Archive for May, 2008


Army of Terracotta Warriors

May 6, 2008

Tom – We were picked up at 8:30 and taken to a factory where they make terracotta products and shown the production process. 

This was accomplished quickly and we were then lead into a huge showroom with crafts from around China.  Of course we were expected to buy something – we didn’t bite and asked our guide to continue to the burial mound and tomb of Qin Shi Huang the man that united China and became the first Emperor in 221 BC.  This is the location of the famous Army of Terracotta Warriors.

There are three pits that have been excavated so far unearthing the remains of over 7000 life size terracotta figures.  Pit 1 is the largest and is covered by an airplane hanger sized building.  The soldiers, archers, horses, chariots, etc. are in battle formation and no two are alike!


Pit 2 (building 2) contains over 1300 figures and they have placed five in glass containers for close-up viewing – a kneeling archer, standing archer, officer, general and cavalryman with his horse. 

Appears to be something amiss here

The famous “Kneeling Archer”

Pit 3 (building 3) contains 72 figures and is believed to be the headquarters due to the high-ranking officers discovered there. 

There is also a small museum near the entrance where they have an extraordinary pair of half sized bronze chariots.

Chariot 2


We had lunch on site (did not try the “Three Snake Wine”)

and then asked to be taken to the Forest of Stelae Museum (our extra cost!).  It was not on our agenda, however, we told the guide that we did not want to go on the scheduled herb market tour and endure another sales pitch.  The museum (indoor and outdoor) has over 1000 stone stelae (inscribed tablets), maps and paintings. 

The tablets have been brought here from throughout China and have inscribed on them the historical events (battles, public records, architectural designs, Confucian classics, etc.) of the period. 

The Nestorian tablet (781) contains the earliest record of Christianity in China.

 Stelae Garden



In the late afternoon we asked to be dropped off at the City Wall to do our own bike tour. 

The walls were originally built during the Ming Dynasty (1370) and are about 55 feet thick at the base and 36 feet high. 

We rented bikes and covered the 9 mile rectangular route on top of the walls in an hour and a half. 

The first side of the rectangular


A center entrance

Carry Me

Another corner

Final leg – notice the kites

Afterwards we went to the De Fa Chang restaurant for their famous dumplings


Shared a Chinese beer with our dumplings

We then took a city bus to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda for the light and music show.  Note the picture of Helen standing among the fountains.

It was a good day!            


First Day Xian

May 5, 2008

Tom – We were picked up at 7am by a fellow who looked like Odd Job from a James Bond movie. 

He drove us to the airport for our two hour flight to Xian on Air China. 


We were met at the airport by our guide Summer who directed us to our car and driver and we were off for our first tour to the tomb of emperor Jingdi.  Jingdi was a Han dynasty emperor who ruled from 188-141 BC.  The burial mound, museum, exhibits, excavated pits, etc. were excellent. 

Museum display

The terracotta figurines (over 50,000) buried here are about half size (the famous Army of Terracotta Warriors are full size) and had moveable wooden arms and silk robes which are now disintegrated. 


In addition to the soldiers, they included eunuchs, servants, domesticated animals and even female cavalry on horseback. 

We paid to see an interesting holographic show depicting some of the history but unfortunately the English audio headphone system did not work.


The next stop was the Big Wild Goose (Dayan) Pagoda of Da Ci’en Temple.  It is located in the SE section of Xian, formerly Chang’an which was the capital for many early dynasties in China and the eastern end of the Silk Road. 

It was built in 652 to hold the Buddhist sutras brought back from India by Xuan Zang.  His travels inspired one of the most well known works of Chinese literature – “Journey to the West.”  The Pagoda is surrounded by the Da Ci’en Temple and there is also a Tang Dynasty Arts Museum where they stamp your ticket with your animal sign from the Chinese Zodiac; Helen’s is a rooster and mine is a goat!  This is an element of Chinese Fengshui which is supposed to determine your personality, destiny, marriage, career and lucky time!


The guide then took us to a Tea Tasting associated with another huge showroom of Chinese crafts.  The Tea Tasting was interesting but we were out of there quickly when the sales pitches started – not how we want to be spending our time!


On the way to the Bell Tower Hotel we stopped at and climbed up to the top of the City Wall. 

City view from wall to Bell Tower

After hotel check-in we visited the Bell Tower. 

From top of Bell Tower

Another view

There is also a Drum Tower.  They date from the 14th century – the large Bell was rung at dawn and the Drums would signal nightfall.  Helen was amazed at the number of flowers in the city and that they were in pots (not planted) so they could be easily replaced if any died.  We did a quick trip through the bazaar and visited the Great Mosque before having to run back and change for the Tang Dynasty dinner show. 


The food, service and performance were outstanding!



Summer Palace

May 4, 2008

Tom – Pat left early today for Denver and then Linda and Joe left for the Philippines where Joe has a conference in Manila.  Helen and I took a taxi to the Summer Palace and spent the entire day there.  It is the biggest park in Beijing – and that’s saying something!  It should have been a half hour drive, however our taxi driver didn’t know where he was going.  After an hour and a half we were near the Palace and stopped in traffic.  So, Helen and I got out of the taxi, gave the driver one third of what was on the meter, and walked the rest of the way.


We entered through the East Palace Gate, examined the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, the Hall of Jade Ripples, the Wenchang Tower and then went to the Garden of Virtue and Harmony to watch a performance on the Great Stage.  I love these names! 

Male performers

Female performers

We proceeded north on the east side of the park – Hall of Nourishing Pleasures, Hall of Celebrating Virtues, Purple Cloud Gate Tower, Hall of Utmost Blessing, Hall of Increasing Longevity, Hall of Magnanimity, Hall of Celebrating Spring, to the Garden of Harmonious Interests.  These are all separate buildings and compromise a fraction of the halls, towers, palaces, pavilions, gardens, gates, and bridges in the park.  From this point I will only give a short comment on each picture.  Here is one example of the of the fabulous art forms

 Garden of Harmonious Interests


We shared a noodle dish and beer for lunch on Suzhou Street near the North Gate, then crossed a bridge

and proceeded up the north side of Longevity Hill to the Four Great Regions complex.

  Roof ornamentation


 The Tower of Dawn Light,

 The Glazed Tile Pagoda of Many Treasures


We reached the Temple Realm of Multitudinous Fragrance at the top of the hill and then came down the opposite side of the hill and hiked back up the south side of the hill through the Second Palace Gate, Hall of Dispelling Clouds,

up one of the painted stairways

to the Temple of Revolving Archives.

This is the original statue from the center roof of the Temple of Revolving Archives

We then proceeded to the Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha which is the most prominent structure on the hill.  This is a picture looking south across Kunming Lake to South Lake Island (with some of the Beijing skyline in the background) taken from this point.

Returning to the lake, we walked through the Long Corridor – they are not kidding!  It is just under a half mile long and has 14,000 pictures painted on the ceiling.  It is the longest painted gallery in the world.  We liked the Pavilion of Autumn Water, the Pavilion of the Mountain Scene and Water Brilliance, the Pavilion of Clear and Carefree and the Hall for Listening to Orioles on our way to the Marble Boat.  It was built in 1755, is over 100 feet long, and was supposed to imply that the Qing Dynasty was solid as a rock and would never fall (it did in 1911 – the movie “The Last Emperor”).


We took a Dragon Boat across part of the lake to South Lake Island


Here is a picture of the Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha with the Realm of Multitudinous Fragrance at the top of the hill taken from our dragon boat.

On the South Lake Island we saw the Hall of Embracing the Universe, the Dragon King’s Temple and then walked across the Seventeen Arch Bridge to the Spacious Pavilion and the Bronze Ox –


Whew – a long day!!!

The “Friendlies” advertising this summer’s Beijing Olympics




Rain Day

May 3, 2008

Tom – Today was a rainy day so we used it to get organized, do computer work, clean clothes, read, etc.  After dinner, Joe and I had some drinks and talked until it was time for bed. 


Lama Temple, Hutong, and Hou Hai

May 2, 2008

Tom – Linda and Joe joined us for a trip to the Lama Temple.  It is the home of Tibetan Buddhism in China.  Our pictures include the entrance gate,

male lion with orb (strength),

female lion with baby (family),

Helen with prayer wheel,

incense and prayer offerings at temple,

Every inch is painted

and a Guinness Book of world records Buddha carved from a single white sandalwood tree.


In the afternoon we walked through a Hutong area (had soup for lunch) – that is a 700 year old neighborhood of alleyways with single story continuous homes.  Each section of alleyway has a community toilet because there are none in the homes. 

Proud Dad

Games and smoking are both popular

Afterwards we walked to the Hou Hai area and had a drink overlooking the lake. 

We then continued walking around the lake

This is a popular nightlife area

and had dinner on the rooftop of an Indian restaurant.


May Day – Temple of Heaven

May 1, 2008

May Day!  Tom – Today is a major Holiday for the Chinese Communist government, in fact this year the holiday runs for five days – probably because there is still a lot of work to do to get ready for the Olympics – last year the holiday was for nine days.  Joe, Helen and I spent the morning in the Temple of Heaven Park where the emperor (“Son of Heaven”) offered sacrifices to Heaven.  It is now one of our favorite places in Beijing!



The structures in the park include the Zhaoheng Gate, Round Altar, Imperial Vault of Heaven, Echo Wall and the trademark and impressive Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.  Everyday people go to the park to participate in various kinds of recreational activities.  The park is huge and they each have their own area that they use – Tai Chi,

other martial art forms, group singing, individual singing, different types of dancing, rhythmic gymnastics, wands,

card games, board games, badminton, paddle rackets, catch, classical and folk musicians,

fitness walking (forward and backward), water color calligraphy on the cement, etc.


Joe participated in Tai Chi and Helen and I did a jitter bug in one group.  Helen was asked to dance in a couple of groups and had a good time dancing with a fellow (Mime?) who really put on a show making faces and leading her around as she played along with her own facial expressions to the delight of the crowd.



Two Chinese cuties

We had lunch in the park and then went to the Hongquio Pearl Market.  They had all sorts of merchandise but Helen concentrated on the pearls.  She bought a cultured pearl necklace (real or fake?) for about $17, which was about 20% of the asking price.


We then took a taxi to Jingshan Park just north of the Forbidden City and started to walk north through several park and lake areas.  Jingshan Park (hill) was shaped from the soil and rocks excavated to make the Forbidden City moat.  The Pavilion of Everlasting Spring is on top and a great view of the Forbidden City as well.

We next visited Beihai Park and climbed up to the White Pagoda which is at the top of Jade Island in the lake.

Buddhist statue inside stupa

 Joe treated us to some green tea with some tasty spiced pumpkins seeds as a snack.

We then continued around the lake to see the nine dragon screen (colored glazed tiles). 

We topped off the day by eating a Chinese meal at a restaurant on Hou Hai Lake.