Tag Archives: Museum

Beijing – Palace Museum


Love these Gold Lion Guardians… this is the female-she has a cub under her foot

They say this is one of the world’s most magnificent palaces, the Forbidden City. Forbidden to the public from its construction until after the fall of the dynastic China. It was originally built under the Ming Emperor Yongle, on the site of a Yuan dynasty palace, the Forbidden City served as the imperial seat for another 23 Ming and Qing rulers.

The Forbidden City is officially named Gugong meaning Palace Museum. It has 800 buildings with 9,999 rooms and great halls, and a labyrinth of courtyards, gardens (we did not see a one) and passages all contained within a complex that is about 1,000 yards long and 820 yards wide. It is truly a city within a city. In order to see all that can be seen in the Museum, we were told it would take three to four days. We only spent a few hours seeing the three main halls, the Nine Dragon Wall and the Empress Cixi’s portion of the Palace, which is located on the east side.

On average there are more than 40,000 visitors a day. They will let up to 80,000 when times are busy. There were a lot of people visiting on this day and it made for a challenge to get to see much of the artifacts, such as the sword in the photos. We gave up after five rooms due to the Chinese always cutting in line, we could not get through a room easily. In our eyes, this was a very depressing place. So bent on impressing everyone, there was no warmth. No place to call home. All of it was larger than life. Our few hours was more than enough for us. After leaving here, we went into the Jingshan Park that used to be part of the Forbidden City, and then to BeiHai Park before taking a rickshaw back to the hotel for the night.

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Beijing – Qianmen Walking Street, Tiananmen Square & a glimpse of the Forbidden City


Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum – can you say monstrous?

Oh… did we have the plans to conquer Beijing on this day. (yes, sarcasm) We thought we had it all handled. Ha! What a joke! Quickly, in less than two hours, we discovered there was no way we would even see half of what we originally planned on this whole trip. There’s no getting around easily in Beijing. The traffic is atrocious, the buses have you fighting to find a place (forget fighting for seats, just plan on packing the walkways) and the mass people in Beijing for Spring Festival (Chinese New Year–the number one holiday of the year for China), our day that had plans on seeing Beijing’s Walking Street “Qianmen”, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City, turned into much less. Plus, the sear amount of stuff to see at each location is overwhelming. For example, one can easily spend three to four days going through the Forbidden City. The Qianmen walking street alone took us over three hours to walk only a few blocks.

Funny Note: I actually got my butt felt up by an old China man. I thought it was one of the kids, so did not turn around right away. It didn’t stop, so I turned around. And that little creep fled forward up the walkway and out the door. I was shocked. If I would have had not been so surprised, I would have belted him. But he was quick and I was speechless.

As you can tell in the photos, the weather was very cold out. We saw, for the first time, lakes so frozen over that people were skating and playing on them. It was pretty neat. Our first stop of the day was to walk Qianmen Street, also called the Five Archways Street. It has been the most prosperous street and market for hundreds of years in Beijing. I found a photo in the Zhengyangmen Museum of the street some years prior. It is included in the photos. Neat difference. Our next stop was to cross the street and head into the south gate which used to be part of the wall that used to surround old Beijing. No single portion of the wall, except for this gate exists today. It has all be torn down. In place of the walls are streets. Kinda sad after seeing Xi’an’s perfectly in place. These walls are so impressive.

Beijing is laid out perfectly North to South. You enter all the parks from the South and exit to the North. There are exits on the West and East and you can enter the North entrance. But it is a rough to view entering backwards. If you do ever make it here, take the time to enter from the South. It will pay off with the time loss always having to turn around to look where you have been. We discovered this on another day at the Temple of Heaven. After getting through the gate, we had to go through security to entering into Tiananmen. After nine-eleven in the US, China has fenced off the square and now you have to go through security. It is like TSA on steroids. As Americans, our entry was easy. We found out later, certain religious types are the ones they are concerned about. The kids witnessed one of the people causing the buzzer to go off and getting slammed into the wall and frisked.

Tiananmen Square has Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum. Zhengyangmen–a museum, the square, statues and a marker placed in the middle of the square in honor of the people that is heavily guarded. Our friend told us he used to go with friends and play cards on the steps before nine-eleven. No more. Also, Mao’s outrageously huge mausoleum is heavily guarded. No access was allowed during the festival. As we were standing on the south-side of the mausoleum, we were approached by a man who told us Zhengyangmen was opened to foreigners today only. He told us there are few days where it is open to anybody that is not Chinese. So we took him up on helping us gain entry and we went in. I found a gold mine of art that was for sale. Mike did a fabulous job, as usual, at negotiating for four pieces of art that represent the four seasons of the year. They started at 6000RMB and he got them for 1000RMB. They are beautiful. Can’t wait to hang them when I get home. In this building we found some neat old photos which I have included a few in the gallery below. Otherwise, the building was nice but nothing super impressive. The art was the winner though.

Once done here, we left and headed to the north-side of the mausoleum to see the infamous Tiananmen Square. It wasn’t as big as I thought it was going to be. I was told it was a sea of brick. Nope. I guess too many darn people to feel that. I do see why it was once used for demonstrations. It’s in the center of everything. All the major sites in Beijing surround it. From the north-side you can see the gate that leads into the Forbidden City, or as they call it the Palace Museum. We had not time left to enter, so we took a photo of the south entry and walked the street to the west up to the north exit of Forbidden City with the hopes of entering the Jingshan Park. Interesting walk. We were told on the left of the street is where all the important people of China live. We didn’t see anybody per se. But it was still fun trying to see past the gates and try to catch a glimpse. By the time we reached the north exit of Forbidden City, the park we’re heading to closed for the night. So we headed back to the Orchid for a good dinner and a full night of sleep. Enjoy the photos.

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Xi’an – Terracotta Warriors


Pit One

Our second day in Xi’an, our guide took us to a factory where they make Terracotta Warriors and lacquer furniture. At first we were under the impression it was educational. But after an hour of room, after room of things to buy, we discovered she and the driver set us up for a buying spree, which we did not bite. The stuff there was beautiful, better than what we saw at the Terracotta Warrior Museum, but we would have rather spent more time at the site than there. After we left, the driver and guide took us to the Terracotta Warrior Museum.

The Warriors were discovered after a farmer was digging for a well and found an artifact. The farmer still lives today and no longer farms since the find. Instead, he sits on a chair, in the gift shop, at the museum and signs a book for $100RMB each. 40 years of signing a book, could you imagine? He is quite old now. Could not photograph him without a purchase, so no picture of him.

As for the warriors, the story goes, in 247BC, when the 13-year old Zheng became King of the State of Qin, he commenced work on his burial, including the warriors that symbolized the defending force that guarded the capitol as he was alive. In 221BC, he had conquered six states, created the nation that became China and then declared himself Qin Shi Huang Di, the First Emperor of Qin. He was the first to unite China.

Soon after completion and his death in 210BC, the pits containing the warriors were seriously damaged. Many figures were broken, great number of the bronze weapons were looted, the wooden structures in the pits were burned down and the roofs caved in. According to some past archeologists, the rebel army led by Xiang Yu, Overloard of the West Chu was responsible.

This museum is located in a rural area about 45 minutes away from Xi’an. It’s a large piece of land that consists of open space with three large buildings covering pits where the warriors have been buried for over 2,200 years.

  • Pit One is assumed to have over 50 chariots and 6,000 warriors and horses. It’s 230 meters by 62 meters. So far, only 2,000 warriors and horses and 20 wooden chariots have been unearthed. The warriors, horses and chariots are all in battle formation: At the East end, three rows of vanguards are placed with the outer edge having one row of soldiers facing facing out respectively as flanks to guard the sides and rear of the army.
  • Pit Two is L-shaped and has more complex battle formations. It’s assumed to carry over 80 chariots and 1,300 warriors and horses. This pit is where they have found the archers. Pit One is said to be the first to attack, the ground forces. And Pit Two would come in second. In this pit, the only warrior, an archer, to have been unearthed and in one piece, was found here.
  • Pit Three is U-shaped, smaller, and different than Pit One and Pit Two. Where One and Two are battlefields, Pit Three is said to be the headquarters or command center of the warriors. It consists of only 68 officers, four horses and one chariot. Most of the warriors in Pit Three don’t have heads. It is suspected they were removed and destroyed. Also, where Pit One and Pit Two are nowhere near completely excavated, Pit Three was thoroughly unearthed in 1977.

The archaeologists are in no rush to complete the excavation of Pit One and Three due to the damage the air causes the warriors. When unearthed, the warriors are beautifully painted and lacquered. Once the air hits the lacquer, it dries out and the paint falls off with it; leaving what we see in the photos. What peaked our interest the most was the story we were told to how the warriors were damaged and then comparing the story to what we saw. We were told the roof caved in, cracking and damaging all of the warriors. Hard to believe since all the roofs still in place are relatively flat and showed no signs of collapse beyond compression. Whereas, the warriors and horses are broken in various places; more than what a roof compressing would do.

After some deeper investigation after getting back to the states, I found an interesting article from John Bell of the UK Geological Society. He was told the same story we were and found it did not match up with what he saw when he visited the museum also. So he set out to find the cause. First, he confirmed that fire did not consume all of the pits, nor could it since little to no air was in the earth-filled site. Also, archaeologists confirmed not all of the pits were hit by fire, only a little. He found that China has been keeping excellent records of earthquakes for thousands of years. After viewing the utter destruction of the 2008 earthquake in the Sichuan and Shaanxi Provinces, he speculates a devastating earthquake to be the cause of all the damage.

He went through all the earthquake records and found in 1556AD a massive earthquake occurred. It was epi-centered only 40km from the warriors and was said to have killed more than 830,000 people; devastating a vast area of China and wiping out whole towns. Data also showed 35 EQa between 1177 and 1834AD that occurred close to where the warriors are located. Considering how the warriors look, this makes sense. What do you think when you look at the photos?

There are no photos of Pit Two. There was little light, not much is unearthed and I could not handhold a shot of what was. I did get the archer and a few others that were on display behind glass. Also, there was one more building that housed two half-life sized horses and chariots that are said to belong to the emperor. They were located in a pit next to his Mausoleum. We never got the chance to see it. We asked, but time ran out. We made it just in time for the train to depart.

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The Drum Tower…

Overnight sleeper train was the means in which we traveled from Suzhou to Xi’an in the Shaanxi Province. We climbed aboard around 7pm and arrived in Xi’an at 9am. (Note: China is the fourth largest country in the world, just under the US, and it does not have time zones. So when it’s 8am in Suzhou, it’s still 8am in Xi’an, which is a 13 hour train ride west.) The initial ride there was exciting and new. We slept okay. Even though the room had only four skinny single beds, Mike and I snuggled close so all five of us could stay together for the entire ride. As you will see in the photo, the room left little space for much more than sleep. We did read a bit and played a few games as we rolled by rural China. But the return ride was miserable. The heater would never shut off, so we overheated. We tried opening the door but we could not take the smoker’s smoke that consumed the room and we could hardly breathe. So the heat was our preference. Plus, we were close to the bathroom. The sounds imminenting from there left little to be desired. It was the morning hackers reaching deep for their loogies that about made me toss my stomach contents. The boys thought it was funny and loved laughing at me as I dry heaved to the sound. (Chinese have this habit of hacking. I am so surprised not more comes out with the effort. It’s so gross.)

Speaking of hacking, have I ever told you about Mr. Spit? He is a man who is responsible for landscaping at our condo. Every time he sees us, we all say “Ne Hao” and he quickly clears his throat, hacks a loogie and then says “Hao” back with a smile. So we nicknamed him ‘Mr. Spit’. A friend told us he is making sure we receive a clear hello.

Anyway… back to Xi’an, we used a travel agency out of Pan Pacific Hotel in Suzhou to arrange our hotel, attain an interpreter and a driver for the weekend. We were under the impression, English was not spoken in this area. NOT! English is everywhere. The driver was a necessary, but the guide not so much. Mike had little time available for travel before our return trip home to Seattle for Christmas, so we made a mad dash to sight see here before we left China. This was a quick, do-all-you-can trip of only three nights and two days. Two nights on the train, one in the hotel and both days in Xi’an.

Would I recommend doing this? Heck yes! Highly recommended. If you are only in China for two weeks, this little trip is a great way to go. Flying would be more comfortable, but the train would give you the real feel of China and its people. Plus, you get to see some amazing things in just a few days that you would never see anywhere else. Xi’an with its city wall, museum and terracotta warriors, you cannot go wrong. The terracotta warriors alone are worth the trip. My only suggestion is to leave more time for the warriors than the two hours most travel books and tour guides recommend. We put in 3.5 hours and was being pulled away by our guide because we needed to get back to the city to make the train. We could have easily spent more time there. There was much we did not get to see up close and, slowly, because of being pushed for time. The warriors was amazing impressive. A must see when one comes to China!

Caution! Guides don’t know the who truth of their history and will tell you their truth instead. Make sure you read up on what you are seeing before you go so you don’t find yourself repeating lies to people about China’s history. For instance, our guide told us Xi’an is the only city in China with its city wall still intact. When in fact, that’s not true. There are other cities with its walls. We discovered this just recently after traveling to Beijing. Beijing doesn’t not have an ounce of their wall left intact but there are cities nearby that do, like PingYao.

On our first day here in Xi’an, we walked along the city wall. No, we did not walks its entire nine miles. We just walked around in one main entry and a guard house. Then we were driven to the Shaanxi History Museum. This museum opened in the 90’s to the public. A worthwhile stop in Xi’an. It houses items up to 7,000 years old, as you will see in the photos. Mike and I kept having to pick up our jaws at all the items on display that were so old. We have never seen anything, like them, in a museum in the US. Our primitive tools of US natives are so archaic compared. The level the Chinese were at compared in timeline to us is pathetic. We were so behind technically. For example, the Chinese were chrome plating 2,200 years before the Germans and US discovered it in the 1900’s. Also, China developed and maintained manufacturing specs for weaponry over 2000 years ago. As you can see in the photos, all arrows, etc were made the same. Also, a replacement piece for weapon could easily found 100s of miles from where it was built thousands of years ago.

On this day, we also headed to Muslim Quarters to walk along their colorful street and view Xi’an’s Drum tower. Caution here! We were later told on busy days, which we were not visiting on a busy day, pick pocket-ers abound. For dinner, we enjoyed Xi’an’s specialty… dumplings. They were decorative, tasty and filling. Each dumpling resembled the meat inside. If it was pork, the dumpling was shaped like a pig’s head. Chicken meat, the dumplings looked like chickens. If the dumpling had the hot, pungent pepper, we nicknamed “numb tongue pepper”, it had a red tip on it. Our hotel was decent. It gave us a good place to warm up and dethaw for the next day to see the warriors. The weather for both days did not get over 20F. Very cold! Burrrr…. As you will see in the photos, especially at the warriors in the next blog, we were bundled up and red nosed due to the cold.

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Sichuan Province – LeShan and the Giant Buddha



Today was the day I was looking so forward to. After researching the Sichuan Province, the Giant Buddha was what I wanted to see the most. As you can see from the photos, our hotel bed, made up of twin beds, was small and comical. It was also a rainy, gray day.

Once we reached LeShan, we walked through an open food market. I have to share about how nervous the kids and I were to walk through the meat section. Since we were offered dog as a choice meat to eat at last night’s dinner, very “sweet” meat they told us, we were so afraid to see a hanging butchered dog or even cages of bunnies for meat. Luckily, we didn’t see either. Thank goodness. The meat was just fish, frogs, pork, chicken and duck. The meat didn’t even have an odor. You could tell it was all freshly butchered that morning. I have a few photos of the market and the people.

The Giant Buddha, called Dafo, is carved into the red sandstone face of the Lingyun Hill overlooking the treacherous gorge of the Min, Dadu and Qingyi rivers below. In 713AD a monk, Haitong, felt to safeguard passing of boats a protective icon was needed in the cliffs. By the time the buddha was carved, the debris changed the gorge forever and made it safe for boats to pass. Haitong lived in a cave behind the Dafo’s head and when the local officials threatened to blind him if he didn’t take a cut in funding, the monk gouged his own eyes out to prove his dedication to the work of the Dafo. The statue was completed after his death in 803AD and only due to funds donated by the regional governor, Wei Gao. He donated his own salary to finish the legs and feet.

Some statistics on the statue are:

  • He’s 230 feet tall (taller than the statue of liberty without her pedestal)
  • His feet are 26ft long
  • Each ear droops 23ft
  • His shoulders span 92ft
  • His nose measures 18ft
  • Guardian figures flanking each side of the Dafo

Since time was short for us to visit the site, we chose to view the buddha from the river, instead of walking down to stand directly in front of him. We were told the river boat would take only 45 minutes compared to three hours walking up and down the staircase you can see in the photos. Plus, we were told the best view was from the boat. We can say it was impressive at a distance from the boat and the amount of people on the staircase proved we chose wisely.

We ending up having an extra hour and a half, so our driver recommended a museum in LeShan that has, Ebony, an extinct tree that is mined and carved into intricate designs. Much of museum, photos were not allowed. A few times, the patrol man following us, let me take a few photos. Stinkers! It was odd to be monitored as we looked. The carvings were detailed, unique and each told a story. They were well thought out.

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