Ming Tombs andthe Great Wall of China
Trip Start Jun 16, 2008
36Trip End Jul 20, 2008
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Our first stop was the Ming Tombs.
At a distance of 50 km northwest of Beijing stands an arc-shaped cluster of hills fronted by a small plain. Here is where 13 emperors of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) were buried, and the area is known as the Ming Tombs. Construction of the tombs started in 1409 and ended with the fall of the Ming Dynasty in 1644. In over 200 years tombs were built over an area of 40 square kilometres, which is surrounded by walls totalling 40 kilometres. Each tomb is located at the foot of a separate hill and is linked with the other tombs by a road called the Sacred Way. The stone archway at the southern end of the Sacred Way, built in 1540, is 14 metres high and 19 metres wide, and is decorated with designs of clouds, waves and divine animals.
Next we drove to a jade factory to learn how they make objects with it. Then wehad lunch here. It was a HUGE delicious lunch of traditional food.
Next we visited the Great Wall of China. The section we visited today was known as Badaling. Unfortunately the fog and pollution is so terrible that it is not visible. Of course I could see where I was but I was but I was hoping for more panaramic views. It was a long, steep, grueling hike up the stairs and I passed through three watch towers along the way. It is exciting to know that I was now experiencing another of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
The history of the Great Wall is said to start from the Spring and Autumn Periods when seven powerful states appeared at the same time. In order to defend themselves, they all built walls and stationed troops on the borders. At that time, the total length of the wall had already reached 3,107 miles, belonging to different states. In 221 BC, the Emperor Qin absorbed the other six states and set up the first unified kingdom in Chinese history. In order to strengthen his newly born authority and defend the Huns in the north, he ordered connecting the walls once built by the other states as well as adding some sections of his own. Thus was formed the long Qin's wall which started from the east of today's Liaoning Province and ended at Lintao, Gansu Province.
In the Western Han Dynasty, the Huns became more powerful. The Han court started to build more walls on a larger scale in order to consolidate the frontier. The Northern Wei, Northern Qi and Northern Zhou Dynasties all built their own sections but on a smaller scale than the walls in the Han Dynasty. The powerful Tang Dynasty saw peace between the northern tribes and central China most of the time, so few Great Wall sections were built in this period. The Ming Dynasty is the peak of wall building in Chinese history. The Ming suffered a lot by disturbances from minority tribes such as the Dadan, Tufan and Nuzhen. The Ming court from its first emperor to the last ceaselessly built walls in the north. The main line measured over 4,600 miles. Besides adding many more miles of its own, the Ming emperors ordered enlargement of the walls of previous dynasties into double-line or multi-line walls. For example, out of Yanmenguan Pass were added three big stone walls and 23 small stone walls. Eleven Garrisons were distributed along the main line of the wall. The countless walls, fortresses, and watch towers made the country strongly fortified. In the early Qing Dynasty, some sections of the walls were repaired and several sections were extended. This great engineering work stopped in the middle of the Qing Dynasty.
The next stop on the tour was a drive by the Olympic area. The Bird's Nest which will be the place for the opening ceremonies. It was designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, global engineering consultant ARUP and China Architecture Design and Research Group, the National Stadium is located on the North Fourth Ring Road in Beijing. The main body of the stadium is composed of 24 columns of trusses, which surround the bowl-shaped stands in the stadium. The structural elements support each other and converge into a grid formation, just like a bird's nest with interlocking branches and twigs. Construction started in December 2003 and the concrete work of the main stand was completed on November 15 last year. On August 31, the steel skeleton was welded together. The steel skeleton weighs 42,000 tons and can now bear a load of 11,200 tons of the roof and hanging parts. With a seating capacity of 91,000, the National Stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies, track and field competitions and football finals during the Games. The seat number will be reduced to 80,000 after the Games, when it will be used for large-scale sports events, conventional competitions and non-competition events. The national landmark will offer wide-ranging entertainment and sporting facilities to residents after the Games.
When the tour ended I was dropped off at Tianamen Square with the Russian couple and the mother and son from India. We were astounded at how large the Square was. Someone said as large as 60 soccer fields. We walked all around it. I saw the Monument of the People's Heroes as well as the famous building with the large picture of Mao. There were hundreds (thousands?) of people gathered around the flag for the ceremony. However our group seemed to be the center of attention. We were shocked at the fact that everyone seemed local or at least from China. The paparatzi was all around and I was asked to take pictures with many people; not counting the people that just snapped pictures of me.
Later I took a taxi back to near my hotel. I had dinner at a nearby restaurant but I am not sure of most of the food I ate there.
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