Wudaoying Hutong Cafes

On April 27, 2012, in Beijing, China Travel Gossip, More Places of Interest, by Jack Li

Hutongs are excellent places to see the city’s old streets if you travel to Beijing with some superb Beijing tours operating in and around different hutongs. Stepping off the subway at Yonghegong Lama Temple tourists will encounter over the road from the temple, a maze of amazing (pun intended) cafes in the Wudaoying Hutong. This […]

Hutongs are excellent places to see the city’s old streets if you travel to Beijing with some superb Beijing tours operating in and around different hutongs. Stepping off the subway at Yonghegong Lama Temple tourists will encounter over the road from the temple, a maze of amazing (pun intended) cafes in the Wudaoying Hutong. This hutong is recognizable with its large gate and is the ideal place to have a beverage if you want to waken your senses in this transcendent location.

Sirena Bar is simply complements the alternative and recently regenerated nature of the hutong. Influenced by the Japanese ‘Hello Kitty’ franchise, Beijing has leapt on board to embrace the feline variety. The owners of the cafes have been successful with their venture with the café going from strength to strength with the café currently home to nine cats. Customers can choose to sit near the bar where it is likely you can spot a silky-smooth Siamese cat perched on rest. Yet, if in a small party, you could always hide on the couches upstairs which is pleasantly lit by natural light. The cats are supposedly kept away from the kitchen area for hygiene reasons, but because the cats generally lounge freely in the café, if you have an allergy towards cats, this place may not be ideal.

Sirena’s somewhat Mediterranean appearance with white walls and blue fittings gives the feeling of being in a quaint village which it a wonderful contrast to the hutong outside. The cafes along Wudaoying Hutong are definitely special in how they all have a unique presence. In contrast to Sirena’s bright façade, a few doors away is a bar with has a dark vampire theme with blood-entitled cocktails. If you like the sounds Sirena Bar’s appearance (but you are not a fan of cats), then Sand Pebbles Lounge is might appeal. This fresh-looking café serves Mexican/American-style food with a refreshing seaside décor to match which is quite a change from Chinese cuisine or fast-food joints.

Wudaoying Hutong does have a few eating places, although surrounding areas might be best if you are looking for cheaper and more localized dishes. Recommendations down the hutong include; the Vineyard, The Veggie Table and the V.A. (‘vanguard’) Bar. The only thing truly in common with these establishments is the letter ‘v’; apart that they all provide express their distinct vibes – The Vineyard with its romantic air, The Veggie Table for those who like their greens and the VA for its jazz music.

Due to the casual atmosphere of the Wudaoying Hutong, this unsurprisingly attracts many liberal-minded individuals and or backpackers. Thus logic follows this, and there are subsequently quite a few hostels to be found around the hutong. The Confucius International Youth Hostel is situated on Wudaoying Hutong and the Lama Temple International Youth Hostel is close by. Another option is to have a read of the Beijing hotels listings for those who prefer a little extra comfort and privacy.

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Hotel or Hostel?

On April 26, 2012, in Accomodation, China Travel Gossip, Travel Info, by Jack Li

When you travel to Beijing on a budget and you don’t need the comfort of a hotel, especially younger travelers and people who travel alone might choose a hostel instead. Compared to hotel prices the shared rooms are quite cheap. Sizes vary between four and ten bed rooms, often separated by gender. For a little […]

When you travel to Beijing on a budget and you don’t need the comfort of a hotel, especially younger travelers and people who travel alone might choose a hostel instead. Compared to hotel prices the shared rooms are quite cheap. Sizes vary between four and ten bed rooms, often separated by gender. For a little more privacy many hostels also have single, double, triple or even luxury rooms with private en suite bathrooms and in some places you can even find family rooms. The community areas and restaurants/food areas/kitchens are very often a place where travelers can get in touch easily, so in hostels there is no need to spend time alone. Maybe you’ll even find other nice people to go on some Beijing tours together.

What’s important, no matter if you choose a hotel or a hostel, is the location and there is no perfect place for everybody. It depends on your interests, what your plans are during the day and how you want to spend your evenings. If you like to stay out late to go to some bars or clubs you might want to look for an accommodation near bar areas. The subway only operates until close to midnight so after that you can either walk or take a taxi. For day time activities a close by subway station is in any case a big plus.

It’s only natural that a hostel is louder than in a small hotel, with people arriving and leaving all the time. For people who have a light sleep it’s advisable to bring some ear plugs and, well, common bathrooms and showers are just not the same as your own private bathroom at home. For some people this might need some time getting used to. Another good advice (especially for girls) is to bring enough tissues or to buy toilet paper there because in the common bathrooms it’s usually not provided.

In international hostels the majority of people working at the reception desk speak English and will be prepared to give you information and advice. It’s usually not a problem to pay by credit card but keep in mind that you have to pay a deposit (about twice the room rate). Services most hostels offer are free sheets, towels and wireless internet (although not always a good and fast connection), luggage storage and a safe for valuables. Some also offer bike rentals, airport pickup etc.

Another great point about hostels that many hotels don’t offer are events and activities, such as Chinese language or history classes, Tai Chi classes, barbecue or dumpling evenings are free to join for guests. And you can also book group tours to tourist attraction such as the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs, but even to places further away like Tibet many hostels have special tour offers.

Bigger hostels offer western food, like pizza or pasta usually at reasonable prices but still, local food is most of the time a bit cheaper and while you’re in China why would you not eat some Chinese food? Breakfast is not offered in all hostels and that’s also the case with self-service kitchens. But in the morning there are many food stands all over the city to get you a fresh and most of the time a warm breakfast.

Concerning the interior of many Beijing hostels you can see the Asian influence but most are furnished with a colorful mixture of all kinds of different styles not always with matching colors or design. In Beijing there are well over a hundred hostels but if you still prefer to stay in one of the Beijing Hotels the choice is even greater.

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‘Sounds Peachy!’

On April 26, 2012, in Festivals, Nature Scenery, Tours, by Jack Li

If you are going to travel to Beijing around springtime, why not stop-off at Pinggu. Not to be fooled with the conventional botanical garden shows, the Pinggu Peach Flowers Festival is an annual springtime event which allows people to admire the blossoming local peach trees. This is an extremely popular event that spans a few […]

If you are going to travel to Beijing around springtime, why not stop-off at Pinggu. Not to be fooled with the conventional botanical garden shows, the Pinggu Peach Flowers Festival is an annual springtime event which allows people to admire the blossoming local peach trees. This is an extremely popular event that spans a few weekends in the month of April. Well-known for its peaches, Pinggu village sits in the biggest fruit-growing zone of the Beijing area. Travelling to the village takes approximately two hours from Beijing. What makes Pinngu a handy location is that it is en route to Laoxiangfeng on the 918 bus, so travellers can always combine the two in the same day. If you prefer not to travel independently, China tours can provide useful services concerning this matter.

The festival is a laidback affair with people of all ages enjoying themselves; making it an excellent place to bring the family. Across the road from the peach trees, there are some stalls where you can buy local farm produce and also where the toilets are situated. Interestingly, the festival has gained recognition throughout the community with the local television channel, BTV, hosting range of acts through the proceedings. ‘Community’ is certainly a key word because at the festival this is where you will discover the real warmth of northern hospitality. Indeed, from a foreigner’s viewpoint, visiting the festival gives a chance to really engage with local life with all its similarities and contrasts to your own homeland. Along one of the lanes which intersect through the peach-tree field, you can find a number of stalls which sell, make and cook various products. A couple of venders, in particular, create some unbelievably life-like bugs (such as butterflies and crickets) out of reeds which are a must-see. In any case, with lots of fairground-style games, the Pinggu Festival is again a great place to have a fun day out with friends and family alike.

Transportation costs notwithstanding, the visit to the festival can be relatively cost-effective when there. You do not need to purchase anything, for example, plus you can just wander around and admire the wonderful flowery setting which has an outstanding mountainous backdrop. Unfortunately, you may not be able to eat any fresh peaches picked from the local field as the peach harvest occurs towards August/September time. The fields have, nevertheless, a typically Chinese appearance with working stilted-huts dotted throughout. In addition to the peach trees, the fields also comprise of other crops such as onions which in itself demonstrates the resourcefulness of the sector which feeds the nation as a whole. After visiting the festival, it does feel somewhat of a treat to see rural life in China as opposed to the everyday city existence. Subsequently, it is highly recommended that if booking China flights in the near future, to contemplate what else the country offers besides the more famous touristic highlights.

 

 

 

The Mystical Laoxiangfeng

On April 25, 2012, in Adventure Trip, More Places of Interest, Nature Scenery, by Jack Li

This article refers to just one of countless scenic spots which can be viewed at leisure along your China travel experience. Roughly 80 kilometres from Beijing, Laoxiangfeng is a prime location for travellers to take a break from the busy city-life. Encompassing 4,000 hectares, Laoxiangfeng is certainly a playground for the outdoor-types. To get to this […]

This article refers to just one of countless scenic spots which can be viewed at leisure along your China travel experience. Roughly 80 kilometres from Beijing, Laoxiangfeng is a prime location for travellers to take a break from the busy city-life. Encompassing 4,000 hectares, Laoxiangfeng is certainly a playground for the outdoor-types. To get to this beautiful location, you can either consider  China tours or alternatively take bus number 5 to Laoxiangfeng (before taking the 918 bus from Dongzhimenwai-Guanzhuang Daokou). From the mountain gate, walkers will also need to pay an admission fee  (approx.20rmb)  and the mountain park stays open from 8am to 6:30pm.

According to Chinese legend, Laoxiangfeng Shan (‘Shan’ which means mountain) is where the goddess Bixia Yuanjun played an important role in local folklore. The story goes that the two gods, Bixia Yuanjun and Panshan Laozu were vying to ride the holy elephant. A dice was eventually thrown leaving Bixia Yuanjun as the winner. Thereafter, she would care for the elephant around the area which was given the name ‘Laoxiangfeng’ (‘Elder Elephant Peak’). Needless to say, by using your imaginative powers, you will be able to discern the peak into the shape of an elephant! Interestingly, the locality also incorporates the themes of friendship and loyalty. For example, Bixia Yuanjun, one day, protected the elephant by breaking the claw off the tiger which attacked it and that peak would later become ‘Tiger Claw Peak’ (also a good spot to view). Another tale mentions of a couple who wanted to learn from Bixia Yuanjun; yet because the goddess thought they were unready she gave them a test. The couple failed the test and they were tragically turned into stone.

On a practical level, walking up the mountain is made enjoyable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the path is wide and flat for the majority of the distance so it is not especially strenuous on the knees. However, the path does get steeper when heading towards the peak and note that the path also acts as a road, although cars are relatively infrequent. Secondly, there are ample picnic areas and toilet facilities along the route (which in itself indicates the popularity of the area). Nearer the bottom of the route, there are gaping valleys which provide excellent opportunities to take pictures of the surroundings and have lunch under the canopied sitting areas.

As a little extra, the walk is made rather interesting by reading the many descriptions along the way. In particular, some of the indigenous flora takes precedence in the local legends of the mountain. One tale mentions, for example, how the fairy of the chrysanthemums left her garland in the ground with later transformed in the radiant flowers which can be seen today. Without doubt, the vegetation of Laoxiangfeng is special for locals and visitors alike. Locals, for one, can be seen collecting mushrooms on the wooded slopes of the mountain (which in turn can be bought in the store at the bottom of the peak). The nearest place to Laoxiangfeng is Xiaoyuzi Village; but if you are seeking China hotels, Dahuashan Town, in general, may have more choice.

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A Visit to Jade Lake Park

On April 25, 2012, in Beijing, Festivals, Parks & Gardens, by Jack Li

When you travel to Beijing, you will see that there are lots of parks offering locals and tourists enough opportunity for some outdoor activity, a walk around a lake, family time and a nice scenery to take pictures. If you want to learn about the country and culture you can get a lot of information […]

When you travel to Beijing, you will see that there are lots of parks offering locals and tourists enough opportunity for some outdoor activity, a walk around a lake, family time and a nice scenery to take pictures. If you want to learn about the country and culture you can get a lot of information on organized China tours where you can rely on the tour guide’s knowledge. For the less informative but more relaxing part of your holiday you might take the opportunity to visit Beijings parks. There are many parks with their own atmosphere, so they are not just all the same.

Yuyuantan Park (Jade Lake Park) is situated in the western part of Beijing and is surrounded by other places of interest such as the CCTV Tower west of the park or the Millennium Monument and the Military Museum close to the south entrance. Two man-made lakes build the center of this municipal park which is a great place to visit especially in spring time during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival starting towards the end of March. There are more than 2000 cherry trees mainly in the north western area of the park. Apart from the different types of cherry trees offering great scenery for pictures you will also find many other types of trees, including bonsais, and also rare stones in the park.

There are several entrance gates; the general admission fee is 10 RMB, half price for students. The park opens between 6:00 and 6:30 am and closes between 20:30 and 22:30 pm, depending on the season, and the last admission is at least an hour before closing time. It might seem annoying that you have to pay money to enter a regular municipal park but this guarantees that the park it very well cared for and it’s also less crowded than some parks where there is no entrance fee.

Around the lakes and most of all around the entrance gates you will find lots of stands to buy souvenirs, things for kids and adults, dried fruit and other snacks. And you will also pass several food areas where you can get all different kinds of warm and cold meals with tables to sit down to enjoy your meal. You can try out things like grilled scorpions which aren’t really typical for this area but still an experience for visitors. There is also a big variety of sweet treats from different countries, like ice-cream, churros, crêpes, sugar cane juice, cotton candy or fried durian fruit.

Currently the eastern lake is drained for construction but that doesn’t affect any of the other activities going on in the park, like for example photography contests or auctions of pictures. Of course, more people stay in the western half of the park because of the better view on the lake. There you can rent boats, have a picnic, do some outdoor activities, just go for a walk and enjoy the great view. Many Beijing hotels are in the vicinity of the big parks offering some nature just around the corner.

The National Art Museum of China

On April 24, 2012, in Beijing, China Attractions, Museums, by Jack Li

All people who travel have different plans, interests and expectations. Still, when you travel to Beijing few people will leave out famous Wangfujing Street on their Beijing tours. So if you’re interested in culture and contemporary art the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) is a great place to visit on the same day because […]

All people who travel have different plans, interests and expectations. Still, when you travel to Beijing few people will leave out famous Wangfujing Street on their Beijing tours. So if you’re interested in culture and contemporary art the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) is a great place to visit on the same day because it’s located right at the north end of Wangfujing Street. There is no general entrance fee; you just need to present your passport at the ticket booth. Depending on the temporary exhibitions there might be an extra fee but that’s not generally the case. At the entrance desk you can also leave bags and jackets without paying a fee.

The museum was built in 1959 for the tenth anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. It was finally completed and opened to the public in 1962. Since then the institution has been a center for research and exhibition and is the most important institute for art in China. It displays mainly modern and contemporary art works by national artist, not only paintings but also photographs, calligraphy, printing art, ceramics and sculptures. Occasionally, pieces of art from abroad are displayed and there have also been numerous international exhibitions.

The main body of the gallery is built in the style of a traditional Chinese pavilion with a roof out of yellow tiles and a title board at the entrance gate which was inscribed by Mao Zedong. The inside of the building is very modern and equipped with the newest technologies after undergoing major renovation in 2002/2003. The museum consists of three main exhibition floors, the first, third and fifth floor with high ceilings leaving enough space even for very large paintings. There are 17 exhibition halls covering a total area of 8,300 square meters.

Visitors hoping to learn about the development of Chinese art in the past centuries won’t find a lot of information about it. This might come as a surprise to some so it’s always a good advice to check out the gallery’s homepage to find out about the current exhibitions. Some are only displayed for no longer than a week and others last up to a month but rarely longer than that. But therefore the temporary exhibitions with works of renowned Chinese artists are hard to find in other places, especially in such dimensions. Moreover, the changing themes and pieces of art also keep it interesting for local visitors.

For people interested in art and especially in contemporary art this place is worth a visit although it helps to know in advance what to expect. And to find out more about Chinese culture and history there is more than enough opportunity to learn when going on China tours. In all bigger cities there are definitely numerous museums and exhibitions for all kinds of interests.

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Zhongshan Park (Beijing)

On April 24, 2012, in Beijing, Historical Relics, Parks & Gardens, by Jack Li

Over the past week, Beijing certainly has experienced its fair share of rain which in turn has provided the city’s parks with a well-deserved drink. Combined with this replenishment and the warm springtime weather, it makes sense to visit one of the city’s green gems; namely, Zhongshan Park. The park is conveniently located next to the Forbidden […]

Over the past week, Beijing certainly has experienced its fair share of rain which in turn has provided the city’s parks with a well-deserved drink. Combined with this replenishment and the warm springtime weather, it makes sense to visit one of the city’s green gems; namely, Zhongshan Park. The park is conveniently located next to the Forbidden City with the nearest subway station being Tiananmen West on Line 1. If you intend to see the other more renowned sights on your travel to Beijing or have gone on Beijing tours in the area, it would also be an idea to have a glimpse of this treasure in the city center.

On the surface, the park has changed quite a lot. Once, the park was ironically called ‘Central Park’ and then issued the name Zhongshan Park. While in terms of its purpose, the park formerly facilitated different temples going back as far as 1,000 years ago. In spite of its names and purpose changing over the ages, admiration and popularity for the park has still remained constant. Even though this is a park for the public, like many of the famous parks in China anyone visiting will be required to pay a small entrance fee. There are also additional costs for entering some gardens and buildings within the grounds.

Historically, the site was where the emperor would be involved in ceremonies at the Temple of National Prosperity (which became the Temple of Longevity and National Prosperity). The only real reminders of these days are the ancient (and spectacular) cypress trees which parade the vicinity. The centrepiece of the park is, nonetheless, the Altar of Earth and Harvests (built in 1421) which, despite it appearing somewhat empty, held great importance to its Confucian practitioners. The altar’s platform contained five different soils which in turn symbolized five elements (or ‘Wuxing’).

Throughout the country, there are many parks commemorating Zhongshan (or commonly known as Sun-Yat-Sen); China’s first revolutionary leader. This park indeed places much significance on Zhongshan. In particular, when entering the park, you will be able to see an impressive statute of the man himself. To learn more about this man who was instrumental in changing modern China, Zhongshan Hall (just behind the Altar of Earth and Harvests), provides information on his life and works.

Amongst other things, the park is an ideal place for anyone to potter on a sunny day. The plant life is abundant and this is emphasized with the springtime bloom. Nowadays, the park hosts a beautiful array of flowers, (like tulips which were given to the park by the Princess of Holland in 1977). Hence a visit to the park’s greenhouse and its garden bursting with bamboo is an excellent choice for plant-lovers. Throughout the park there are also lots of pavilions, ponds (with unusual fish) and rockeries to admire while you sit and soak up the sun. If you desire a bit more activity, the park has paddle-boats which can be steered around the moat of the Forbidden City (plus, this is a good opportunity to see the Forbidden City at a different angles for those interested in photography!) In short, when booking your Beijing flights, this lesser-known Chinese attraction with all its appealing features should definitely not be overlooked.

 

 

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Beijing Millennium Monument

On April 23, 2012, in Beijing, Modern Architecture, More Places of Interest, by Jack Li

When you travel to Beijing there are more than enough things to do and see. Beijing’s Millennium Monument itself is a great place to see for its unique architectural structure and the interesting exhibitions inside it. But because of its proximity to other cool places you can easily plan one of  your Beijing tours in this […]

When you travel to Beijing there are more than enough things to do and see. Beijing’s Millennium Monument itself is a great place to see for its unique architectural structure and the interesting exhibitions inside it. But because of its proximity to other cool places you can easily plan one of  your Beijing tours in this area and spend half a day or more there. It is easy to find the monument, it’s just around the corner north west of the Military Museum, an interesting museum which can be pretty crowded on the weekend with long lines at the ticket booths. The closest subway station is right in front of the museum (Military Museum station, line 1) and from there it’s not more than a few minutes to walk. The monument is at the south entrance of the really nice Yuyuantan Parkwhere you can go for a walk or rent a boat and if you walk through it to the west gate you are very close to the CCTV tower from where you have a great view over the city on clear days.

The Millennium Monument has a very unique and modern architecture and was built to welcome the year 2000. The monument includes the main stone building in the north and an open space south of it. The main part is a composition of two elements, the three storey immovable foundation with a two story body on top which is designed to rotate 19 degrees. On top of this rotary element is a 27 feet long pointer in a 45 degree angle. It symbolizes China’s people’s spirit of creation and the attitude never to give up. With a weight of 3200 tons this rotating altar is the largest and most important of its kind in the world.

The monument serves more purposes than welcoming the new millennium. It also contains the Beijing World Art Museum wich researches and exhibits foreign art and shows temporary as well as permanent exhibitions, and it also serves as a center for patriotism and art education as well as cultural communication. The temporary exhibitions which are on the first floor are very interesting. It is unfortunate for foreign visitors that all the information provided is in Chinese, so for people who don’t speak Chinese it’s hard to learn anything from the descriptions and additional information.

When you walk up you can get to the center of the foundation holding the ‘masterpiece’ which is the circular Millennium Hall. It contains a great 360 degree frieze showing the past, present and future of Chinese history. The center of the hall consists of a very bright and detailed golden construction and the darker ceiling is decorated with stars. This creates the impression of a complete cosmos inside this circular hall, with the sun in the center and the stars in the dark sky at the same time.

One level above, on top of the foundation, there is a long hallway going once around the rotary construction. It contains 40 bronze statues of important personalities of Chinese history with a short explication in English and in Chinese. The statues lining one side of the hallway were unveiled in 2011 and give a great overview over personalities and milestones in the country’s history. Opposite of the figures there are numerous pictures showing the 56 national minorities of China.

South of the monument is the so called ‘Plaza of Holy Fire’ which is paved with 960 pieces of granite, a symbolic number since China’s territory is in total 9,600,000 square kilometers. It also holds a bronze tunnel inscribed with China’s history, from very early times to the year 2000. There is a large open-air stage for performances and several thousand people can be seated at the monument for events. Even if your Beijing hotel is not in the vicinity of the monument there is no reason not to see it, especially if the weather is good. And if you’re lucky there might even be an event at the Millennium Monument while you’re in Beijing. So, maybe you can take the opportunity to turn a memorable visit into an unforgettable experience.

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Diversity in History

On April 23, 2012, in Beijing, Historical Relics, Museums, by Jack Li

To escape the springtime heat and falling pollen (for hay fever sufferers) on your travel to Beijing, there is always the National Museum of China to try out. This building is directly opposite The Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square and houses some of the best artwork and historical relics the country has […]

To escape the springtime heat and falling pollen (for hay fever sufferers) on your travel to Beijing, there is always the National Museum of China to try out. This building is directly opposite The Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square and houses some of the best artwork and historical relics the country has to offer. What’s more, admission is free but due to the significance of the place; ensure that you bring your passport in order to enter. Queues aren’t too much of an issue as there are plenty of security inspectors on hand. Be sure not to take food and drink into the museum (there is a café and food stalls inside) and avoid using flash on your camera in the exhibits where picture-taking is allowed. Tiananmen East on Line 1 is the nearest subway station and there are many Beijing hotels in relatively close proximity.

The museum formed in 2003 and is the product of two predecessor museums (the Museum of the Chinese Revolution and the National Museum of Chinese History). After which the museum closed for four years and reopened in 2011 with twenty-eight new exhibition halls. The scale of the building (191,900 square meters) means that you could spend a whole day there (or in any case, you could just go to the parts you’re interested in). These facts alone should, hopefully, be reason enough to go and experience the grandeur of the building and its vast collections.

The historical content found at the museum encompasses topics ranging from; prehistoric man in China (the ‘Peking Man’), Neolithic China and all the way through to the dynastic periods. Within this historical timeline, various themes are encountered which highlight the amazing diversity in China’s history. In particular, the prevalence of ceramics is a running theme throughout the historical exhibits. The designs and production of the pottery, for one, are a remarkable indication of the society’s progression down the ages. Even the usage of the numerous ceramic containers reflects the sharing culture in which China adopted thousands of years ago and has continued ever since.

Nevertheless, the exhibits convey an important message insofar as China’s history is multi-layered and colourful. Indeed, sections of the museum which can be highly recommended to view include reading about the country’s unification, international trade, ethnic groups and social reforms. These topics are all extremely thought-provoking and complement China’s historical diversity. Notes, maps and general information pertaining to the infamous Chinese explorer, Zheng He, are available to read. Amongst other things, Zheng He, was noted for sailing as far as Africa in the 15th century! Another particularly interesting aspect which one exhibit draws upon is the prominence gender; with both male and female figures represented (such as a display of figures of ancient female polo players).

To truly appreciate China, then reading about its history might be a good place to start, and the descriptions in the museum can provide a basic overview as they  are written in a concise manner in both Chinese and English. If anything, rather than reading, the majority of your time will most likely be spent by staring at some of the incredible artifacts such as depictions of emperors and jade-fashioned items or a couple of superb terracotta warriors (if you are not going to travel to Xi’an but are considering Beijing flights).

 

 

 

Touring the Church

On April 20, 2012, in Beijing, Historical Relics, More Places of Interest, by Jack Li

As a contrast to the many temples in Beijing the Xishiku Cathedral, usually referred to as Beitang (North Cathedral), located in Xicheng district, stands out as a landmark of the Christian religion. It is the largest and one of the most magnificent catholic churches in Beijing with an impressive architecture and an interesting history. Many […]

As a contrast to the many temples in Beijing the Xishiku Cathedral, usually referred to as Beitang (North Cathedral), located in Xicheng district, stands out as a landmark of the Christian religion. It is the largest and one of the most magnificent catholic churches in Beijing with an impressive architecture and an interesting history. Many China tours offer the opportunity to see different religious sites and to learn about cultural differences. When you’re planning to go on some Beijing tours you should consider stopping by for a short visit.

It was first built by Jesuits on grounds close to the Forbidden City granted by the emperor of that time. It was completed in 1703, called the ‘Savior Church’, but in 1827 the new Qing emperor Daoguang ordered its demolition. It wasn’t until 1866 that a new cathedral was built only to be relocated 21 years later. Following the request of the emperor, the church was moved to its current location in 1887.

Then in 1990, during the anti-imperial and anti-Christian Boxer Uprising, it came under siege but could be protected by a small group of French and Italian marines. They successfully defended the church and the 3000 Chinese Christians holed up inside, seeking shelter from the Boxers. Though the cathedral could be defended it was severely damaged and had to undergo major renovation in the following years.

With this history in mind the view when you enter the gate is even more impressive. Following a path lined with trees you walk straight towards the front façade of the cathedral with its white marble doors and window frames and in total eleven smaller towers. When you walk inside it seems a little smaller compared to the majestic outer appearance but has a nice decoration with colorful windows and statues of saints.

In front of the church there are two Chinese pavilions, one on either side. It makes the impression as if not only different architectural styles blend in but also the different religious believes found a harmony after hundreds of years of difficulties. To Catholics this church might not be the biggest or most impressive cathedral they have ever seen in their lives. But what makes it special is the location in the center of Beijing with an environment that doesn’t seem to match with the architecture. And in contrast to  busy places and crowds of visitors this place has a very quiet and personal atmosphere, leaving room for prayer and consideration.

The grounds of the Church are surrounded by walls, so the only way to enter is the gate in the south. It is easy to get there by subway, the closest station is Xisi station (line 4) and from there it’s not even a ten minute walk. If you want to see the cultural diversity of the city when you travel to Beijing, the North Cathedral is a great place to visit that doesn’t necessarily come to your mind when you think about Asian culture.

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