BEJ: The Forbidden City

It was a Monday morning at Beijing with light snow over the night. We woke up from bed to find out that the road outside was covered with a blanket of snow and I was so excited and got myself changed to rush out from our rented apartment to get my first feel on real snow :). It was kind of like a "touchy" moment for me as I never really experienced with snowy weather before as back at home it is summer throughout every seasons of the year.

I recalled that the other night before when we were discussing the plan for Monday, I was out of idea where should we head to as there are so many interesting areas that I wanna visit to. After some time of thinking, we decided to visit to the Forbidden City Museum taking advantage that it was a Monday morning and everyone should be at work or school. So there should not be a huge crowd gathering at the place visiting the museum, ~~ I kept my fingers crossed (it was in fact damn crowded that morning and I can hardly get a good shoot on the views I was taking). So we took the subway to the QianMen station (前门站) right opposite the TiananMen Square and headed towards entrance to the museum. 

As usual, let's start with a little introduction to - The Forbidden City. It is called the Palace Museum now, occupies the central part of Beijing municipality and was the imperial palace of Ming and Qing dynasties. It's construction began in year 1406, and forming the very heart of Beijing it is China's most magnificent architectural complex and was completed in year 1420. The huge palace is a compendium of imperial architecture and a lasting monument of dynastic China from which 24 emperors ruled for nearly 500 years. The symbolic center of the Chinese universe, the palace was the exclusive domain of the imperial court and dignitaties until the 1920s.

The Forbidden city itself is divided into two parts: the outer court and the inner court. The outer court is the place where previous emperors handled court affairs and held different ceremony whereas the inner court was where the emperor lived and handled day-to-day work. The imperial garden lies at the north of the inner court forming a natural garden with green pined, exotic flowers, rate stones, ponds and waterside pavilion.

The Forbidden City was not fully opened to the public until year 1949 after the founding of the People's Republic of China. It became one of the key unit of preservation of cultural relcs in 1961 and UNESCO included it in the List of World Heritages in year 1987. Since then, the Forbidden City has radiated the vigour of it youth and become the cultural heritage of mankind.

The Outer Court:
Meridian Gate, it is the main entrance of the Forbidden City. There are 5 high towers with double eaves on it, very lofty and magnificent. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, a ceremony would be helf here whenever generals were sent on an expedition, the army returned in triumph. Prisoners were presented or ever executed here.

Inner Golden Water River, five marble bridges symbolizing the five cardinal virtues of Confusion ism, cross the Golden Water which flows from west to east in a course designed to resemble the jade belt worn by officials.

Unfortunately during our visit, it was all FROZEN! No water was flowing!

 The Chinese Lions:
Pairs of lions guard the entrance of halls. The male is portrayed with a ball under his paw, while the female has a lion cub.

Marble Carriageway
The central ramp varved with dragons chasing pearls among clouds was reserved for the emperor.

Hall of Supreme Harmony
The largest hall in the palace, this was used for major occasions such as the enthronement of an emperor. Inside the hall, the ornate throne sits beneath a fabulously colored ceiling.

The Inner Court:
Moving forward from the Hall of Supreme Harmony, we will be entering the compound of the Inner Court.

Palace of Heavenly Purity
The Palace of Heavenly Purity was the emperor's bed chamber and for the reception of officials.

Towards the end of the inner court after passing by a few of the empresses bed chambers, we were arriving at the Imperial Garden.

Imperial Garden was first built in 1417. It was designed in such a unique style that it's luxuriant trees and flowers, well spaced to present a beautiful atmosphere of soleminty and dignity. It is considered foremost of the gardens in the palace.

After visiting the Imperial Garden, we chose to take the eastern route to visit eastern part of the palace while walking back to the entrance where we came from. We were so surprised to discover that there is such a western style of building exists in the palace - The Palace of Prolonging Happiness.
The Palace of Prolonging Happiness, it was constructed in year 1420. It served as the bedchamber of the imperial consorts. In 1845, the palace was destroyed by fire. It was not reconstructed until 1909 with the hall of Water, a three storey building on the original site of the burnt Palace of Prolonging Happiness.

The temparature was dropping to the freezing point and we couldn't stand much longer after our visit at the Palace of Prolonging Happiness. We walked quickly along the eastern wall leading towards the outer court and eventually the exit. Phew... I can still remember that it started to snow when we reached the exit gate and I can still remember the feeling of the cold wind chilling down through my spine down to my toes in such a cold temparature. Much of the areas around the palace had no heating and we were pretty much like visiting a museum within a giant freezer =_=".

A tip to visitors, you will find that there are a lot of halls along the easter and western side of the inner and outer courts. They are actually museum displaying some historical artefacts used previously in the palace such as some of the emperor's belonging as well as empresses accessories. It is worth to spend your time to have a close eye on these artefacts to understand more about the emperors life within the palace. Unfortunately, we were not able to spent too much time there to check on these artefacts as the weather was too cold for us really!

BEJ: Great Wall of China

Let’s just starts with a brief history about the Great Wall of China (GWC), it is a symbol of China’s historic detachment and sense of vulnerability. The Great Wall snakes through countryside connecting over deserts, hills and plains for several thousand miles. Originally, it was a series of earthen ramparts built by individual states. These individual ramparts were connected after the unification of China under the great emperor of China - Qin Shi Huangdi. Despite impressive battlements, the wall ultimately proved ineffective; it was breached in the 13th century by the Mongols and then, in the 17th century by the Manchu.

Today, only selected sections of it’s crumbling remains have been restored and opened for tourists visit. A trip to the Great Wall of China is a must for any visitor to Beijing, so it is the same for us. During our last visit to Beijing in the month of spring festival 2010, we fulfilled one of our travel dreams by climbing up the Great Wall of China (Badaling section)! Woohoo, I can guarantee that your visit to the GWC would not disappoint ya and it is worth the hassle traveling out from the city to countryside for this historical site.

The ticket counter at the entrance to Badaling Great Wall Section:

A little tips for visitors:
  1. The wall is exposed to the elements so be prepared for all outcomes: wear layers of clothing and a waterproof top, apply suncream.
  2. Bring plenty of water.
  3. The wall can be very steep in places, so make sure you have strong footwear with a good grip such as hiking boots or though waterproof runners.

As we visited the great wall during February - the month of Spring festival, the mountains were still covered with a blanket of snow and the view was simply amazing! The downside of visiting during early Spring is that the weather was so harsh with constant strong winds freezing your body and the blanket of snows covering the stairs up to the watch tower were making it so slippery and very dangerous when walking down from the wall.

The Watch Tower was Ming’s addition. It served as signal towers, forts, living quarters.

Yes!!! We had conquered the Great Wall!

How to travel to Great Wall of China:
Nowadays, most of the hotels will be able to organize a trip to the GWC for you. However, the trip is usually combined with any unwanted diversions planned to cloisonne workshop, jade factory or Chinese medicine clinics. To avoid such trip, there is another option for you to visit the great wall (Badaling section) by public transport. By taking a public transport there, you can have a more personalize visit as you can spend as much of time as you can over there if only you don't miss the last bus back to the city!

So here is a little guideline on how to catch a public bus to the GWC (Badaling section):
1. Take the Line 2 Subway to - Ji Shui Tan station (积水潭). You will find a notice board outside of the station showing you the way to the De Sheng Men Arrow Tower (德胜门箭楼) bus station.

2. Walk towards the east side after getting out from the station to De Sheng Men Arrow Tower (德胜门箭楼).

View Larger Map

3. Take the bus 919 (Badaling express) at the nothern side of the Arrow Tower. Please ask the driver to confirm the bus 919 you are boarding is an express bus to Badaling Great Wall. One way ticket to the Badaling Great Wall costs RMB 12.

4. The bus will go northwardly on Badaling Express Way and shall reach to the Great Wall entrance around 1.5 hours ride. The bus will drop you off here and you will have to walk your way up to the entrance.