Forbidden City and the Great Wall

As I write this, I am enjoying my dinner in the Red Moon, a Japanese sushi bar on the hotel property. Actually, I am not entering this into the computer, but rather jotting things down on a piece of paper. I find that when I am eating alone, this helps to quell the boredom. So, I am too tired to venture out tonight and I am craving sushi, so this is the place. The restaurant d├ęcor reminds me of a wine cellar – dark and mysterious. An eclectic mix of music helps to set the mood – initially some jazz and now some jazzy electronica, if there is such a thing. As I watch the sushi chef prepare my meal, I recount the day’s activities – TianAnMen Square, the Forbidden City, the Jade factory, the Great Wall, and some shopping. Whew! I am tired just thinking about it again.
Today’s adventure starts out with a trip to the Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is just across the street from TianAnMen Square, where we begin. The square is bustling with Chinese tour groups – summer camp groups and college groups, all waiting in a long snaking line to catch a glimpse of Mao’s body in the masoleum. We clear through the crowds in order to get a view of the famous Palace gate – the one with Mao’s enormous picture in the center:

Inside the main gates is the main courtyard area, along with several of the main halls. Like in Tengwang, there are big thresholds at the entrance to each main hall. Since Anthony and I could on guess on their significance, I asked Tony – his explanation was that the high threshold served to keep the “Foreign Ghosts” from entering into the Palace, as those Spirits could threaten the rule of the Emperor. Tony then tells me how the Last Emperor, Pu Yi, as a young child had been given a bicycle and ordered many of the thresholds to be cut away so that he would be able to ride the bike more freely around the Palace grounds. And so it goes that 3 years later, PuYi was stripped of his throne and ended the feudal rule of China.
A few pictures from the Forbidden City:
Detail on the Main gate leading inside the Palace grounds:

Dragons that also serve as water drainage spouts during the rain:

Detail on the handles of large water jugs, found throughout the Palace grounds:

After my visit to the Forbidden City, we drove out towards the Great Wall, stopping first at the Dragon Land Superior Jade factory and gallery. There I witnessed the making of jade carvings and had lunch. Oh yeah, I bought some jade pieces as well.
Then it was off to the Great Wall. I consider this to have been the highlight of my trip to China. Seeing this massive structure cutting through the mountainside was breathtaking. First of all, today’s weather was just perfect – sunny, medium humidity, with blue skies and a light breeze. Tony tells me that such day is “precious” and cites that in the year 2005, Beijing recorded only 30 such days.

I head up the West portion of the wall, carefully climbing the steep steps:

Along the Great wall are Towers, which originally served as manned posts. If you recall the movie Mulan, the opening scene shows action along the Great Wall and its Towers – smoke would be used as a means of communication between the Towers. Tony has suggested that maybe I’ll make it to four Towers today. But I just keep climbing upwards. I make it to the first tower – here is a picture from inside the tower, overlooking the mountainside, There is a pagoda far up in the distance:

I climb higher and higher – at each ascending tower there are fewer and fewer people. Here, I asked a young girl to take my picture, around the 4th Tower:


I finally see that I have almost reached the pinnacle for this portion of the Great Wall and make my towards it. I have lost count of the number of Towers I have passed, and later on, I am told that I have made it to the 8th Tower.

The view from this high point is breathtaking (plus, we are all out of breath from climbing up all of those stairs!). You can see one of the far suburbs of Beijing in the distance.

And here I am at the top!

On the way down, I spot that Pagoda again – but this time I am above it rather than well below it:
Gosh, that’s all for today, and this will probably be my last entry while I am in China – tomorrow morning I will head to the Summer Palace before heading out to catch my plane back to the US.

christinas_creative –   – (July 27, 2006 at 3:20 PM)  

Shirley- I came to your blog from SS and what amazing pictures!!!! I hope to go to China one day to see these sights... Just utterly amazing!

shirley  – (July 27, 2006 at 8:47 PM)  

Thanks for the comments - it was my first time there and a once in a lifetime opportunity. Maybe I'll be able to go back some day with my family.

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