Beijing (Beijing Shi) China – Day 1
We’ve arrived in Beijing and we’re so excited to see one of the many wonders of the world “The Great Wall of China”. I read recently that another part of the wall has been discovered in the middle of a forest – and I believe it’s a couple of hundred kilometres.
It’s chilly this morning but the sun is shining so we’ve packed sweaters and a light jacket (just in case). Customs has halted our departure off the ship by almost 2 hours and we have a 12 hr journey in front of us.
It’s a 3 hour bus ride to the Great Wall and Ming Tombs, and because of the delay in clearing the ship we’ll have lunch first then visit both the “Wall” and “Ming Tombs” this afternoon. The road from Xingang to Beijing is lined 8-12 trees deep along the entire route. I am guessing 1,000,000 trees. These are well looked after, anti-insect coating and excellent physical supports. This is easier on the eyes of drivers and also helps with pollution.
The lunch is just marvellous – it’s in an authentic Chinese restaurant – similar to the Emerald in Mississauga (our favourite Dim Sum restaurant). Everyone is invited to have a Chinese beer (which is very light and refreshing). Our meal consists of approximately 15 dishes, I keep asking where the other 200 people were at our table for 6 people. We had rice, steamed vegetables, pork, chicken, meat balls, a lemon dish (which I think was lemon pork), noodles, french fries??, oxtail soup – which was very spicy and wonderful; a dish with noodles, sea food and nuts – yummy!; bread (looked like toast); breaded chicken with a white sauce; and several other dishes I didn’t have a clue but all tasted wonderful. This was washed down with beer and soft drinks and water and we then had Chinese sake served in little tiny cups (similar to the shape of a wine class but think tom thumb size). We didn’t partake in the Sake, but they insisted on us taking it with us. We did – and we’ll save that for home.
This Friendship Store specialized in production and sales of cloisonné. We have a very old piece of this art form at home but it was amazing to see how much work goes into 1 item. After gluing the copper strips on the voids are filled with colour and then fired. This process is repeatedly up to 7 times before smoothing and polishing. It can take up to 2 weeks to complete some of the larger items.
As the day progressed it got warmer (me thinks it might have to do with great food and beer :-)).
No one call tell precisely when the building of the Great Wall started but it is popularly believed that it originated as a military fortification against intrusion by tribes on the borders during the earlier Zhou Dynasty. Between 770BC-476BC the ducal states extended the defence work and built “great” structures to prevent the attacks from other states. Further construction and extensions were made in the successive Northern Wei, Northern Qi and Sui Dynasties. The present Great Wall in Beijing is mainly remains from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). During this period, bricks and granite were used when the workers laid the foundation of the wall and sophisticated designs and passes were built in the places of strategic importance. Workers who died during the construction were buried under rocks and in the walls (they believed this to be a good thing).
The total length reaches almost 8,000 kilometres. The Shanhaiguan Pass and the Jiayuguan Pass are two well-preserved passes at either end. The massive construction size and its unique architectural style definitely make it one of the 7 construction wonders in the world. Since the weapons in that era consisted of swords, spears, lances and bows and arrows the walls with their passes, watchtowers and signal towers became an important strategy in keeping the Dynasties safe. They strove to improve the construction of the Great Wall after it took shape in the Qin Dynasty. In many sections walls have an average height of 10 metres and a width of 5 metres. It’s impossible to understand how the wall was constructed as the wall runs up and down along mountain ridges and valleys from east to west. We’re just glad we weren’t there as conditions I can only guess were very hard. The Dynasties weren’t known for their generosity towards the working classes. Pat climbed to 4 towers, Gerrit went to 6. It is very difficulty climbing as the concept of standard step height didn’t exist in those days.
The Ming Tombs are located approximately 30 minutes from the Great Wall (we were at Badaling). They were built between 1409 and 1644 and preserve the remains of 13 emperors. Two tombs are open to visitors. I was disappointed here as I thought we’d get to see more of the actual burial chambers but these have not been opened yet. The tomb area is made up of many chambers – Royal kitchen; royal dressing room; concubine chamber; actual burial chamber etc. The dressing chamber was opened and they have displayed a huge number of artifacts for the public. All the artifacts are heavily secured and a detachment of soldiers is located at each tomb to prevent looting etc. We were able to see a wonderful array of jewellery, dishes and clothing. But again, I was a little disappointed we didn’t see into the other chambers. The grounds are immaculately kept, very clean.
Very wisely we’ve decided not to do another 12 hour day. We’ll go into Tianjin tomorrow on our own and look around and perhaps do some shopping.