Great Wall and Kung Fu
Trip Start Aug 14, 2011
14Trip End Aug 27, 2011
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Woke up early. The breakfast was nice-chinese food, Dim Sum, western choices and decent coffee. Steve had cereal (no surprise there) and I had some nice stir fry and noodles followed by sweet Dim Sum.
We had time we decided to go to the Temple of Heaven. We crossed the road and could see the park, but there was a high wall so we headed right. It took about 10 mins to walk to the main entrance. We bought the walk through ticket (not the Temple ticket) as we wanted to walk in the park, not go into the Temple of Heaven. The Chinese really use their parks. We passed a group of people doing Tai Chi with long knives (different!), a large group of dancers, a lot of people practising their writing on the pavement with water, some people playing badminton and another Tai Chi group (and that was before the first arch!)
The Temple of Heaven was built by the Ming Emperor Yongle in 1420 and extended by the Ming Emperor Jiajing and Qing Emperor Qianlong. In 1918 it was developed as a park. The Park contains most of the important religious sites of Beijing, including the Circular Mound (for worshiping Heaven). Inside the Temple complex is the beautiful circular triple gabled Altar of Prayer for Good Harvest (square for earth) with its double altar where the emperor held sacrifices and burnt incense. The buildings are joined by the Red Stairway Bridge. We went up the raised platform (Danbi Bridge) to see the Temple of Heaven.
We headed back and our tour guide, L collected us for our wall trip. It took ages to get through the traffic in Beijing and collect the other tourists. As we (finally) headed out of Beijing L told us about her life (she was born in1978 when the one child policy was introduced so she and her husband were singletons. They had never had to do chores as children and were a "prince" and "princess" which meant they often argued about who did the housework)
We drove through the countryside through increasingly higher roads. We passed through one town with beautiful new houses, squares, shopping areas and play areas and the old town right next to it- I guess they were planning to move everyone in shortly as it was still mainly empty in the new part and bustling in the old. It wasn't too busy when we arrived at Mutianyu village and the wall car park probably because it was drizzly.
We went past the stalls to the Mutianyu entrance (we already had tickets) and decided to take the cable car (why spend 40 minutes walking up instead of actually on the wall!). The cable car (like an ski lift reject) took only a few minutes & we could see the toboggan run below us (sadly not open due to the weather)
The Great Wall
The Great wall has, of course, a great history.
The building of defensive walls began during the Spring and Autumn Period of the Zhou Kingdom (770 -476 B.C.) with its numerous statelets (149), the most powerful being the Qi, Qin, Jin, Chu, Qin, Lu, Zheng. After much fighting between them seven remained- Qin, Wei, Yan, Zhao, Han, Qi, Chu- "the Seven Powers" of the Seven Warring States period 475-221BC. The states built walls around important cities, especially their capitals eg
In 221 B.C., King Qin Shihuang defeated the other States, unified the whole of China, and established the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). He ordered his men to link up the walls of the Yan, Zhao and Qin States in 215 B.C.
The finished wall started at Lintao went east to the Yellow River and Yanshan Mountain, over to Liao, and ended at Jieshishan Mountain. This wall was longer than today's Great Wall, (built by the Ming Dynasty).
The Earlier Han 202 B.C.-A.D. 8 and Later Han Dynasty AD 25 –220, developed and renovated the wall adding fortresses (101 BC). The wall was now some 10,000km and called the Qin-Han Great Wall. It was 4m high and 2m wide and made of earth and stone with beacons and small garrisons.
Later dynasties continued to repair the walls, but as time went on the disrepair grew greater
In 1368 the Ming Dynasty was established. They were naturally concerned that the Mongol Kings they had deposed (still styling themselves Emperors of China) would attack. The developing Kingdom of Nuzhen was also a worry. Originally the Ming tried to renovate the old wall, but it was often in too bad a state, so they began to build their own. These are the walls we see today. They are strongly built with guard towers and solid stone. Where stone was hard to come by or to use a trench and fence construction was used. The 1449 Tumu Crisis (King Yexian of Mongolia captured Emperor Yingzhong, although he returned him the next year- see my note on Ming Dynasty) led to increased emphasis on wall and tower building. In 1569-72 over 1000 look out towers were added.
This section was built on the foundation of the original Qi wall. The present Ming wall was built 1404-1569 and is both the most impressive and the best preserved section. It is 8m high by 4m wide with 22 watchtowers and a pass through with three large connected watchtowers (very rare on the Wall)
Noticeably the people thinned out as we got further along and by the time we reached the end of the maintained section there were only two other couples. We stopped and had our sandwiches (Chinese style but nice) in the end fort (the only one not apparently doubling as a toilet), then headed back. At one fort a ladder had been propped against the wall to allow people to access the roof (worthwhile as the view was brill) – H&S would have had a fit!
Then we went a little on the left side of the wall but the mist was closing in (atmospheric but not conducive to walking) so back down the cable car for a browse round the stalls (fans, more fans, more fans, paintings).
Then back on the minibus where Steve promptly fell asleep! One of the people asked if we could go back through the Olympic area so we got to see Birds Nest Stadium (very impressive- built by Li Xingang with Ai Weiwei consulting for the 2008 Olympics) and the Chinese Ethnic Cultures Park (Beijing 100101) area (this was actually quite interesting as the buildings and gardens were built in the styles of the various 55 ethnic minorities in China- I would have liked to have a proper look but the guide was too keen to get us to a silk factory/shop to stop!)
Now we didn't really want a silk factory visit but 1 couple (argh) said they might like it so we all ended up there (nothing like as interesting as the one we visited in Cambodia- by choice)
First on the bus, last off. We still had time for a tea and a rest before getting sorted out for the evening. Mr W had arranged the Kung Fu show which he INSISTED was by Shaolin monks (whether true or not it was pretty impressive). It took AGES to get a taxi. A note on taxi finding in China-
1. Start at least 25 minutes before you really want it
2. walk halfway into the road
3. wave your arm vigorously at every taxi you see regardless of whether it is occupied or not/ going the right way or not
4. move in front of the people who just moved in front of you
5. continue this for 15-20 minutes
6. get a taxi (maybe)
Anyway we did get a taxi in the end and arrived about 15 minutes before the show, so perfect. The theatre (Red Theatre , 44 Xingfu Dajie, Chongwen, Beijing) has two evening shows with a variety of priced seats- we went for 380Yuan.
There was a small monk beating time as we went in and about 100 people trying to take his photo- he managed to ignore them all
The show as excellent- it was based around a monk's journey from first arriving in the Shaolin abbey as a young boy, training (Kung Fu) and learning (Zen Buddhism) to finally becoming the next abbot. He makes two friends and they stay with him throughout. The acrobatics and martial arts were amazing- even the 3 little boys were doing flips and landing on their heads! The boy changed to a man with a clever flip of his master’s cloak. The adult monks were even more impressive- Steve particularly liked it when the lead broke 3 metal bars on his forehead, but the animal positions in Kung Fu were good as were the lying on knives and other things (the lead lay on three swords, then tow more lay on top of him!). A bit of relief in the middle when the monk (Chun Yi) was "tempted" by a dream fairy, but it gave the opportunity for a nice dance duet. The show was subtitled above the stage in English, but there was also an English voice over and some sweet Chinese singing.
It went Scene 1- initiation,
Scene 2- Learning,
Scene 3- Casting of Iron,
Scene 4-Illusion of fairy,
Scene 5- Remorse,
Scene 6-Passing the Temple Gate,
Last scene- Enlightenment
We bought the DVD afterwards for M to see as we knew he’d be interested.
3 or 4 doors down was Mr W’s local restaurant- it was 9pm so we obviously had to hurry (in China pretty much all the restaurants close at 10 with last orders around 9/9.15). Steve tried to order an orange and lemonade (OMG- never again. They couldn’t understand why anyone would put these together, so in the end he had jasmine tea with me!). We watched the Peking duck being prepared, then had our meal (MUCH thinner pancakes and duck sliced really thin by our standards)- nice. Peking duck was originally an imperial dish (from at least Qing times) and the skin is as much prized as the meat. It is important to show the diners your slicing skill, so Steve went to watch the chef prepare it.
A note on the Mongol Yuan Dynasty
In Mongolia the steppe people lived in semi-nomadic tribes. In 1204 Temujin unified the tribes and in 1206 was granted the title Genghis Khan (also Chingiz) meaning Great Emperor
He encouraged trade and it was during his reign that the Polos reached China, immortalised by Marco Polo’s account of his trip (not believed at the time). He adopted paper money which helped trade to develop. He died in 1294, having moved his dynasty away from a Mongolian empire to a purely Chinese one. His grandon, Temur Khan became Emperor Chengzhon (1294-1304). He ably continued Kublai’s work and was succeeded by a distant relative (he had no sons) Kulug as Khan and Emperor Wuzong (1304-11) who was himself followed by his brother Buyantu as Khan and Emperor Renzong (1311-20)
His son was only briefly Gegeen Khan/ Emperor Yingzong for 3 years. A coup d’etat ended with Yesun Temur Khan/ Emperor Taiding (1323-28) in charge. His son Ragibagh Khan/ Emperor Tianshun (1328) was promptly dethroned by a rival- Yaatu Khan/ Emperor Wenzong (1328) who was himself dethroned by Khutughtu Khan/ Emperor Mingzong (1329) before Wenzong re-gained it (1329-32). None of these emperors did much and power for governing tended to stay in the hands of administrators (like El Temur) who were generally Mongols. His son Rinchibal Khan/ Emperor Ningzong lasted all of 6 months! At this point the Mongolian Great Khanate was no longer attached to the Chinese imperial throne. Ukhaatu Khan/ Emperor Huizong (1332-70) was the last of the dynasty- power passing to the Ming under Zhu Yuanzhang.