Day 40 – Thursday February 23, 2017
Beijing is the capital of the most populous country in the world, the People’s Republic of China. With a population of 21.5 million people (2013), it is the nation’s second-largest city after Shanghai. It was also the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors until the formation of a republic in 1911. Beijing is the political, educational and cultural center of the country and as such it is rich in historical sites and important government and cultural institutions.
The city is marked by its flatness and arid climate. There are only three hills to be found in the city limits (in Jingshan Park to the north of Forbidden City) and mountains surround the capital on three sides. Like the configuration of the Forbidden City, Beijing has concentric "ring roads", which are actually rectangular, that go around the metropolis and serve as good reference points as one attempts to move about the city. Beyond the ring roads are the most-visited portions of the Great Wall of China.
We were up early, had breakfast and were out of the hotel by 7:30 AM. It I difficult to imagine the size of the city, not just the population but the physical size. Our guide said to travel most places within the city to expect from 45 minutes to two hours, due to the combination of size and congestion. Below I include a few photos taken as we traveled through the city streets. These were taken through the bus windows, so please excuse the poor quality.
Traffic was actually not too bad this morning, but as usual there was an assortment of vehicles on the streets.
You could see avenue after avenue of high-rise apartments which stretched out of sight.
A typical congested street corner.
Our first stop this morning was the Temple of Heaven.
The temple complex was constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, who was also responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The complex was extended and renamed Temple of Heaven during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor in the 16th century. Jiajing also built three other prominent temples in Beijing, the Temple of Sun in the east, the Temple of Earth in the north, and the Temple of Moon in the west. The Temple of Heaven was renovated in the 18th century under the Qianlong Emperor. By then, the state budget was insufficient, so this was the last large-scale renovation of the temple complex in imperial times. The temple was occupied by the Anglo-French Alliance during the Second Opium War. In 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion, the Eight Nation Alliance occupied the temple complex and turned it into the force’s temporary command in Beijing, which lasted for one year. The occupation desecrated the temple and resulted in serious damage to the building complex and the garden. With the downfall of the Qing, the temple complex was left un-managed. The neglect of the temple complex led to the collapse of several halls in the following years. In 1914, Yuan Shikai, then President of the Republic of China, performed a Ming prayer ceremony at the temple, as part of an effort to have himself declared Emperor of China. In 1918 the temple was turned into a park and for the first time open to the public. The Temple of Heaven was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.
After the Temple was opened to the public in 1918, it has become a center of daily activity, especially for the retired. The retired, by the way make up a large part of the population. Each district has strict rules about retirement. Once a certain age is reached, you must retire. The age ranges from approximately 55 to 60. The mandatory retirement is necessary to make room for younger persons to have a job. Retirement comes with a government pension which in recent years has increased to a comfortable level for most people.
As we strolled through the temple complex, older people could be seen playing cards, dominoes and Chinese Chess.
The actual Temple of Heaven
100,000’s of thousands of Dragons are in the Temple. EVERY roof tile has a dragon.
Despite the cold weather, there were still a lot of people in the park.
These gentlemen were playing what they called “badminton” with a birdie. The object was to keep the birdie in the air by kicking it or batting it with your body. There were many groups of adults playing games and exercising.
This sign was located above the urinal in the men’s toilet.
Note the blanket-coat designed for cycles. It is totally opened in the back and comes all the way up to the neck to keep the rider warm. This lady was taking her pooch for a morning ride in the brisk weather.
An interesting vehicle.
Finally we reach Tian’an men Square
Taking photos of the army or police is prohibited, but through the miracle of a good camera and telephoto lens I manages to capture this shot from about 75 yards away.
The main entrance from the Square into the Forbidden City.
Constructed from 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,886 bays of rooms and covers over 180 acres. The palace complex exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture, and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. Construction lasted 14 years and required more than a million workers. After being the home of 24 emperors – 14 of the Ming dynasty and 10 of the Qing dynasty – the Forbidden City ceased being the political center of China in 1912 with the abdication of Puyi, the last Emperor of China.
I believe a couple of days could be spent in the Forbidden City alone. The place is huge.
Tai He Hall
Architectural details of the Hall.
Looking through the Gate of Devine Might (I believe). The tower seen in the background is outside the Forbidden City.
The Emperor’s chambers contained nice mythical animals in procession.
The Empress’s chambers only have seven animals.
This intricate construction with only five animals, I believe was for the Emperor’s concubines.
Northwest Corner Tower around The Forbidden City. Note the frozen moat.
All over the city could be seen workers sweeping the streets and sidewalks with these home-made brooms.
Stopping at a rest stop, I purchased this coffee. It was quite good and only cost about $1.40.
This photo is just to illustrate the density of apartment buildings. These were located miles from any apparent city. Please excuse the glare on the window.
We easily made it back to the ship with time to freshen up before dinner.
I haven’t spent a great deal of time in this blog talking about the ship and crew. That is partly because I have limited time to blog and partly because I have talked at length about the HAL ships and crew in my previous blogs. On Friday evening, we did have another “Gala” night. These have replaced the retired “Formal” nights. We currently have Orlando Ashford, the president of Holland America aboard ship. This evening he hosted an open bar cocktail party for everyone and the “Gala” theme was “Red Lanterns”.
This is our fantastic dinner stewards, Andy and Alex in their Oriental finery. These guys have taken care of our every need.
At the cocktail party, we were joined by Tom Mullins one of our Cruise Specialist Hosts. Tom has been sailing for 37 years. He lives in the U.K. and is absolutely fascinating to chat with.
Henk and Lucia Barnhoon, also Cruise Specialists Hosts who we have sailed with many times. Originally from the Nederland, they now make their home is Southern California.
I would like to thank Janet for the above three photos. I was too lazy to carry my camera…
So long until (probably) after Shanghai.