Thursday, March 29, 2007

Prince Gong's Mansion


Prince Gong's PalacePrince Gong's Mansion is the best-preserved royal mansion in Beijing. Located north of Beihai Lake--or east of Qianhai Lake in the Back Lakes area--the Mansion is a sprawling campus of buildings and gardens, pavilions and a lake--and a peek at a world long gone.

The Mansion was built in the late 1700s for the corrupt Manchu official He Shen. The same corruption that saw him promoted and accrue tremendous riches also sealed his fate: He Shen was executed in 1799 for his excesses.

Fifty years later, Emperor Xianfeng bestowed the Mansion on his brother Prince Gong--and hence the name.

In the 20th century, the compound was used by nearby Furen Catholic University, and later by Beijing Normal University and the Chinese Music Academy.

During the harrowing days of the Cultural Revolution it was even used for a time as a factory. At long last, in 1982, it was named a Chinese National Cultural Heritage Site. It opened its doors to tourists in the 1990s.

Prince Gong's PalaceIn the warmer months, it gets very crowded. I had the good fortune to visit on a bitter cold early March afternoon, and had much of the place to myself.

Except for the central courtyard, where a tour group was snapping photos and trying to stay warm, there was no one around. By April, this is not the case.


If you are in a group of 2-3 or more, take a cab as the nearest subway stop is a fairly long walk. If you are going to be in the Back Lakes area, get off at Jishuitan Station and stroll your way there. The surrounding parks and lakes are beautiful.


Prince Gong's Mansion is open from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm. Admission is 20 yuan.

Tel: 010 6618 0573

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Beijing Birds Nest

Beijing Olympic stadium under construction

Beijing Olympic stadium under construction

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Rental Bicycles in Beijing

Beijing is a huge city, and traffic laws are often ignored--but cycling is still a good option, especially in the warmer months. There are moreover designated bike lanes along the sides of most roads. These lanes are fairly large and safe; still, caution should be exercised. You are not in Amsterdam.

Beijing BikesRental bikes can be found in many locations. The bikes pictured at right were parked in the Back Lakes area, which is a great place to ride. The parks, lakes, and hutong (narrow alleys) make for a perfect--and safe--placed to spend an afternoon.

In this area there are many good restaurants and bars and shops, for those more interested in the post-ride.

When you rent, if possible you should try to get a helmet and lock. If they are not available, local shops are a good and inexpensive option. Most cycle shops in Beijing do not have English-speaking staff. However, on a ride north of the Forbidden City, I needed to have my brakes adjusted and had no trouble communicating with a helpful young guy in a shop. His fee was reasonable, even by local standards.

Bicycles can be rented from a number of hotels and specialist cycle shops in Beijing. BicycleKingdom is one such option.

By the time the Olympics kick off, there should be more rental shops and improved conditions for cycling.

RickshawAnother option for getting around is the classic rickshaw. The one pictured at left was found in the hutong south of Chairman Mao's mausoleum. It was used mainly for local people shuttling around the neighborhood.

There are tours available via rickshaw. Negotiate hard. And, to be honest, with the size of the city and the amount of traffic, it is not a recommended way of getting around. Also, without a Mandarin speaker along to help you, you may find the fees you negotiated have changed en route.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Confucius Temple Beijing

West across the main road and down a hutong from the Lama Temple is Beijing's Confucius Temple.

Confucius Temple, Beijing

The second largest Confucius Temple in China after the temple in Confucius' birthplace in Qufu in Shandong Province, the Guozjian has long been neglected but is being gradually, tastefully renovated for the 2008 Olympic Games.

The temple originally dates from 1302 and was Beijing's main temple honoring the great sage during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The grounds of the temple house hundreds of inscribed stele, recording the names of successful candidates for the examinations for the imperial bureaucracy.

Confucius Temple, Beijing

Candidates for the exam had to undergo the rigorous procedure of being locked up in a small cubicle for 3 days while taking the examination, many of whom reportedly went mad or committed suicide during the experience.

The temple grounds include a statue of Confucius and many venerable and historic cypress trees.

Names of successful candidates for the imperial examinations inscribed on a stele in the Confucius Temple, Beijing

The Imperial College (Guozijian) is west of the temple and is where the Emperor gave a speech on the Confucian classics in an annual rite.

Confucius Temple
Tel: 8401 1977
Admission 10 yuan

Nearest subway station Yonghegong on the Circle Line

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Lama Temple Yonghe Gong


The Lama Temple (Yonghe Gong) is one of Beijing's most colorful and lively temples.
(The images are taken on a wet and gloomy day that don't do full justice to the brightly colored, wooden buildings.)

Lama Temple

The Lama Temple resembles a Matryoshka doll as one temple and courtyard opens in to the next along a 480m north-south axis, though each successive temple hall is actually larger than the preceding one.

Previously the residence of Count Yin Zhen, who became Emperor Yongzheng in 1723, his residence became known as Yonghe Palace. In 1744 after Yongzheng's death in 1735, the buildings became a lamasery staffed by monks from Tibet and Mongolia. The temple contains a golden vase which is used in the lottery to choose the Panchen Lama.

Lama Temple

The halls in the temple complex are in order the Hall of the Heavenly Kings (Lokapala), the Hall of Harmony and Peace (Yonge Hall), the Hall of Everlasting Protection (Yongyou Hall), The Hall of the Wheel of Law (Falun Hall), and the the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses (Wanfu Pavilion).

The Hall of the Heavenly Kings houses a statue of the Maitreya Buddha flanked by the four Heavenly Kings, who act as guardians of the four directions.

The Hall of Harmony and Peace contains bronze statues of the Gautama Buddha (the historical Buddha) in the center, with Kasyapa Matanga (Buddha of the Past) to his right and Maitreya Buddha (Buddha of the Future) on the left. The 18 Arhats (enlightened ones) flank the walls of the hall and the mural is the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.

Lama Temple, Beijing

The Hall of Everlasting Protection contains a statue of the Buddha of Medicine and was the main residence of Count Yin Zhen.

The Hall of the Wheel of the Law, which is used for prayer and study of the Buddhist sutras, houses a statue of Tsong Khapa (1357-1419), founder of the Geluk School (or Yellow Hat sect).

The Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses contains an amazing 18m tall sandalwood statue of the Maitreya Buddha carved from a single block.

There is a gallery of Tibetan statues to the side including a collection of Tibetan Tantric statues with ferocious-looking gods and goddesses in sexual union.

Photography is prohibited inside the halls.

Lama Temple, Beijing

Yonghe Gong
12 Yonghegong Dajie, Beixinqiao, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Tel: 6404 4499
Admission 25 yuan
Nearest subway station Yonghegong on the Circle Line

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Telephones in Beijing

Public telephone booth in Beijing.
Beijing is liberally dotted with public telephones - quite snazzy-looking little pods here and there - but seeing them in use is about as likely as being struck by lightning.

With over 426 million cell phone users in China, to all intents and purposes the landline, especially of the public variety, seems like a thing of the past.

Even visitors to Beijing will probably never need to use a public phone: if at home you use a GSM phone with a SIM card, chances are that, once unlocked, you can use it in Beijing - or anywhere in China for that matter. Cell phone repair shops are the places to go to get your cell phone unlocked and up and running once you get to Beijing.

IP cards are available to make international or domestic calls - but never pay the face value for them. A RMB100 card shouldn't cost you more than RMB40. Most will work only from mobiles or landlines, but a few will work from public phones - so check before you buy.

Finally, some useful numbers:

Tourist hotline: 6513 0828

Ambulance: 120

Police: 110

Fire: 119

Traffic accident: 122

Local directory service in English: 2689 0114

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Beijing Railway Station


Beijing's main train station has train departures for many cities connected to the rail network throughout China such as Harbin, Tianjin, Qingdao and Shanghai as well as a number of foreign destinations including Moscow, Pyongyang and Ulaan Bator.

Trains for Vietnam, Tibet and Hong Kong leave from the more modern Beijing West Station. Other stations in Beijing are Beijing North Train Station (Tel: 6563 6122; 6563 6223) and Beijing South Train Station (Tel: 6563 5222).

Beijing Train Station

The nearest subway station serving Beijing's main station is Beijingzhan on the Circle Line.

Beijing station is extremely busy and somewhat daunting for the first time visitor. There is a ticket office for foreigners open from 5.30am-11pm daily near the soft seat waiting room.
Tickets can be booked up to four days in advance and often your hotel can help you with advanced bookings.

Beijing Station was built in the 1950s.

Beijing Train Station (Tel: 6563 3263; 6563 3442)

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Beijing Taxis

At present taxi is an economical and quick way for visitors to get around Beijing especially if you are in a group of three or four people. Prices were hiked in May 2006 and may rise again in the not too distant future.

Beijing Taxi

As Beijing's subway system still does not cover large parts of this sprawling city, taxi, bus or cycling are the only practical alternatives. Walking is possible around the Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City areas but elsewhere distances between locations and tourist sights are huge.

Beijing Taxis and Double-decker Bus

Taxis drivers as a rule do not speak foreign languages, so try to carry the name of the place you are planning to travel to written in Chinese characters (such as the business card of your hotel) and some idea how to pronounce your destination. Pointing at a travel map can also help.

Taxis can be recognized by their yellow stripes on the sides and should have a meter, which should be turned on and produce a receipt (which records the taxi's number) at the end of your journey, often with some words of thanks and advice to pay the driver spoken in English by the meter machine. The cab should also contain a registration document with the driver's name, his/her picture, registration number and a phone number for complaints.

Except for the morning and evening rush hours, you should have no problems finding a cab and progress around town is reasonably swift. Driving standards are by western standards reckless to say the least. Wear your seatbelt. Say "Ni hao" when you get in and "xiexie" when you get out. Tipping is not necessary, unless you want to. This is not London or New York.

Taxis can be hired for trips out of town, by the hour or for the day. If you find a driver you like and trust, ask for his mobile phone and contact him or her again.

Beijing Taxi in a hutong

Taxis from the airport in to the center of Beijing usually cost around 70+ Renminbi (if the driver is taking his time and the fee has been agreed beforehand). Fares to the airport can be 100+ Renminbi is the fee has not been agreed and the driver tries to hurry along the meter by driving like Michael Schumacher.

There are over 60,000 taxis in Beijing driven in shifts by 130,000 drivers, who rarely have time to take a day off. There are plans to reduce this number to 40,000 taxis when the new subway lines are in operation in 2008. We'll see.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

CCTV Building

One of the 300 skyscrapers that will make up Beijing's Central Business District (CBD) is the somewhat controversial CCTV headquarters. CCTV is China's national TV broadcaster.

The CCTV HQ under construction

The building will rise to 230 meters with a total floor area of approximately 400,000 square meters.

The Beijing Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) was awarded the contract for the construction and the building was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and his German partner Ole Scheeren and built by Ove Arup & Partners.

Some critics have said the "Z"-shaped building does not fit with traditional Chinese architecture.


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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Banking & Money in China

China's currency is the Renminbi (RMB), meaning "People's Money" and is issued by the People's Bank of China.

Renminbi notes China's main unit of currency is the yuan (元)[CNY]. One yuan is sub-divided into 10 jiao (角), and one jiao into 10 fen (分). jiao and yuan are usually referred to colloquially as mao and kuai respectively.

It is becoming increasingly rare now to receive any fen in your change. The largest denomination renminbi note is the red 100-yuan note.


Here is a list of the major banks in Beijing:

Bank of China Tel: 95566

Agricultural Bank of China Tel: 95599

China Construction Bank Tel: 95533

China Merchants Bank Tel: 95555

Citibank Tel: 800 830 1880

HSBC 800 820 8878

Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Tel: 95588
ATMs in Jianguomen Subway Station, Beijing.
Banking opening hours vary but on the whole banking hours are 9am-5pm with some branches open on the weekend.

Many ATMs in Beijing accept foreign issued credit cards from the major companies including Amex, MasterCard, Visa, Cirrus and Plus.

Expect a healthy charge from your home bank. Withdrawals are limited to between 3,000-5,000 RMB.

ATMs that accept foreign issued credit cards offer both Chinese and English operation screens, or at least have both languages displayed on the same screen. There are ATMs at Beijing Airport and in many of the city's major shopping and commercial areas.

Lost Credit Cards

China Hotlines:

VISA 10-800-711-2911
MasterCard 10-800-711-7309
Amex collect call 336-393-1111


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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Cloisonne in Beijing

The art of cloisonne coloring in BeijingExamples of cloisonne abound for the visitor to Beijing.

Cloissone is an art invented in Beijing dating back over 800 years to the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368).

It was developed during the succeeding Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), spurred on by the Emperor himself.

Once production methods were perfected and made more efficient, it wasn't long before the passion for cloisonne filtered down to the populace in general, and cloisonne became almost the standard style of decorative ceramics, characterized by the enormously popular 'Jingtai blue'.

The art of cloisonne wiring in Beijing.It was during the next dynasty, the Qing, that cloisonne reached its artistic pinnacle.

Basically, shaped wires are glued to porcelain and various glazes applied between the boundaries of the wires before the piece is fired. The finished product may be polished to a high sheen, or it may retain its out-of-the-kiln rough-surfaced glaze.

Rather than simply picking your cloisonne of an anonymous shelf, it is worth seeking out a studio where you can see it being made and do your shopping there.

Cloisonne pots in Beijing.See the various stages of the process, of which two: the wiring and coloring, pictured above.

Many bus tours include a stop in at a cloisonne studio whether you like it or not. But, don't worry - you'll love it!


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Beijing Hutong Part Two


Hutongs are the winding narrow streets that traverse the traditional neighborhoods of Beijing. They are however dwindling fast as the wrecking ball smashes its way through the capital.

Beijing HutongThese alleys surround traditional courtyard residences, and the term “hutong” has come to refer to a neighborhood.

In the past, and to a certain degree still true today, the closer you lived to the Forbidden City, the higher your status was. The elite lived to the east and west of the imperial palace in high-end hutong with gardens and ornamental houses. In other areas, however, the hutong were smaller, less decorative, and much poorer.

With the end of the imperial system, Chinese society underwent many changes. The hutong were not immune to them. Many deteriorated or were built with little or no planning.

This was accelerated following 1949, when the People’s Republic was born. Streets were widened, and hutong were leveled in favor of modern buildings.

In recent years, as China’s economy has boomed, a similar pattern has emerged. Perceived of as “poor”—or, worse still, of little value in the commercial real estate market—the hutong are once again at the mercy of the government and builders, which are in a race to knock them down and replace the courtyards and alleys with glass towers.

However, they do remain and some now are protected. Close to Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum is the Dazhalan Xi Jie shopping street that wends its way through a neighborhood full of hutong (pictured above).

Wander down any of the smaller streets off of Dazhalan Xi Jie to get an idea of what a traditional hutong is like. You will get lost, but you will get out eventually. (A map is very helpful, especially one with Chinese characters.)

For a better-preserved hutong, try the area east of Qian Hai, the middle of the three lakes in the Back Lakes area (pictured below right).

Beijing HutongAccess
Dazhalan Xi Jie is five minutes south of Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum and Tiananmen Square. Walk south from the Mausoleum on Qianmen Daijie. Turn right after three or four blocks onto a shopping street. This is Dazhalan Xi Jie.

For the Back Lakes area, take the subway to Gulou Daijie, walk south to the Drum & Bell Towers, which is interesting in its own right. From there it is several blocks east. Cross the short bridge over the lake and walk into the hutong.


Buy a map with English and Chinese. It will be very useful in cabs and when you are lost.


Read more on hutong

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Beijing Opera Theater

A five-minute walk from Heping men subway station will get you to an old theater where the Beijing Opera has been performed for hundreds of years. It’s a bit rundown and has clearly seen better days—but that’s half of the charm of the building.

No Smoking SignLocated on a small alley called Qian Men Xi He Yan Jie, the theater is a wonderful old pile that still puts on performances now and then.

The first thing that caught my eye was the distinctive No Smoking sign. No one paid it any mind, of course; groups of men strolled by puffing away.

The next thing was the door, a colorful entrance amid a sea of gray. The walls of the hutong are painted a rather uniform gray, but doors were decorated for the Spring Festival (it was early March) and the smell and sound of firecrackers was ubiquitous.

If you keep walking you can take in the hutong, one of Beijing’s traditional neighborhoods.


South of Tiananmen Square, the theater is less than five minutes on foot from Heping men Station. Go out of the station and walk south on Nan Xiahua Jie (street). Take the first left. It is on the south side of the street.

Beijing Opera HouseDetails

For 5 yuan, you can enter the building and watch people practice. Performances are held periodically in the evenings.

Tel: 6317-7354

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Monday, March 12, 2007

The Forbidden City Beijing

Beijing’s massive Forbidden City was the palace of the emperors during the Ming and the Qing Dynasties. It is located just north of Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Forbidden CityMany of the buildings today date from the Qing Period as much of the Forbidden City was destroyed by fire and or ransacked during the Ming Period.

The grounds cover approximately 720,000 square meters, or 178 acres, and contain some 800 buildings with 9,999 rooms. Wear comfortable shoes and go slow. The scale of the grounds is overwhelming.

The Forbidden City is a huge rectangle surrounded by a six-meter deep moat and a ten-meter high ochre-colored wall. There are five halls, seventeen palaces, and many, many other buildings and exhibits.

As you enter from the street, you will pass through a gauntlet of soldiers stationed on the bridges that cross the small external moat; then you will pass under the iconic portrait of Chairman Mao (pictured above). It is free to enter this gate.

Here you will run into many people selling various things. Keep walking.

To continue through and past the next gate, you will have to pay. This will bring you into the Outer Court area. Among the highlights of the Outer Court is the Hall of Great Harmony in front of which stands the Gate of Supreme Harmony.

Carrying on, you reach the Inner Court. This area was in the past restricted to the Emperor’s entourage: his family, concubines, and eunuchs. The Palace of Heavenly Purity is the most interesting site in this area.

Forbidden CityThe buildings in the Forbidden City are built on three north-south axes. Those on the middle axis are the most important buildings. This runs from Meridian Gate in the south all the way to the Gate of Divine Might in the north. The western axis has gardens and religious buildings, but much of it is closed. As you get closer to the rear, strolling becomes more comfortable as there are many small courtyards and museum-style exhibits, and things are on a more human scale.

At the far northern end of the Forbidden City is the imperial garden. This is the end of the grounds. You can exit here, or, as many do, loop back on the other side of the grounds and hike back to the main entrance. There is the requisite gift shop and a small place for snacks.

The Forbidden City is now undergoing repairs, the first of which will be completed in time for the Olympics in 2008; the job will be totally done by 2020.


North of Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City is less than one minute from Tianan Men Dong Station.


The Forbidden City is open from 8:30 am – 5:30 pm (4:30 pm in winter). Admission to the Forbidden City costs 40 yuan in the winter, 60 yuan in the summer. Audio tours are available in many languages and cost 40 yuan to rent. Allow at least 2-3 hours to walk the grounds. For disabled, there are ramps in the central part of the grounds. However, much of it is not accessible.

Tel: 6513-2255
Nearest Subway Station Tianan Men Dong Station

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Beijing Police Museum

Beijing Police Museum, located in the Foreign Legation Quarter, a short walk from Tianamen Square is an interesting insight into the history, equipment and methods of China's police forces.

Beijing Police Museum

Housed in the former CitiBank building, the multi-storey museum outlines the historical origins of the Chinese police force, exhibits a collection of over 8,000 police weapons and tools since the Han Dynasty, an interesting display of forensic fingerprinting techniques, instruments of torture, plus a chance to shoot laser pistols at moving targets on the 4th floor. All this for 5 RMB.

36 Dongjiaomin Xiang, Dongcheng
Tel: 8522 5018
Nearest Subway Station Wangfujing

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Factory 798 - Dashanzi

Factory 798, Dashanzi, Beijing.Unfortunately it was a Monday. I had walked almost two hours from my hotel to Dashanzi, keen to spend an afternoon poring through the treasure trove of art that the Factory 798 area was said to be.

Sure enough, once I found it, it was a treasure trove of sorts. However, being a Monday, about half the galleries and studios were closed.

From what I had read, I was expecting something highrise and chic. I found the exact opposite: low-slung and rough - but by no means any the worse for that.
Factory 798, Dashanzi, Beijing.
The Factory 798 area is a plot of (mostly) former factories (one, full of lathes, is still full at it). Of generally rough construction, they have been painted in more garish shades of the pastels that China so loves, and are full of works of art and craft that range from the nothing special and derivative to the divinely inspired.

I found the perfect presents for people back home in a ceramics shop. Many of them were too sexually themed to be appropriate for work colleagues, but I found a few pieces that would titillate without shocking. Like everything else in Beijing, I almost felt a bit guilty handing over as little money (in back-home terms) for the pieces as I did.
Factory 798, Dashanzi, Beijing.
I found a painting I liked in a studio with a loud pink exterior and a late-middle-aged female artist wearing piercing blue contact lens and a cutaway dress. It was just a picture of a vase of flowers done in heavily daubed oils that, while they spoke from the depths, did so in the sweetest tones. What sold me on it was a couple of tiny blue petals that had fallen to the bottom of the scene and gave it a poignancy I couldn't resist.
Being China, the next 15 minutes were spent bargaining over the price. I left happier, I think, than she, but it was hard to really tell. I didn't have the cash on me so a boy from the shop took me to the nearest bank where I withdrew the money, paid him, and - I discovered back in my hotel room - left my credit card!

Read more on Dashanzi

Beijing Manhole Covers

Though not as distinctive and colorful as manhole covers in Japan, Beijing's manhole covers are nonetheless artistically pleasing and certainly valuable objects.

Beijing manhole cover

Over 240,000 of the city's 600,000 cast iron manhole covers were stolen by thieves in 2004 and sold as scrap. The value of the metal used in each manhole cover averages around US$160 per piece.

Beijing manhole cover

To combat the crime wave, city authorities experimented with a variety of non-metal alternatives to the traditional cast iron manhole cover. A cement glass fiber composite manhole will be used in the Olympic Village to save on non-renewable iron.

Compare the two manholes pictured. The gray manhole is made from traditional cast iron whereas the green manhole is a non-metal cover.


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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is a massive park/temple complex that contains what is perhaps Beijing’s most beautiful building: the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. The park is very large and you will need several hours to walk it. It features a series of Taoist buildings and was visited by all of the Ming and Qing emperors. It is now a World Heritage Site.

Temple of HeavenThe Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is a round building with a blue-tiled roof (pictured at right). Qinian Dian, as it is known in Chinese, was completed in 1420 and is one of the best-known symbols of Chinese imperial architecture. The current structure was built in 1890, after the original was burnt to the ground after being hit by lightning.

It is 125 feet high and 98 feet in diameter—and does not contain a single nail. It is located in the northern end of the park.

Moving south, you come to the Imperial Vault of Heaven (Huang Qiong Yu), which is a smaller version of the above. It was built to store ceremonial tablets, and is surrounded by the Echo Wall. Unfortunately, there is now a railing in front of the wall, which makes testing it out difficult. (A Chinese tour group and the wind also made it near impossible to learn if there was actually an echo.)

Just beyond the Imperial Vault is the Circular Altar. This is a marble structure with three levels. It was completed in 1530, and in the past was where a bull was sacrificed and then set on fire to appease the gods.

Between the Circular Altar and Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and off to the right if you are walking from north to south is the Hall of Abstinence. It is a bit removed from the main sights and a bit low key. It is surrounded by moats, and was where emperors fasted.


The Temple of Heaven is about one mile south of Chong wen Men subway station. It took me 25-minutes in a strong wind to walk it from the station. Buses are also a possibility. From exit B, take #807 or #812 to Fahua Si. The easiest way is to take a cab, which should cost about 10-15 yuan.


The park is open from 6 am – 9 pm (8 pm in winter). The sights however are only open from 8:30 – 4:30. Admission to the park costs 15 yuan. A ticket that will get you in the park and all of the sights costs 35 yuan.


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Beijing in the snow II

Images of Beijing

Beijing in the Snow

Photograph © Russell Uebergang

Click on the image to enlarge it

Beijing in the Snow

Beijing in the snow I

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Cycling in Beijing

Beijing is as flat as a pancake and ideal for cycling especially in the city's hutongs. There are designated cycle paths at the side of most roads in Beijing but care needs to be taken with the city's maniac drivers.

Bicycle parking outside Jianguomen Subway Station.

Few cyclists seem to wear a helmet but with winter ice, sandstorms and strong winds, a helmet is highly recommended.

Bicycles can be rented from a number of hotels and specialist cycle shops in Beijing. BicycleKingdom is one such option.

Beijing Bikes.

A good lock is a necessity. Cycle parking is available for a small fee at numerous pavement bicycle parks around town and you should never be too far from a bicycle repair shop if you have a puncture or some other mechanical problem.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Badaling Great Wall of China

The Great Wall at Badaling

The weather has turned very cold recently after Beijing had been enjoying one of its mildest winters in decades.

Great Wall of China in Snow

One advantage of the snow, low temperatures and strong winds is that tourists are few out at the Great Wall.

Great Wall of China - turret in the snow

Badaling is the nearest section of the Great Wall from Beijing being about 70km from downtown. Many visitors to Beijing take a bus tour to the Great Wall booked from their hotel, which is often combined with a trip to the Ming Tombs and a few souvenir shops and Chinese herbal medicine centers as well.

If possible it is best to visit the Great Wall during the week rather than at weekends.

Badaling has two sections of the wall to see, left and right of the main entrance site. Visitors are usually transported up to the wall on ski lifts. The admission fee allows entrance to the China Great Wall Museum.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

School Band Beijing

Images of Beijing

School Band

Photograph © Russell Uebergang

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School band in Beijing

There are nine years of compulsory education in China, six years of primary education followed by three years of secondary education.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Grey Beijing Weather

Beijing is in many ways a pleasant surprise for the first time visitor. The streets aren't honking, screeching bedlam; it is very spacious; taxi drivers drive, if anything, too slowly and carefully; and hotels which, at the price, you might expect would be dives, can be close to opulent.

However, if you do not strike it lucky with weather, you really do feel out of luck. Beijing on an overcast day is the least uplifting of cities. A lot of the architecture here is designed with gravity, not lightheartedness in mind, and bad weather brings it right out.

Here is a shot from the room in the hotel we're staying at this time round in Chao-yang-men. Not the kind of view to inspire you to venture outside, but, on the other hand, going out can only be better than being stuck with a vista like this all day!

Books on China & Beijing

Book the Capital Hotel Beijing Book the Beijing Downtown Holiday Inn

Thursday, March 01, 2007