Culture and history in Beijing and around Beijing
05.07.2009 - 14.07.2009
The last time I was in Beijing was a work trip last year, during which of course, I had no opportunity to see the city as we were cooped up in our client's offices for 3 days! Before that, the last time in Beijing was in early 2003, so I was very interested to see what had changed...as it happens, a lot!!
Another of my fellow Australian Young "Scullers" in China from '97, Tom Hands, and his wife Ivy, kindly put us up in their new digs for our time here. Beijing was also a great base to launch some side trips to the coastal cities of Beidaihe and Shanhaiguan.
The new and very cool looking CCTV's HQ in Beijing's Chaoyang District, standing in stark contrast to all that remains of the once new Mandarin Hotel, which fell victim to an illegal fireworks display by CCTV workers and no-one seems in a hurry to clear up the mess while they work out who's responsible!
Is this really Sanlitun?? A far cry from the 1997 version and the street market is a thing of the past!
Revisiting one of my favourite Beijing sights, Yonghegong Lama Temple, now considerably more tourist-packed...
I guess the literacy rate in China is actually lower than the government is claiming...!
Coffee...perhaps the translators simply gave up trying here! The third one is the culprit - "Wu Yin" could be literally translated (without regard to giving a meaning in English) as "Without Because", but of course refers to "Decaf" coffee - the other two are simply Colombia and Blue Mountain Coffee...or maybe they were just very impressed with their efforts in deciphering "Wu Yin"!
This was the long favoured resort of choice for Chinese Communist Party leaders, but now seems to have been replaced in this role by the Bangchuidao Beach Resort in Dalian we visited earlier in our trip. Nevertheless, it was still a a fairly nice stretch of beach and with massage service available on the sand, Tara made the most of it!
Chinese classic poses...!
Shanhai Guan ("Mountain Sea Pass"):
This was a beautiful section of the Great Wall, which is famous for being the first point where the Great Wall meets the sea and closed off the narrow stretch of lowland between the Bohai Gulf and inland mountain range.
These old paintings of the Shanhai Guan Fort and Fortified City illustrate how this site was named for its position between the sea and mountains.
We were fortunate to arrive at another nearby section of the Great Wall at Jiumenkou (the only section of the great wall built over a river) just in time for filming of a pretty big battle scene in a Chinese TV serial. Hopefully we weren't the cause, but you will see that some of the extras (all drafted from the local army corps) couldn't hold back smiles as they charged towards us (to the chagrin of the directors!)...
As this was obviously a busy tourist spot, there was some delicate timing required to avoid capturing a camera-touting tourist in the background! One of the techniques they used was to obscure tourists (not patient enough to wait for the cut-scenes!) climbing the wall in the background with smoke - when we arrived, the smoke reflected a fairly lazy burnt out fire drifting up from the parapets but as more tourists arrived and the director became more desperate to shoot the scene, the smoke became blacker and thicker and we left just as it was getting pretty toxic down there for the poor extras running back and forth through it! Also note the sorry attempt at the warriors running for an attack in the back...
Tough to stay in character all the time in the boiling sun!
We couldn't resist...at least they are trying!!
These shots show some of the fortifications around the Shanhai Guan City, which provided an excellent perspective of the city and surrounds - presumably back when it was built, the soldiers did not have to contend with the pollution which now pretty much completely obscures the view of the wall extending east-west from the sea to the mountains. In this city, they have many hotels in the traditional "Si He Yuan" style (rooms looking into a center courtyard), and we stayed in one right near the main fort which was very charming.
The Bell and Drum Tower in the middle of the city makes an impressive sight in the evening
Back in Beijing
Here are a few photos from the 798 Art District in Beijing, which is a massive collection of warehouses and cafes needing at least a full day to explore the displays of art, pottery, photos and sculptures anywhere near comprehensively!
We also wandered through one of the refurbished "hutong" areas in Central Beijing, which is now an interesting (and busy!) collection of restaurants, shops and guesthouses very popular with tourists and locals alike, though in the busiest section perhaps not in the true tradition and feel of the original hutongs.
I desperately tried to convince Andrew to give me a karate kick in front of the forbidden city (for the sake of photography of course) just as this man did in what appears to be from the 70s or 80's-a photo I took in a photo shop. But he was worried about drawing too much attention I guess...just as Wang Lao Shi (my chinese teacher) made us do by singing the Chinese national anthem in the Tianan men square in 1997 during our high school trip.
Next stop Ulaan Baatar!