Tag Archives: Beijing

Beijing – Confucius Temple



We had a few hours before we needed to catch the train back to Suzhou, so we headed out through the hutongs and found the Confucius Temple that had just recently been opened to non-Chinese persons. Confucius’s theories have influenced and affected the course of Chinese thinking for over two thousand years. Though some say he never truly lived, Confucius was said to be born in 551BC and experienced poverty in the early part of his life, only managing to become a junior official through hard study. Disheartened with the chaos and disorder of the Zhou dynasty declining into the Warring States Period, Confucius created a system that would restore order. His philosophy was if the correct hierarchy was in place and individuals treated and respected one another according to this structure, then life would be harmonious. One of his sayings I like is ‘in a group of three, one can always find a teacher.’

This Confucius Temple is the largest outside of Qufu, the philosopher’s birthplace in the Shandong provice. First built in 1302 during the Mongol Yuan dynasty, the temple was expanded in 1906 in the reign of Emperor Guangxu. Today, around 200 ancient stelae stand in the silent courtyard in front of the main hall inscribed with the names of those who successfully passed the imperial civil service exams. Additional stelae are propped up on the backs of mythical animals called bixi (half tortoise and half dragon).

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Beijing – Acrobat Show

After the best day walking the Wall, we decided to hit an Acrobatic Show in town. It came highly recommended by the tourist books, websites and our hotel owner. Acrobatics have a long history in China. Students begin training around the tender age of five in order to be supple, skillful and strong enough to perform the stunts we saw. Shows usually include a range of acts, including balancing, contortion, jugglers, formation troupes, and magicians. Modern times have brought in motorcycle darning acts. We were so dumbfounded and on the edge of our seats with the motorcycles, I started to record once it became almost unbearable to watch. Take a look at this video…

Wasn’t that unreal? My jaw still drops when I watch it. Unlike the US, were it is outlawed to take a camera. In China, you can bring your nice camera and even use a tripod at your seat. I didn’t bring the tripod and only used my little point in shoot, G12. Here are some photos of the feats being performed.

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Beijing – The Great Wall at Mutianyu


The Great Wall

Over two thousand years old and thousands of miles long, the Great Wall is China’s, and one of the World’s, most captivating historic site. Stretching from the Yellow Sea to Central Asia, the wall was originally built under China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang to protect against the northern invaders; something it never did effectively. The Chinese had historically built walled cities and regions. The Great Wall was just a consolidation of these focusing on the more vulnerable lowland and valleys. Fearful of the threat from the north, Qin Shi Huang linked the various regional barriers to make the first, crude version of the Wanli Changcheng using over a million laborers. After the fall of the short-lived Qin dynasty, the wall continued to serve its defensive purpose until the the empire expanded under the Tang and the wall found itself several hundred miles back from the front line. It wasn’t until the Ming dynasty the wall once again become a key importance. The original wall was built with rammed brick, the Ming dynasty began to bake bricks to rebuild the wall. Most of the sections of intact wall you can see around Beijing today, including Badaling, Mutianyu, Jiankou, Jinshanling and Simatai are Ming.

Here are some facts of the Great Wall…

  • The Wall is really, really long (no one knows quite how long, but at least 3,500 miles)
  • The Ming sections of the wall are around 23 feet high and almost as wide
  • There were once some 25,000 watchtowers

We decided to head towards Mutainyu for our visit. Since we were not in tourist season, we figured we would get a few stolen moments here on the Wall. Mutainyu offers more dramatic scenery and less crowds. The 1.5 mile stretch of wall is furnished with watchtowers and was first built as far back as the sixth century, rebuilt under the Ming and then extensively restored in the 1980s. Walking the restored portion didn’t compare to the walk we took on the original wall out to a fallen watchtower. It was a very moving moment to stand on the old portion of the Wall knowing its history. We all felt it. The Great Wall is Mike’s favorite of all he has seen so far in China. He was in his element out there on the old wall. Adding a bonus to the Wall experience, there is a toboggan ride we took to get back down from the wall to the parking lot. What a hoot! Mike and Zachary were getting busted all the way down by guards screaming at them to slow down. Nathan hung with me for a short bit and then took off. I video’d my ride down…

My one wish was to see some snow on the Great Wall. I was told to dream on by everyone because it rarely snows. It is just very cold. BUT, I did not stop wishing and upon arrival, we found that a light snow had fallen earlier in the morning and I got my wish. The snow helped the photos show the Wall better and it was just so darn neat! Here is Nathan playing at the steepest part of the wall…

Here are our photos.

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Beijing – Lama Temple and Temple of Heaven


The Lama Temple

Unfortunately, this day was not an ideal day for us. Zachary became really sick through the night and could not sight see on this day. So Mike decided to stay with him, as he talked me into taking Briana and Nathan out for the day. I only went because I really wanted to see the Tibetan Lama Temple and Nathan wanted to see the Temple of Heaven. It was a lot but we did manage to see both. By far, the Lama Temple is my most favorite temple of all I have seen in China. Loved it there.

The Lama Temple, known as Yonghegong, is the most frequented religious place in all of China. It is comprised of five main halls and many galleries and is dedicated to the Yellow Sect of Buddhism. The temple was originally built in 1694 as Prince Yong’s palace. Once he become emperor, he renounced his residence. It was later converted to a lama temple in 1744 under Emperor Qianlong. It’s a very active temple with believers lighting armloads of incenses at each hall. At times, we had to make sure our coats and Briana’s long hair did not catch on fire because of all the incense lit. In the main temple, is the biggest Buddha carved from a single tree. It’s three stories tall and nine feet in diameter.

After a nice visit at the Lama Temple, we quickly found a bus and took it to the Temple of Heaven, which is located southeast of Tianenman Square. It’s architecture is seen as the pinnacle of the Ming dynasty. The temple was constructed in 1420 under Emperor Yongle. Heaven was thought to be round and the earth square. As the Son of Heaven, the emperor was the primary medium between heaven and earth. Three days before the winter solstice, the emperor would abstain from meat, “stimulating foods’ and spices. On the third day, he would travel from the Forbidden City to the Temple of Heaven’s Fasting Palace. During the procession, all commoners retreated indoors to avoid laying eyes on the emperor–a crime which carried a death penalty. The following day, the emperor would move to the Imperial Vault of Heaven to mediate before continuing to the grand domed Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and then emerge to ritually sacrifice animals at the Round Altar and pray for a good harvest in the coming year. The temple was not open to public until the first Chinese National Day in October 1912.

Most say this is the best garden of all China. The architecture is definitely impressive, but the grounds left little to be desired. With the overrun of people, most of the ground was just dirt and the massive amount of concrete didn’t make it feel like a garden. Add all the people in the mix and Briana, Nathan and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

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Beijing – Rickshaw Ride

Okay, I have to say I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of riding on one of these things. But it was totally cool. Well worth the money and I would do it again in a heartbeat. These guys took us through the Hutongs and told us about the history and who used to live in them. They even took us places we would have never ventured without them showing us. So I have to say, this a must do while in Beijing in the Hutong. Don’t miss out! Did a quick vid of part of Briana and my ride on the main street…

Here are some photos taken by us and the peddler of Briana and my rickshaw. Check out all the orbs.

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