So since I shared with you my experiences with Beijing city it is time to go a bit further now. It is time to discover natural beauties, cultural and historical heritage of this wonderful land. If you are an expat in Beijing weekends shouldn’t be boring for you. First place that you have to visit is most famous one. Great Wall of China.

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Great Wall of China: As you probably know it is longest and most famous fortification wall in world. Long for more than 2000km. It was built around 200 years BC.  It was built by Qin Shi Huang emperor an emperor who united China again Warring States Period between Wei, Chu, Qi, Qin, Zhao and Yan states that lasted for 250 years. Unified China had to protect itself from northern nomadic tribes which were often invading Chinese lands. So emperor ordered building wall that will be both border and defense area. It is still mystery how such long wall has been built across hills and mountains at that time. Also mystery is how many people died from exhaustion, hunger, thirst and freezing while building this wall. Han and Sui dynasties later built additional fortifications. Only time in history that someone was able to break this fortification were Mongols in XIII century. That resulted in 100 years of Mongol occupation of China. After that Ming dynasty came to power and built additional  parts of Great Wall.

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Snow on Great Wall, source: Newsnish

Many parts of wall are not in very good condition and are dangerous for visiting and are better for hiking. But I will speak about that in some other topic. Most famous and most preserved is Badaling sector that is far 80km from Beijing. Be prepared for big crowds here. You will see here people from any part of China both young and old coming to see this amazing world wonder.

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Also you will see great number of foreign tourists as it is probably among their priority destinations in China.  I was last time there in 2013 and it was very hot day around 34 degrees for sure. Everywhere around me where people, on left on right in front and behind me. But such crowds didn’t prevent me to enjoy watching an amazing view on mountains around wall and watching at wall how it passes over hills like to the left or right, down or up like a snake or dragon. I made a nickname for Great Wall. I call it never ending path. Because as far as you look on both sides of wall it seems that it has no and as it passes  over and between hills as much as your view can see.

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     How to get there? There are several options.

If you are just for several hours in transit in Beijing and you go from Capital Airport than you should take express train from airport to Dongzhimen station. You switch there to Subway Line to and ride until Jishuitan Station( exitA). Nearby is Deshengmen bus station and take bus 919 or 877 to get there.

If you live in Beijing you have same option to get same Line 2 and get out at Jishuitan station and take buses 919 or 877 from Deshengmen.

Another option is Beijing North Railway Station.  Take Line 4 or to and get out at Xizhimen station. From there you can walk shortly to mentioned railway station and take S2 train that goes directly to Badaling. Trip isn’t long.

When you are already there you can climb a wall by stairs. It isn’t so exhausting. Or you can take cable car which price is 100RMB for round trip and 80RMB for one direction.

     What to eat?  There are no restaurants there so it is best to take your own snacks with yourself. Around entrance there are some restaurants but quality isn’t best. Also out of scenic spot there is KFC. Take a water with yourself as water on wall costs 10RMB  while in city you can buy it for 5RMB even 3.

Opening hours and entrance fee:  From April to October   opening hours are from 6:30 to 19:00 and fee is 45RMB and from November to March opening hours are 7:00-18:00 and fee is 40RMB

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Ming Tombs

It is another interesting destination beyond city if you like history and nice scenery.  It is an area of imperial tombs that are beyond Beijing located at foot of Tianshou mountain. It is located 50km from Beijing. Here were buried 13 Ming emperors between 15 and 17 century. First one who was buried there is Yongle emperor who moved capital from Nanjing to Beijing.

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Sacred path, source: panoramio.com

In Chinese tradition burying emperors from same dynasty nearby each other according to Feng Shui principles between each other and natural landscape was common. So it was decided that Ming emperors will rest in peace in foot of this mountainy.

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They were buried there together with their wives.  That area is composed of Sacred Path and 13 tombs: Yonling, Deling, Xianling, Qingling,, Kangling, Yuling, Siling, Maoling, Jingling, Tailing, Zhaoling, Dingling and Changling. Sacred Path is stone path that passes between willow trees and leads to Dragon and Phoenix gate which is main entrance to tomb area.   Sacred Path had important role in burial ceremony as dead emperors were taken here ceremonially through this path towards place of his eternal peace. It was believed that this path returns emperors soul to Heaven. Emperors were considered as Sons of Heaven so their death symbolized returning to Heaven. On both sides of path are 12 stone figures of man and 24 figures of animals- elephants, lions, turtles, xiezhi, qilin, phoenix and dragon(last  4 are Chinese mythological creatures).   They symbolize guardians of Sacred Path.

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There is very scary story that workers who worked on burying emperor were killed afterwards by most loyal officers as place of burial and treasures that have been buried had to be kept in secret.

Only 3 of these 13 tombs are opened for visitors. Only Zhaoling, Changling and Dingling.  From them only Dingling has excavated underground areas where emperor and empress coffins are. It was done in end of 50ies and was very controversial issue.  Many cultural relics have been found there.

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Very interesting one is Changling tomb( oldest tomb here)  where is Yongle known also as Zhu Di emperor buried. This tomb isn’t excavated but in palace that is above ground there is cooper statue of emperor, crown of emperor and empress and their vases. I was in all 3 tombs that are available for visitors.  Standing on tower under which are underground areas with coffins and watching on mountains around is very mysterious.

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way to burial site, source: SKJ travel

It is spoken that maybe one more tomb will be opened for visitors but it wont be excavated.   It is still controversial issue due to traditional belief that those holly sites shouldn’t be touched and excavated. It is believed that if emperors were there in peace and their underground palaces untouched for centuries it should stay now too. I would like to visit all 13 but unfortunately it isn’t possible.

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How to get there?  Take subway line 13 to Xierqi  or line 8 to Zhuxinzhuang station and board on Changping line and get out at Ming Tombs station.

Opening hours and price: April to October,  8:00-17:30 Zhaoling 35, Sacred Way 35, Changling 50 and Dingling 65, , November to March 8:30-17:00  Sacred Way 25, Zhaoling 25, Changling 35 and Dingling 45.

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BONUS information

First 3 Ming tombs are located in Nanjing and are open for visitors but not excavated.  In Hebei province there are Western and Eastern Qing tombs.  Several of Qing tombs belonging to both groups of Qing tombs are excavated.

See you next Monday, enjoy China 😉

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Starter pack for discovering China- 1) Rucksack for souvenirs, 2) Ice tea 3) Hat
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