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Published: September 30th 2019
HUANGHUACHENG GREAT WALL
Another early start and we transferred 45 miles out of Beijing to reach the Huanghuacheng section of the Great Wall of China. So very different to our visit to the Jinshanling Section a few days ago this part of the wall edges the side of Haoming Lake.
The Huanghuacheng wall is divided by reservoirs, and some parts are even submerged in the water, which is a very unique characteristic, distinguishing it from other sections of the Great Wall. Again the first sight of the wall takes your breathe away - this time as we approached the area the wall was snaking across the green hills, stopping here and there where it had disappeared into the undergrowth or dropped off the edge of the mountain tops.
We were directed across a massive dam to a dock where we boarded a small speed boat to take us across the water. We walked along the water front and through a chestnut tree garden which occupied a large area. These trees were planted in the Ming dynasty by the soldiers defending the frontier, so some of the trees were really old and they
were still bearing lots of fruit. Jade our guide collected the nuts as we walked along for her mid morning snack! 400 years old and every tree has intertwined shapes.
We then started to climb more steps to reach the wall itself. The section we arrived on was right by the submerged section but we decided to turn right and head upwards towards the first watch tower. Once inside it was much cooler and the windows afforded lots of all round views. We decided to continue and yes more steps, this was a very steep section of the wall and two very hot and tired legs arrived at the next watch tower a while later.
Yes, you guessed it we had to continue to the next ancient hilltop tower which was named the Dongliushi Tower as this was the highest point and provided us with a bird's-eye-view of the whole scenic area. The view was just amazing we could see the lake and the bridge over the submerged section from this vantage point.
The down hill climb was just as difficult but the steps were even but you had to watch
where you were going and stop if you wanted to take photographs. When we arrived back at our starting point we then headed down to the submerged section. These steps were ‘giant ones’ but luckily not too many and we soon were walking across the bridge and you could see the ancient stone bricks underneath the water.
I must say we really did enjoy this section which was surrounded by mountains with
verdant vegetation, lots of flowers, and other seasonal beauty. A good time to come would be the summer as the area is awash with a sea of yellow wild flowers hence how it acquired its name, ’yellow flower' is 'huanghua' in Chinese - Cheng being city so Yellow Flower City.
The construction of this part of the wall commenced in 1404 and has a length of 8 miles. To enhance the defence of the northern border, the emperors of the Ming Dynasty built an outer Great Wall and an inner Great Wall. The Huanghuacheng section is part of the inner Great Wall and it was built not only to protect Beijing but also to protect a mausoleum
built by Emperor Yongle, which
later became the Ming Tombs.
Today only a few tourist, lizards and insects inhabit the wall, we saw many Grasshoppers, Praying Mantis and Lizards but not much else. All was quiet and peaceful, those ancient feet of long ago now stilled.
Back on our transport we stopped at the roadside to by some fresh fruit, the fresh dates were very tasty much better than the dried ones. We brought some local apples, pears and walnuts and enjoyed these fresh fruit and nuts over the next few days. The only fruit at breakfast so far had been melon so it was a nice change. JADE FACTORY
We made a customary stop at a Jade Factory, reputed for its beauty, grace, purity and bringing good fortune the Chinese really love this stone.
We were shown several people working preparing the stones and informed how to differentiate normal jade and good jadeite - the quality of jade depends on its clarity and transparency. The more transparent it is, the higher quality the jade would be, similar to a diamond where the same principle basically applies as well
There are generally three grades; A, B and C of differing quality and of course end price. Type A jade is the naturally produced stone whilst the others are processed with chemicals and artificial colourings. Deep green and white jade are relatively rare and the most expensive ones, our Chinese guides all wore large white bracelets of Jade on their left wrist for good fortune. TALES OF CHINA
Heading back to Beijing we got caught in the usual evening rush hour but had a great laugh with our fellow travellers on the mini bus. Put to rights all the problems around the world discussing UK, NZ & Oz politics - it was interesting to hear what others thought of the mess in the UK with the Brexit fiasco at the moment. Our new friends from NZ and Oz had similar tales to tell regarding ‘their’ politics - there appears to be difficult politic situations around the whole world at the moment, at least we are getting a break from it with limited news whilst we are travelling … …
Jade our guide was also great fun and it was
interesting to talk about the differences between Chinese and Western current affairs. She was very open with her views and she also had a good sense of humour which was quite refreshing. We laughed a lot on the bus and whilst out sightseeing - When we noticed a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant she said that most of her colleagues called Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) Kung Foo Chicken!! FOOT BINDING
Jade also related many stories of Chinese customs and culture and told us that her own grandmother had her feet bound as a child, a custom which was only stopped in the 20th Century. The practice was first carried out on young girls in the Tang Dynasty to restrict the normal growth and make the girls feet as small as possible.
Considered an attractive quality, the effects of the process were painful and permanent. Widely used as a method to distinguish girls of the upper class from everyone else, and later as a way for the lower classes to improve their social prospects. All of the Emperors concubines would have had small feet some as small as 3 to 4 inches
was considered beautiful. The smaller the girl’s feet the more attractive she was thought of and it became a mark of elegance. Smaller feet required especially dainty shoes, usually made of silk or cotton and often beautifully embroidered. Many such shoes have been found in abundance in tombs of Chinese upper-class women. Jade said that there are not many ladies now with bound feet and if you did see one they would be well into their 90s. Thankfully the custom and views on small feet have changed, many young girls today like to be taller and with this comes larger feet … .. .. YIHEYUAN - THE SUMMER PALACE
On our last full day in Beijing we visited the Summer Palace - the Park of Nurtured Harmony with beautifully landscaped gardens with equally impressive palaces, pavilions and temples. It was built 250 years ago solely for the use of Emperors and their families but now like the Forbidden City is open to all.
Stunningly located next to Kunming Lake it was designed to achieve harmony with nature, to soothe, and to please the eye - it certainly did that
and was a pleasant respite from the concrete streets.
A more energetic hike took us ever upwards, thought we had done all the climbing on the Great Wall over the last few day but no many more steps … … … This hill was known as Longevity Hill, I suppose if you climbed it a lot it would keep you healthy! It was a good climb though dotted with temples and finally reaching the top there was a small Buddhist Temple which overlooked the whole area so its worth the climb to see the lake far below. A beautiful young lady was posing outside the temple and being filmed so I took the opportunity to take a few shots too - the setting was perfect.
Back on level ground we walked along the side of the lake to what we thought was a stone building which as we got nearer realised it was a Marble Boat
, literally floating on the lake but it was not a boat as it was made of solid marble.
It was extremely well decorated and inlaid with colourful decorative glass windows on the upper deck. Our guide said
it was erected in 1755 with funds syphoned off from the ‘Navy’ by the then Dowager.
The Summer Palace was awesome but the park was definitely worth a visit just to view this amazing structure - sadly you could only look and not go ‘on board ship’ … …
A path meandered beside the lake under some cool shady trees, or you could walk along a roofed colonnade known as the Long Corridor
- it was long. This corridor connecting the main buildings runs for nearly half a mile and the whole corridor’s roof was entirely decorated with landscape paintings detailing many different Chinese legends.
The park was also nicely landscaped with little bridges, willow trees, lotus flowers and of course lots of extra flowers ready for the Chinese national day on 1 October. It was certainly a pleasant place to chill and take in the amazing views but sadly we did not have too long to do this. OLYMPIC VILLAGE
We were able to walk up a broad road to the entrance of Olympic Park where the 2008 Beijing Olympics
were held. The park
was designed to contain ten venues, the Olympic Village, and other supporting facilities and after the facilities were transformed into a comprehensive multifunctional activity centre for public use.
Standing out, the Beijing National Stadium
, or the Bird's Nest,
as it has become known, was viewable from a long way off and is the world's largest steel structure. It is saddle-shaped, but with interlocking steel parts resembling a lattice of tree twigs, making the name Bird's Nest an obvious choice. Apparently the design came from the idea of a single thread wrapped round a ball - it is an awesome structure to view particularly with the deep blue sky behind. Not far from the Bird's Nest, there was the National Aquatics Centre known as the Water Cube and large square building.
A main sporting event will return to Beijing in February 2022 when the Winter Olympic Games
will be held here and in the neighbouring Hebei province. A special high speed Bullet Train line is being built to aid transportation. Beijing will then become the first city ever to host both the Summer and the Winter Olympic Games. LAST DAY
The next morning our tour of Beijing continued and we initially drove to a small park, our guide said to ‘mix with the locals’ - so we were wondering what it was all about as it seemed a strange thing to do!
As soon as we entered the park we noticed groups of people many of them in the older age group (like us) but also some youngsters and children too. Both men and women were doing all sorts of exercises – practicing Tai Chi, dancing and singing, playing music, playing badminton, jogging, walking, meditating etc etc. One group were lightly slapping or patting different parts of their bodies whilst another man was giving a woman a back massage which looked very painful indeed. Many were sitting around in groups playing cards or other games and all were happy and smiling and thoroughly enjoying themselves. It was a very strange thing to watch but no one seemed to mind our presence not sure that I would like someone watching in the Gym back home … … … Most of these residents live in high rise buildings so it must have been lovely
to come out and meet friends and chill in this green haven with birds in the trees. Although we did not see many birds in the city we did see several magpies eating the Persimmon fruits. The Azure Winged Magpie
is a bird in the crow family. It is similar in overall shape to the Eurasian Magpie but is more slender with proportionately smaller legs and bill. It is not black and white though but has a glossy black top to the head and a white throat. They love to feed on the bright orange Persimmon trees. Typically Persimmon trees are either male or female, and of course only the females bear fruit which apparently are quite tasty if fully ripe but we have not tried them yet.
Later we drove the short distance to the imperial site of the Temple of Heaven. Originally a site used to pay homage to Heaven and pray for good harvests, it is now a bustling place where locals take part in traditional activities similar to the park we visited earlier but much larger. We came across a group of people playing music and dancing and again all seemed to be
having such fun. TIANTAN PARK - TEMPLE OF HEAVEN
Built in 1420 the Temple of Heaven
served as a sacred place for the emperors of both the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911).
The park was another example of stunning Ming architecture totally restored. It was huge, four times larger that the Forbidden City and also surrounded by a long wall with a gate at each compass point. The structures inside lie along the south-north axis as do all temples in China. By far the most striking building was the centre tall, circular Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests -
the name speaks for itself. Its location was determined by the emperor’s Fengshui masters as the exact point where heaven and Earth met. It was here they held the Heavenly Worship Ceremony, wishing for prosperity and longevity as well as a good harvest for the people and the emperors of course … …
Really tied after our last morning visits we stopped in a local local restaurant before heading to the Railway Station. We were fortunate as the sleeper train which would take
12 hours was full so we had been booked on a Bullet Train instead which would only take us 6 hours - good karma
We were looking forward to our next destination which was about 750 miles south west of Beijing, called Xian (pronounced Seeanne ) where the Warriors
are of course - see you there.
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