New day came. Trip continues… Bus took us to visit few places. It was only time during these 10 days that we took bus of some tourist agency. My family and me like more when we go alone as then we don’t depend on time or program of tourist guide. We were passing through wide and busy streets of Beijing by bus. Everyone goes somewhere to work. Cars and taxis are appearing from everywhere and bus stops are full of people… In morning like in afternoon hours streets are becoming most busy because of people, cars, trolleys, buses, bicycles… Because of traffic jams caused by so many cars it is hard to get somewhere very fast. We are passing next to Yonghegong temple, Jingshan Park and hutongs nearby it.
After passing through hutongs we were in wide streets again which are surrounded by tall skyscrapers. Every of them was tall around 100-150 meters, some of them older which were here 15 years ago and some of them completely new shining in new modern light grey, dark blue or green glass. Many buildings which were still under construction were visible. Some of them were built half and some of them almost completed. Beijing is sometimes like a big construction site. You see that a lot has been built already but you realize that a lot of things are still built. Beijing is already urban, modern city like world metropolis New York, Hong Kong, Singapore… But at same time it is just matter of time when new business centers, skyscrapers, residential block, shopping center or pedestrian shopping zone will appear. Tourist guide ( one around 40 years old woman) told us that in 2011 Chinese Communist Party has released final plan for developing and modernizing Beijing. According to her it is supposed to take between 5 and 8 years for biggest urbanizations of city including Beijing CBD about which I will speak later. Also in plan is construction of new international airport in Daxing district which should be accomplished until 2020 because Beijing Capital Airport with its 3 terminals isn’t sufficient anymore for so much airplanes and passengers. We passed next to one large construction site. I didn’t see anything similar anywhere. It is not 1 building in area or few of them which are under construction, but 15-20 buildings at the same time. Not just buildings are built but parks with, fountains, lakes, a lot of trees, playgrounds, machines for exercises and paths for walking, running and cycling.
Highway took us out of city. Next stop on our trip were Ming tombs, where emperors from Ming dynasty were buried in period between middle of XV and middle of XVII century. This dynasty was last ethnical Han dynasty and one which longest ruled China. Third Ming emperor Yongle moved capital from Nanjing to Beijing and since that time Ming emperors were buried nearby Beijing, under Tianshou Mountain. Guide told us that first two Ming 2 emperors have their mausoleums in Nanjing. She also told us that in area of Tianshou Mountain were buried 13 Ming emperors and their tombs were placed in specific positions and towards each other and mountain under feng shui principles of balance and harmony.
Only 3 tombs from 13 are open to visitors. These 3 tombs are Dingling, Changling and Zhaoling. Changling and Zhaoling are open only externally. Underground palace of Dingling is open for visitors and it is only one which was excavated. Dingling means “tomb of stability” and is tomb of Wanli emperor. I was there in 2001 and I saw its underground areas. Guide told us that there are stories that in next few years one more tomb will be open but only external part not underground areas. All of them have similar architectural characteristics: at entrance each has red gate with brown roof, larger hall in middle similar like in Forbidden City and at hill is tower of similar type. Tower is like gate but tighter, and taller, under which are situated underground areas where are buried emperors. This time we were going to Changling tomb, tomb of Yongle emperor known as Zhu Di emperor too. We were going by bus but there is stone road through which you can approach area of tombs by feet. It is called Sacred Path. As I mentioned before according to Chinese traditional belief emperor is considered as Son of Heaven and after his death he is coming back to Heaven. That’s what this road is symbolizing. Through this path died emperors were taken to their underground palaces (tombs) to rest in peace what was part of burial ceremony.
I saw from window of bus that famous Sacred Path which passes between willow trees and figures made from white stone. Our tourist guide told us about figures which are there: 12 stone figures of man and 24 figures of animals- elephants, lions, turtles, xiezhi, qilin, phoenix and dragon(last 4 are Chinese mythological creatures). She also told us that according to ancient Chinese belief they are guardian animals and are protecting eternal peace of buried emperors. At the end of path is big and tall gate(Dragon and Phoenix gate)which is like entrance to tomb areas.
We entered now Changling tomb through gate and we went towards Lingen Palace- typical palace for ceremonies of sacrificing animals for buried emperor. Inside palace there are many subjects which belonged to emperor Zhu Di: his crown, vases, glasses from which he used to drink… In that palace there is big copper statue of emperor Zhu Di. It is only Ming tomb with statue of some emperor. This tomb was initially supposed to be first one to be excavated. But it was controversial issue as it is oldest Ming tomb in area of Beijing. As we were told that some archaeologists believed that it is not good to disturb that important emperor by digging his underground palace and they decided to start excavation with Dingling. Digging tombs remains controversial issue as many Chinese people believe that such holly sites should stay untouched and that if emperors were in peace for hundreds of years already that they should stay now too.
Further I went from Lingen Palace to tower. There is one big stone turtle on road which symbolizes wisdom and long life. On both sides are trees, benches, and on left side is one souvenir shop. On stone path to tower there is carved figure of dragon which again symbolizes path of emperor toward his burial site. I already wrote what dragon symbolized. Towards top of tower are leading white stone stairs with typical Chinese decorations of dragon and turtles which are carved in walls. From top was nice view -sun shining, azure blue sky and green hills and towers of tombs in sea of green hills. I was watching in distance trying to see as much hills as possible and thinking what is hidden behind each hill, which tomb, temple, garden or lake. I watched at other tomb roofs too thinking if they are Deling, Zhaoling or any other tomb. There was no much time for looking around for too long. My trip was calling me further. Once I would like to visit all tombs although I know it isn’t possible as all of them are closed for visitors except mentioned 3.
We arrived at jade factory and shop after 15-20 minutes of driving. In factory there is one of biggest collections of jade figures in Beijing. There is choice from smallest figures of Buddha, turtles, elephants, dragons, to biggest jade vases, ships, big dragons, cranes, Chinese cabbage.,, Everything was very expensive in factory of real jade. Minimum price of smallest figures was 200-250RMB. While biggest ship figure made of dark green jade with portrait of Mao Zedong was 600 000 RMB. I realized that this wasn’t place for my shopping of jade as smaller decorations from jade on Pearl Market or Qianmen can be found for 20-30 yuan even 10 if you are good bargainer. In this big and high quality shop of original jade bargaining isn’t allowed. I was looking around on these figures while shop assistants were trying to persuade me to buy something. I learned there that exist few types of jade- green, black, orange and white jade. Also we learned some basics how to differ real jade from fake jade figures which are made of glass. You can differ them by sound made by slightly hitting of figure. There were few rooms, with workers who were busy in shaping jade figures. Tradition of jade has very long history in China. Figures from jade are very typical for this country but also in other Asian cultures- Indochina, India… That’s why if you want to speak about China you must pay attention on jade too. Usually smaller jade figures are worn around neck or as bracelets and sometimes they are just decoration but also as talismans: for luck and happiness – jade Buddha, wealth- frog, , wisdom, health and long life- turtle, double fortune signs and so on. Popular is figure of Chinese cabbage which brings health and fertility. Figures can be used as decorations for house in some corner too… My favorite color of jade is light green what is actually most often color. There is something special in that color.
Next stop was believe or not Great Chinese Wall. For some people it is main reason to visit China and for some people first and only association on China. It is longest fortification wall in world. Ok all you know about Chinese Wall. It is stone wall which passes over high hills. I knew previously that construction of this wall started during rule of Chinese dynasty Qin, during Qin Shi Huang emperor who united China(united in 221 BC and by that unification warring states period between Qin, Wei, Yan, Qi and Zhongshan states ended). It was built with purpose to defend empire from external enemy and barbarian tribes. How many people died from exhaustion, hunger, thirst or from injuries or winter during building this wall stays a mystery. It remains mystery how it was built in these chains of hills and mountains.
As I heard from our tourist guide Han and Sui dynasties rebuilt some parts while during Song and Tang dynasties new sections were not built. Same during rule of Mongol Yuan dynasty new parts weren’t t built because Mongols had their bases of power northern of wall. Last constructions were done by Ming dynasty especially northern from Beijing, because as I said it became new capital and it had to have strongest defense.
I am now at Badaling sector -one of sectors which are open for visitors. Except open sectors others are not in very good condition and visiting them isn’t safe.. With help of cable car here I am finally back on Chinese Wall -Badaling Sector. On such amazing and untypical place I totally didn’t paid attention on how tired I was and how much pain I felt in knees after so much walking. I was all sweating and I was wet like that I was swimming or chilling out in some lake not climbing Chinese Wall. My throat was totally dry from thirstiness and lack of fluids. Thanks God there was place to buy water even it was much more expensive than in city or on some other historical site. I didn’t felt need to sit for rest. I was amazed by place. I am remembering on my previous visits here in 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2001 in May. Most I remember my visit in 2001 when I was still child and I was jumping around and playing like small monkey making fun on my little brother and father was warning me 1000 times to calm down that I will fall down and break my silly neck. But it was useless to expect from me to behave normally. Today I didn’t focus on jumping as monkey but on view and people around me. There were tourists from every possible part of China- from Heilongjiang to Yunnan and from Fujian to Xinjiang. Some of them were from big city and some of them from small village. Many of Chinese people were here: young, old, some with small children… Some of them were nervous and exhausted and some of them friendly and smiling at me and other people. Except Chinese there were many foreign white and black tourists. Our tourist group was interesting- my family from Serbia, family from India, one black girl, couple from Morocco and couple from USA. Tourists were like a never ending crowd in every direction of wall at which you look or where you try to go. Everyone had same aim to climb Chinese Wall and walk as much as possible in this conditions.
View from wall is breathtaking. That is something that you can experience only in China. There is not anything similar in whole world. It is unique place and if you want to understand it you must personally experience it.- that sky, hills, and most important- wall in front of you and behind you. Wall looked like white path passing over hills. In which ever direction you go there is no visible end but only disappearing never ending path, white path disappears behind some hill, you see wall as much as your eye can see. You have feeling that if you can continue in some direction there is no end forever or that you can travel through all China walking over this wall. Even it seems not just as never ending path but as path to heaven because it seems that on some higher peak of hill wall tower reaches sky. But at least it is known that this path has beginning. For example that this wall is long dragon and its head starts in sea in Yellow Sea in Qinhuangdao around 300-350 km from Beijing. This place is called Dragons Head and I was there once when I was child at beginning of this path or at head of this big dragon. But some parts of body and tail of this dragon are cut by time( its parts were deleted by time, by history somewhere less somewhere more) This stone path somewhere stops and somewhere it continues again until it stops again , somewhere in hills of northwestern or western China.
After such hard climbing, I need something to drink. Something what wont produce much shock on my body full of warmth from hot temperature and climbing. We arrived at Dr. Tea one of most famous Tea houses in Beijing. It is situated in one old hutong street not far from Olympic Park, Olympic village and Birds Nest. Nearby is one of biggest hotels in Beijing, most modern and most expensive, in shape of dragon and with 6 stars. At entrance of tea house, on both sides of door are 2 red lanterns what is typical for tea houses. Chairs and tables were dark brown and made from cherry tree. There were few rounded lanterns hanged on walls. In white- blue porcelain vases were some flowers. Red curtains were covering windows. Waitresses were dressed up in red silk shirts and black skirts. Tea has long history in China. Here they told as ancient legend about wise and legendary emperor Shen Nong who was herbalist and who discovered tea by coincidence. He always used to boil water before drinking it. One morning he was boiling water in a pot. Wind was blowing and few leaves of wild tea bushes fell down in pot. Therefore water got new color and interesting smell and emperor tried it. Since that time as legend says he wanted it every morning and tea was discovered and became popular in all China. China was always famous for its tea for many centuries. Very famous for its quality are teas from Hangzhou and Yunnan. In Europe it was one of most wanted products from Far East together with silk and spices. It took a long route from China through central Asia and Byzantine empire to reach Europe.
Here today in Dr. Tea teahouse I had on table chance to try 4 types of tea. They brought them in dark brown teapots. It was served to us in classical way. Chinese people say that not only important thing are taste and quality of tea but also how you will serve it. If there is smaller number of people than it is served from smaller tea pot, if bigger number logically bigger teapot. Everyone should be served from same one. Only tea you get into cup with few leaves, more tea and tea leaves are staying in teapot and waiting someone to take it again. We got small white porcelain cups, decorated with dark blue paintings of flowers and birds. There is special unwritten code how you must hold cup while you drink tea. They told us that we should hold cup with thumb and index finger only and drink slowly. First tea which they gave us to try was typical green tea with familiar taste, next one was black tea with similar taste. They are made from same plant but in bit different process. Third one was fruit tea, of dark red color with pieces of fruit which were sticking on my teeth when I finished 1 cup. Now I tried one of best tea in my all life- Pu- Erh tea. This tea contains rice also. It has specific taste, some taste which stays in you long after you finish drinking. Pu Erh tea- name stayed in my head as well as its taste stayed in my throat. I didn’t expected that few days later I will get box of Pu Erh tea from Taishan from Xin , one of my Chinese friends.
Today I realized that it is useful sometimes to have tourist guide as you can learn some new things and enrich your knowledge about Chinese history and beliiefs.
Previous Part: https://windowintochina.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/china-my-way-my-story-2-between-beihai-jingshan-and-shichahai/
At Guangming daily- http://en.gmw.cn/2015-03/27/content_19672264.htm here is last story but on right corner you can enter all previous stories and see all collection!!!