Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Great Wall

Helpful info:
Admission fee: CNY 40 (Nov - Mar), CNY 45 (Apr - Oct)
Opening hours: 06:40 - 18:30
Visit time: 2,30 hours
Bus route: 919.
Tourist Bus: 1 (at Front Gate), No2 (at Beijing Railway Station), Lateral No2 (at the West Gate of Beijing History Museum), No3 (at East Bridge), No4 (at Xizhi Gate or Beijing Zoo)

Said to be the only man-made structure that can be seen from the moon and one of the 8 wonders of the world, the Great Wall is probably the best known of all the Chinese attractions. It runs through 5 provinces from Shanhaiguan Pass in the East to Jiayuguan Pass in the west along a length of 6,700 kilometres. It winds like a great dragon around deserts, grasslands and mountains and just outside Beijing it is possible to climb up onto a section of the wall where you can enjoy an unforgettable view that will stay with you for ever.

The section of the wall close to Beijing is called the Badaling Great Wall, and standing at over 1,000 metres above sea level, was built in 1505 using huge granite stone slabs at its base. At an average of 7.8 metres high it is possible for ten people to walk along it shoulder to shoulder and is on average 6.5 metres wide. The outside or ‘rampart’ wall, built for defence using bricks, contains watch holes along the edge and peepholes underneath.

Inside the outer wall are low walls with parapets one metre high. At the highest places are signal fire platforms which were used in times of war to signal the amount of the enemy army.The top of the wall is neatly paved with square bricks making a smooth orderly surface. The beauty of the Great Wall changes with the seasons and whatever the time of year, the visitor will be assured of a spectacular view and memorable experience.

text taken from accommodation olympic games

The Summer Palace

Helpful info:
Admission fee: CNY 25 (Nov - Mar), CNY 35 (Apr - Oct)
Opening hours: 07:00 - 17:00 (Nov - Mar), 06:30 - 18:00 (Apr - Oct)
Visit time: 1:30 hours
Bus route: 375, 394, 718, 732, 801, 808, 907

Constructed during the Jin Dynasty the Summer Palace is about 15 kilometres North of the city centre. Giving pleasure to the emperors and their families for countless dynasties it was given over to the public to enjoy after the revolution of 1911.

Having twice been destroyed and reconstructed it consists mainly of Longevity Hill in the North and Kunming Lake to the South which takes up more than three quarters of the whole garden.
We can divide the Summer Palace into 4 areas. These are the court area, the front hill area, the front lake area and finally the rear hill and back lake area. The Summer Palace is considered to be the archetypal Chinese Garden and there are over 3,000 structures of pavilions, bridges and towers.

Some of the most important buildings are situated on the front hill area including the Hall and the Gate of Dispelling Clouds, the Hall of Moral Glory and the Tower of Buddhist Incense among many others. The rear hill area although containing fewer buildings has its own tranquil landscape. With winding paths and dense trees the area delights the visitor with treasures such as Garden of Harmonious Interest and the 300 metres long Suzhou Market Street, lined with over 60 shops and built with blue-grey tiles and bricks.

When entering the court area by the East palace gate visitors are rewarded with the view of the main palace buildings including the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, the Hall of Jade Ripples, the Hall of virtue and Harmony and the Hall of Joyful Longevity.

Finally turning to the front lake area we have a marvellous view of the lake. Located on the Southern bank of the lake is the 17 arch bridge spanning more than 150 metres. It is embellished by carved stone lions sitting on top of the stone columns. At one end stands an octagonal pavilion and close by lies a bronze ox whose head, raised towards the lake, is used to symbolise the control of flooding.
One of the most graceful and tranquil areas, the Summer Palace is a natural place for the visitor to relax and recharge their batteries.

text taken from accommodation olympic games

The Temple of Heaven

Helpful info:
Admission fee: CNY 30 (Nov - Mar), CNY 35 (Apr - Oct)
Opening hours: 06:00 - 20:00
Visit time: 1:30 hours
Bus route: 6, 34, 35

Built in 1420 during the Ming dynasty the Temple of Heaven is bigger than the Forbidden City covering a massive 2,700,000 square acres. Lying about 6 km to the South in the Chongwen district the temple was used for making sacrifice to Heaven. The North area which represents Heaven is higher than the South area which symbolises Earth. In this way the emperors showed that Heaven is higher than Earth.

Among the buildings not to be missed are the Circular Mound Altar, the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest.
Also the Palace of abstinence where during the summer and winter solstice the Emperor’s spent the last day of their three day fast with the first two days taking place in the Forbidden City.
On the day of the winter solstice the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors would sacrifice to Heaven at the Circular Altar to thank Heaven and pray for a good future.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest has a circular roof and 28 huge posts inside the building. Divided into 3 circles the inner 4 post represent the 4 seasons and the middle 12 represent the 12 months. The outer 12 posts represent the old way of counting time – the Shichen - which equalled two hours and therefore give the 24 hour day.

The Imperial Vault of Heaven was used for placing memorial tablets of gods and is blue with a gold roof.
Connected by the Vermilion Steps Bridge the emperors of the past believed they could pass from the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest over the bridge to the Imperial Vault of Heaven. The South end is accordingly lower than its North end.

Outside the gate of the Imperial Gate of Heaven you will find the Three Echo Stones. If you speak while standing on the first stone you will hear one echo and then standing on the other stones two or three echoes respectively. Encircling the Imperial Vault of Heaven is the Echo Wall. Two people standing at the East and West roots of the wall can easily hear the other person’s whisper!

text taken from accommodation olympic games

Friday, April 25, 2008

TianAnMen Square

Helpful info:
Admission fee: Square free, Tower CNY 60 (Apr -Oct)
Opening hours: All day
Visit time: 30 min.
Bus route: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

As the largest square in any city of the world, Tiananmen Square is located at the centre of Beijing. Each day at dawn and again at dusk guards march in unison to the flagstaff, which is located at the central point of the North side, to raise or lower the national flag.

This daily ritual is spectacular to witness and well worth the effort but you will need to get up early to attend the dawn ceremony to be able to get a good view because of the crowds.
Towering over the centre of the square is the Monument to the People’s Heroes. Built in 1952 and made of granite it is the largest monument in Chinese history. Engraved on the monument is the inscription “The People’s Heroes are Immortal” which was written by chairman Mao.

To the South side of the square is the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall which is divided inside into 3 halls. Inside lies the body of Chairman Mao in its crystal coffin surrounded by fresh flowers and grasses.
To the North you will see Tiananmen (Heavenly Peace Gate) Tower which was built in 1417 and was the ‘front door’ of the Forbidden City. Until 1911 the tower could only be entered by the Royal family and other aristocrats.

Looking to the West you will see the Great Hall of the People, erected in 1959. As the site used for China National People’s Congress meetings. The hall which is divided into 3 parts is fronted by 12 marble posts. Inside are the Central Hall, which is paved with marble, the Great Auditorium which seats 10,000 people and the Banqueting Hall which seats 5,000.

Finally on the East side of the square is the newest marvel, being the China National Museum which is a combination of the History Museum and the Revolutionary Museum of China. Facing the Great Hall of the People the museum houses many items which present the development of today’s China and artefacts and relics which date back throughout China’s magnificent history from as far back as 1,700,000 years ago.

text from Accommodation olympic games Bejng 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Forbidden City

With well over 9,900 rooms this is certainly the largest and most well preserved palace complex in the world. The palace was the administrative centre of China for more than 500 years and the emperors of Ming and Qing dynasties resided there. Surrounded by a 6 metre deep moat and a wall reaching 10 metres high, it is located in the centre of Beijing, North of Tiananmen square.
The wall has a gate in each side : to the South there is the Meridian Gate which is so named from the Chinese emperors’ belief that they lived at the centre of the universe. To the North is the gate of the Divine Military Genius which is the largest of the four. Standing at 35.6 metres high it connected the imperial palace to the market area.
The distance between the two gates is 960 metres. The other two gates – the West Flowery Gate and the East Flowery Gate stand at their respective points at a distance of 750 metres apart.

The palace is divided into two sections – the Outer court in the Southern section was the place where the emperor wielded his power over the nation and the Inner court in the Northern section was where the emperor and his family lived. In 1924 when the last emperor was driven out of the palace, 24 emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties combined had lived there.

The dominant colour in the Forbidden City is yellow, being the colour of the Royal Family. Yellow tiles are used on the roofs, decorations are painted yellow and even the bricks paving the ground are made yellow. The one exception is the black roof of the Royal Library as black was believed to represent water which could of course extinguish fire.

Begun in 1407 the palace complex took 14 years to build using more than a million labourers and artisans. At the centre of the Outer palace stand 3 halls – the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Complete Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony. In the Inner Palace you will find the Palace of Heavenly Purity, the Hall of Earthly Peace, the Hall of Prosperity and the Imperial Garden.

Standing at 35 metres high, the Hall of Supreme Harmony is the largest and best preserved wooden hall in China. The roof is supported by 24 pillars with the 6 central ones adorned with gilding and red paint. In the middle of the hall stands the Emperor Throne, surrounded by treasures of art and symbolic significance.

As the largest museum in China the Imperial Palace holds more than 900,000 priceless antiques and treasures which cover all the Chinese dynasties and is definitely a place that should not be missed. At the entrance you can obtain self-guided audio tour tapes in several languages to bring this marvellous heritage to life.

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