too much time at the square and made our way over to the Forbidden City. We weren’t the only ones with that same idea. There were lots of people, and the Chinese people don’t exactly have a big bubble when it comes to personal space, so it was like packing in like sardines to get through to the main entrance.

Also to note, the image of Chairman Mao you see in the photo below gets replaced every year, but it is the same image.

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So we finally inside the city. We were standing and walking on the brick ground. There are 17 layers of brick as a defense mechanism just in case someone wanted to dig a tunnel into the city to kill the emperor.

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This is the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Tai He Dian – translated to “harmonious operation of all things on earth”), also known as the Hall of Golden Chimes. It is the first and main hall of the 3 major halls of the outer court in the city. The hall was used for important ceremonies and celebrations like Lunar New Year, the emperor’s birthday, and sending generals out to battle. This hall’s main building blocks are from marble, while the hall is clay bricks, also known as “golden bricks”.

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People who had invaded in the past scraped off the gold from these huge vats. You can see what’s left from their vandalism today.

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Another note to point out is the animals that are on the roof’s corner ledges determine the type of building it was within the city. This particular one has 11, so I think that this one was a government building. If I remember correctly, the number of animals on the roof corners determines the type of building and the business it was used for.

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The Hall of Central Harmony (Zhong He Dian) had been destroyed and rebuilt several times. During the Ming Dynasty, it was called Hall of Overwhelming Glory (Hua Gai Dian). Then the name changed to Hall of Central Extremity (Zhong Ji Dian), to its current name. The building was used as the emperor’s resting area before he went on his way to attend a ceremony. The hall was also used to perform sacrificial ceremonies.

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Here are the original stone steps to the hall that is now sectioned off.

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The Hall of Preserved Harmony was used in the Ming Dynasty for the emperor to change clothes before an important ceremony. During the Qing Dynasty, banquets were held in the hall for princes, dukes, and ministers on Lunar New Year’s Eve and the Lantern Festival. One of the emperor’s wedding was held in this hall too. This hall also underwent some name changes just like the Hall of Central Harmony. It first was the Palace of Proper Places and Cultivation of Things and then changed to Palace of Peace and Tranquility, to the name today.

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Here is my lovely mother pointing out the difference in male and female lion statues. The male is holding on to a sphere (perhaps a globe?), symbolizing power. The female lion is holding on to a little lion cub. Apologies for no picture of female lion for comparison.

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Built from 1522-1566, the Hall of Union and Peace (Jiao Tai Dian) has a gold-plated top like the Hall of Supreme Harmony. It’s worth noting the items of the throne in this picture. The board that hangs in the center of the room reads “doing nothing”, and was inscribed by Emperor Kangxi. There is a screen below the board and on the left side is a Chinese water clock, and the right side is a bell. During the Qing Dynasty there was a yearly ceremony held in the hall on the emperor’s birthday, Lunar New Year and Winter Solstice.

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The Hall of Earthly Tranquility began its construction in the 1400’s, but then rebuilt during the 1600’s. This was the hall where the emperesses lived. There are 2 rooms in the hall that served as imperial bridal suites. The emperor and empress were considered a match like heaven and earth. This building was also used as their home for the first night of marriage. On the opposite side of the hall of those rooms were 4 rooms that were the shrines of the gods (Goddess of Mercy, Lord Guan and other Mongolian gods) and cauldrons for sacrificial offerings.

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As we made our way outside, we notice something that wasn’t there inside the city – trees and gardens! This again turned to the defense mechanism so that no one could climb trees in part of their plot to kill the emperor. They are definitely not taking any chances!

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Outside the city was this – originally known as the Hill of Accumulated Embroidery before it became its present name, Hill of Accumulated Elegance. The rocks were piled up on top of the original site of the Hall of Appreciating Flowers. There are many different pieces of rock that were fused together making it resemble a coral-like texture.

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And we made it to the outside of the Forbidden City! We exited out of the North End.

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So in short, it was hot when we went to Beijing, so the heat just hit you as we were walking through Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City. It didn’t help much that there were lots of people too. That just added to the heat. Forbidden City was pretty cool. I learned more about the culture especially in its rituals, traditions and superstitions. There’s meaning and symbolism to everything.

Happy travels friends!

Beijing, China: Summer Palace

The construction began in 1750 by the emperor of the Qing dynasty with its main intention to be a garden and park. However, it ended up becoming the place of royal residence.

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It has now turned into one of the main tourist attraction sites in Beijing. We only had part of the day to spend here, so we didn’t have a chance to check out everything the Summer Palace had to offer, but we did catch a few sights to share.

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This marble boat was built during the Qing dynasty by the emperor to show the steady rule during that time. Since then, it has been rebuilt and shows more of a western influence, and is the only structure in the Summer Palace that indicates that type of influence.

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We took off by the marble boat on a dragon boat, the way of transportation to get to the other side of the park.

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The Long Gallery is a covered pavilion. Along the way are many paintings above that depict old legends and stories.

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The Seventeen-Arch Bridge was built by the same emperor who created the marble boat. I thought this bridge was really neat because it has over 500 carved lions, of different sizes, on the columns of bridge.

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From the central arch to either end are 9 arches. The number 9 is very symbolic. It is believed to have the “biggest yang” in Chinese culture, and therefore was considered to be a favorable number.

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This only scratches the surface of what else is in the Summer Palace park. It was a really pretty and ornate place. I’d say my favorite is still the 17 arch bridge. That was pretty astounding to me and it showcases the precise architecture, and skill set. Everything about it is symbolic.

Happy travels friends.