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Published: October 29th 2016
A bridge in the Summer Palace
Four world heritage sites and one site which isn't
In and around Beijing there are so many cultural heritage sites that you can't possible visit them all in such a short trip as the one I made with my mother last summer. We had to limit ourselves to the most interesting ones. If we had tried to squeeze in too many it would have killed all the fun with the trip.
I have been to Beijing several times before and I have in previous trips visited most of the sites we wanted to go to. I could therefore give suggestions on which ones we had to see and which ones we shouldn't bother going to. I also had some idea on how long a visit to each place would take so you might say that I acted as a tour guide rather than tourist on this trip.
I have in this blog entry included the following
• The Summer Palace
• Temple of Heaven
• The Great Wall
• The Drum Tower and the Bell Tower
• The Ming Tombs
We decided to visit
The Marble Boat
The marble boat is a pavilion made to look like a paddle steamer.
the Summer Palace in the afternoon one day. We had already seen the Forbidden City which is the main royal palace and the winter home of the emperor. The Summer Palace is the royal palace which the emperor preferred to stay in during the summers. The Summers in Beijing are hot and when they constructed the Summer Palace they had that in mind. There are lots of trees providing shade and there are lakes which help to lower the temperatures. So even though the Summer Palace is yet another royal palace it is a different experience from the Forbidden City. But many of the buildings are similar in style so we felt we could skip parts of it and focus on what makes the Summer Palace special.
The long corridor is one of those. It is a more than 700 meters long covered walkway. Under the roof there are several thousands of paintings of lakeside views or people enjoying themselves or perhaps having a picnic.
The marble boat is another special feature of the Summer Palace. It is a pavilion made to look like a paddle steamer. According to one source the money which was spent on building
The Long Corridor
The long corridor is a more than 700 meters long covered walkway.
the marble boat was taken from funds earmarked for the navy. This in turn led to the navy being underequipped which led to the country not being able to defend itself properly when being attacked in wars later on. But I think that source might have gotten one or two things wrong.
17-Arch Bridge is a bridge with 17 arches, no surprises there, which leads from the shore to an island in the lake. The bridge is a true masterpiece.
In Beijing there are several imperial parks. These parks were places of great importance as they in Imperial China, which lasted until early 20th century, were used in various ceremonies. We decided to only visit one of these parks, Temple of Heaven
. Temple of Heaven is generally thought as being the most interesting of these parks to visit today and it also has one additional feature which makes it fun to go to - people gather there in the morning to exercise. I recorded a video showing a few of the many hundreds of people who were there
Large sections of the park looks like what you would expect of a park. Green grass, green trees
Lion statue in the Summer Palace
and nice trails you can walk and enjoy the vegetation. But the big drawing card is the magnificent altars and temples which were once used in ceremonies. The temples and the altars are nice but my favourite is actually something else - an elevated walkway which runs between the main sites. It is long and wide and when you walk on it you see fabulous imperial architectural gems in either end of it.
One day we went to the Great Wall. It is possible to visit the wall by going with local busses. But we decided to take an organized tour to save us a bit of trouble. The weather was a bit foggy that day so we never got to see the fabulous views of the wall going up and down and away into infinity. If you have seen publicity photos of the wall you will know what I mean. But although it wasn't clear weather it was still nice to go there and see it. Both my mother and I enjoyed that day. If we had had more time I think we would have visited one more section of the wall. The one we went
Under the roof of the Long Corridor there are several thousands of paintings of lakeside views or people enjoying themselves or perhaps having a picnic.
to was a restored part opened for tourism. There are also sections that are wild, that is the wall is authentic in that it is partly overgrown and that here and there it has fallen down. To walk on a wild section of the wall I enjoy more than walking a restored part. Partly because there are fewer tourists there, or more like virtually no tourists at all, and no commerce. But we only visited Beijing for little more than a week this time and we thought it was enough to visit the Great Wall only once.
Before I go on I have to add that the Chinese are ridiculously proud of the Great Wall. Once I took a train ride between two cities in China. When the train passed a place where you could see a glimpse of the Great Wall the train stopped there, in the middle of nowhere, for quarter of an hour.
The Drum Tower and the Bell Tower
are two towers in central Beijing. These towers is the only cultural heritage site I write about in this blog entry which is not listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The towers were used for
Most likely this is a guard tower. It is in one end of the Summer Palace, near the outer wall, so it makes sense that it is a guard tower
official time keeping in Imperial China. Today the great reward for visitors is that the towers offer good views over the town. They are also quick to visit since they are centrally located and also smaller than most sites in Beijing.
The last site I am going to write about here is the Ming Tombs, which are located just outside Beijing. There are thirteen tombs in all but only three of them are open to public. Each one of the tombs is like a palace with a large park around it. The emperors are buried in sealed underground vaults. In the burial chamber is of course the emperor's body. With him they also buried a wife or two, possibly a servant and also large amounts of gold, jade and precious stones. The underground vaults are so well hidden that it is difficult to find the entrance even if they decide to excavate the site. Only one of the 13 tombs, Dingling Tomb, has been completely excavated and that is the one we visited.
It was quite an adventure to get to the tombs. I knew from before that the various tombs are located far
One of probably more than 100 stone lions sitting on the 17-Arch Bridge
from each other. Recently they have opened a metro station called Ming Tombs and I thought it was a good idea to go there and then from there try to find the tombs. It was no success. It took us a long time to go from the metro station to the Dingling Tomb and on the way we even managed to get diverted into a museum. I can't understand why they call the station Ming Tombs when it is located nowhere near the tombs.
There is little to say about our visit to the tomb. We saw the buildings, the park and the underground chamber. What I would like to share with you is an understanding about the size of the place. The park is the size of two football fields, the underground vault is maybe 30 meters down in the ground and consists of several large rooms, the palace on top may is a slender construction which stands on an elevated platform which is maybe 15 meters high and 100 meters in diameter. All of this was built by hand using only the simplest tools. And what I have described now is only one single grave!
17-Arch Bridge is a bridge with 17 arches, no surprises there, which leads from the shore to an island in the lake.
There are another twelve tombs from the Ming Dynasty and a great many from other dynasies elsewhere. It is beyond my understanding how they could spend so much money and so much work on these elaborate graves.
Many years ago I did something which is very unusual - I managed to visit one of the ten closed Ming tombs. Each one of the tombs you officially can't visit has a guardian. I went there and talked to him and he let me in after I had payed him a small feel (read: bribe) and given him a packet of cigarettes. I don't recommend anyone to try that stunt, it is probably illegal, but it was really good fun to walk around in a tomb no other tourist get to see.
I have some more things I'd like to write about Beijing but I leave that for the next blog entry.
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