The Heart of China

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March 29th 2018
Published: October 8th 2021
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We arrive in Beijing late afternoon and check-in at our final hotel of the tour. The tour ends after two nights and I've decided to spend 1 additional night here before heading home. In the evening, we visit the Red Theatre, to see The Legend of Kungfu show. This is my favourite show I've seen in China. There is no speaking, just Kungfu with acrobatics. The show is an infusion of modern dance with traditional Chinese martial arts, but has a storyline, as this boy follows his dreams of becoming a Kungfu master.

Next day

We head into Tiananmen Square, known as 'the square of the gate of heavenly palace' a vast open concrete expansion to the modern city of Beijing. Around the square are several buildings such as the Great Hall of the People, National Museum of China; as well as important monuments.

We have around 15 mins to walk around the square to take photos and get a group picture. From here, we walk through the Tiananmen, where Mao proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. From this main gate hangs his portrait. The entrance is also known as 'the gate of the heavenly peace'. It is also the entrance to the imperial city, within which the Forbidden City is situated.

Once we get past some queues, we arrive in the Forbidden City. Known for being the heart of Beijing, the Forbidden City, officially known as the Palace Museum, is China's most magnificent architectural complex and it was finished being built in 1420. The first section is known as the Golden Water, where five marble bridges symbolize the five cardinal virtues of Confucianism. I find myself in awe as I am taking in just how big this complex is, Its amazing to think this palace has had 24 emperors that have ruled for nearly 500 years, following its abdication in 1912 to make way for a new republican government. This place has been open to the public for nearly 70 years.

The next section of the Forbidden City, finds us almost in the centre, once we walk past the storehouses. This section is known as the Imperial Sundial, where a sundial is placed at the front, this shows that the emperor had the highest power to grant time to all the people of the country. On the roof of the building are roof guardians, which are associated with water to protect the building from fire. The architecture and attention to detail is very impressive.

Next, we walk to the Hall of Supreme Harmony. The largest hall in the palace, which was used for major occasions. Inside, an ornate throne sits beneath a fabulously coloured ceiling. From here I walk up to the Hall of Preserving Harmony, this room is smaller than the other room and used for rehearsing ceremonies, however, both rooms feature imperial thrones.

We enter the Gate of Heavenly Purity, which leads us to the Imperial garden. This garden is known to be the smallest area of the palace and we find it very cramp with crowds of visitors. Throughout this trip, we have experienced many local people wanting to take our photo, although it is quite obvious they're more interested in the girl in the group who has blonde hair and one of the girls who originally originated from Sri Lanka; perhaps they're just being 'polite' and asking me to join in some of the photos, or they're interested in me for my tall height. The girls in particular are getting quite annoyed as this has been happening for days, but with today's crowds and the local visitors surrounding us and sneakily taking photos of us seems to have taken its toll.

Interestingly at each corner of this rectangle shape garden is a pavilion that represents the four seasons. The pavilion that represents spring was the first to be built, dating back to 1535. There is also a small artificial hill with a cave that I climb up and is open to visitors. If it wasn't for the crowds, I think I would have enjoyed my time here better.

in the afternoon, I take a local bus with a few others from the group and visit Hongqiao Pearl Market. This market is famous for selling pearls and is the largest distributor in China but, with three floor levels, it sells anything from sea food to electrical items to souvenirs.

Shopping here is as you would expect at any Chinese market. It’s crazy, loud, aggressive and a lot of fun. Prices start high here, so haggling over price is essential (as confirmed by our tour guide) and sellers will expect you to go lower. I am a hard person to negotiate with, well I think I am, so if something doesn't seem a fair price, I will walk away. I found my tactic to be advantageous as the sellers would come chasing after me, asking me to name my best price.

For dinner, it is our last supper together as the tour comes to an end and it literally felt like the last supper; ate so much food that my tummy hurts, but the food just too delicious to not eat it.

Next day

My last full day, and many of the girls I travelled with have moved on, but one girl is staying a few more days and is happy to have some company to explore the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace is a garden and is the largest royal park in China.

As we set off on our journey, we first stop off at Jingshan Park. This park is on a hill and has a pretty oriental pavilion from there it offers spectacular full view of the Forbidden City.

We carry on walking to reach a nearby subway station to get us to Summer Palace. As we walk along, we notice the roads have a lot of military personal present as we understand that Kim Yong-un is here visiting the Chinese president.

After an hour of walking and using the subway, we make it to Summer Palace. These sprawling grounds served the Qing dynasty as an imperial treat from the stifling summer confines of the Forbidden City. It has been rebuilt twice following destruction by French and British troops in 1860 and again in 1902 after it was plundered during the Boxer rebellion.

The grounds here are beautiful and, despite the hustle and bustle of crowds of visitors, you can actually find some quiet spots to enjoy and appreciate its beauty. There are many things to see here, with my favourite location at the Marble Boat. This super-structure designed in the shape of a large boat is made of wood and painted white to give it a marble effect. I also find myself really admiring the Long Corridor; the length of 2,388 ft walkway, which is decorated with over 14,000 scenic paintings. Very impressive.

In the afternoon, we head over to the Temple of Heaven. This temple was completed during the Ming dynasty and is also known as Tian Tian. It is one of the largest temple complexes in China and a paradigm of Chinese architectural balance and symbolism. It is here that the emperor would make scarifies and pray to his dead ancestors. The temple is situated in a pleasant park, which I enjoy walking around, despite it attracting a lot of visitors.

The inside of the Temple of Heaven is absolutely stunning, it has this eye-catching caisson ceiling with a gilded dragon and phoenix at its centre. Amazingly, I learn this hall is completely built of wood without the use of a single nail. The roofs of the hall are supported by 28 highly decorated pillars, with four large pillars in the centre, known as Dragon well pillars, which represent the four seasons, while the other pillars symbolize the months in the year and the 12 two-hour time periods each day.

In the evening, I meet up with a mum and daughter who were in my tour group, and we head out to a restaurant recommended to us by our tour guide. The food is great and nice to connect and hear how our independent day went as well as reminisce about our China trip.

It's always sad when an adventure comes to an end, and this adventure has been very different for me in terms of past trips and being my first visit to Asia. I also feel I've seen a part of Asia that not many western people have been to and I must say I really have enjoyed my trip to China.

Next stop; home!

Additional photos below
Photos: 58, Displayed: 27


9th October 2021

You really managed to pack in a lot of major sites in Beijing in such a short time, Alan...well done! Yet just a smidgeon of what Beijing has to offer. During the Opium Wars in the 19th Century the foreign Allied armies gave the Chinese an ultimatum that they would destroy one of the major sites if their demands were not met. The Forbidden City was on the list. That you saw it in the 21st Century is testament to good fortune that the dice did not fall on its destruction back then.
10th October 2021

I'm glad you feel I managed to see a lot within my short few days in Beijing, it is a shame I couldn't have had longer there. I'm so glad the odds were in the Chinese favour and I managed to see the Forbidden City. What a magnificent place to be able to visit
9th October 2021
The beautiful Inside of the Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven of my favourite places...great shot!
10th October 2021
The beautiful Inside of the Temple of Heaven

Great shot
Thank you! I'm so glad the photo came out well ☺️
10th October 2021

Absorbing Beijing
Wow, did a great deal. You use every minute to the fullest. This location is still on our list. Who knows how many years it will be before they open up again. The Temple of Heaven certainly looks beautiful.
10th October 2021

I really do try to get the most out of my trips. You never know if you'll ever get that chance to visit again. I hope someday you guys manage to get to Beijing.

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