Sooo, as I said: we visited Tiananmen Square. On the square lies Mao’s memorial hall, where his corpse can be seen or rather, like most visitors do, admired. We didn’t visit the mausoleum, because the queue was huge and we were not that interested in seeing a dead body. 😛 On one side of the square is the Great Hall of the People, where the National People’s Congress gathers, and on the other side the National Museum of China. Of course, at the north is Tiananmen, the ‘Gate of Heavenly Pace’ with Mao’s famous portrait. To the south of the square is Qianmen Gate.
We then walked to the Temple of Heaven, which was a pretty substantial walk. However, it was SO worth seeing the temple complex. The park surrounding it was an oasis of calm in scruffy and busy Beijing. The temple was built in 1420; it was meant as a place for the emperors to come and pray for a good harvest. Traditionally, Heaven is seen as round, while Earth is square. This is why the buildings are round and stand on square foundations. Below you can see picture of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.
In the evening we had the best Peking Duck I’d ever had. (not surprisingly) The next day we went on an organised tour to the Great Wall. I have to be honest: I was quite skeptical about the Wall at first. Of course I really wanted to see it, but it’s so famous and so touristy and sooo many people have Facebook display pictures of themselves on the Great Wall. (like my jumping-with-a-Chinese-hat one) I feel all this hassle makes people forget why they really want to see this monument in the first place. (alternatively, I might also just be too much of a hipster to want to go to mainstream touristy spots 😉 ) Anyway, of course it was a must-see of our trip to Beijing. We had to get up at 7am and we had some delicious breakfast at the hostel’s restaurant. We arrived at the 2 km-long Mutianyu part of the wall at 10am and they gave us 3 hours to roam it. I forgot to tell you that I’d been suffering from pretty agonising pains in my ribs for the whole trip already, for some mysterious reason, so I had to take it easy. This was not at all a problem, because I would stay behind and practice my Mandarin on one of the many salesmen selling drinks and snacks, which was nice.
On our final day we visited the Forbidden City. It was überbusy. It was really special to see, though, since it’s so different from the (exclusively European) palaces I’ve seen so far. The complex is huge and we didn’t see everything, because I started to get sunstroke as well as a sunburn. The Forbidden City consists of 800 buildings; it’s where the emperors, their wives and concubines as well as a bunch of eunuchs lived and no common person was allowed in. 24 emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties lived here until the Qing dynasty ended in 1911.
Above you can see the first hall we saw after entering: The Hall of Supreme Harmony, or: Tai He Dian. (Tai He means ‘harmonious operation of all things on earth’) It was used for celebrations of holidays or important events, such as the Lunar New Year and the emperor’s birthday. There are many more great halls like these behind the entrance to the Forbidden City; I won’t bore you by describing every single one. 😛
Above you can see a picture of the largest stone carving at the Forbidden City: it’s a staggering 16.75 meters long! It depicts nine dragons (the imperial symbol) as well as lotus patterns (symbol of purity). It was made outside the city centre and then transported to the palace by spraying water on the roads which would freeze, creating a slippery road the rock could slide on.
In the evening we took a 30-hour train back to Shenzhen. 30 hours sounds awfully long, but because we had beds we basically just slept most of the time and had a nice long rest from our holiday. There were bunk beds: three beds on top of each other. Anna Maria and I were in two adjacent top beds and Kim slept in the bed below mine. The 30 hours flew by, only interrupted by two Chinese families who had a fight about who was sleeping where. 😛
FINALLY I’ve told you everything about my trip to China. I’m not sure what to do with my blog now. I have to admit I sort of enjoyed sharing pictures and stories with an audience. Sooo maybe I’ll just continue writing about the countries I visit and other trips I make to museums and stuff. I visited Gdánsk in Poland three weeks ago; so who knows, I might write a wee little post on that 😉 In another three weeks’ time I’m traveling through Scotland. Together with my Dad and grandparents we’re making a 9-days’ tour via Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Perth by car. Time to update my blog’s lay-out, I guess!