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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nan Guan Park 2008

Ni hao!
My favorit park in our neighborhood is The Nan Guan Park in Beijing. I go there for a walks every day. Few people go out of their way to discover this stamp-sized park near the Russian embassy area, so it has a nice, local feel. The landscaping appears to have been done by some latter day Chinese Gaudi working entirely with bathroom tile.

Nanguan Park's beauty relies on the plants to create the scenery. In order to cater to the tourists, the park has set up the children’s playground, open dance pool, adults’ gym area such colorful entertainment items.

In Beijing, it sometimes happens that you need to spend your day in a green spot and relax. Although there are a lot of parks, not all of them are as nice as Nanguan Park. The artificial park was built some decades ago, but the landscaping looks very natural. The park contains a pleasant artificial lake with some trees around it, which adds to the serene atmosphere. It is near the Russian Embassy and some great Russian restaurants, including my personal favorit The White Knights. There is no entrance fee.

Most famous parks in Beijing are much larger and more popular. The Tourists go to parks like Ditan Park, Ritan Park, Beihai Park and Jingshan Park to see these more visited ones. I strongly recommend a visit to this charming local park to get the true feeling of what parks are about in Beijing.

 Nan Guan Gong Yuan 南馆公园. Originally built in 1956, and reconstructed June until August 2002 by Garden Bureau of Dongcheng District, Beijing.

Nan Guan Park is the first ecological water garden using reclaimed water. A reclaimed water treatment station of 720 square meters is built inside the park, which supply the water for construction of water spaces, irrigation of trees and flowers and cleaning of park after processing domestic sewage from neighboring residential quarter into first level water.

The park has water sights of natural lakes, bridge, fountains and falls. It is a public park of 4.000 square meters. Lovely!

Zai jian!


Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Hutongs 2008

Ni hao!
The Hutongs 2008. I love walking the narrow hutongs of Beijing. History of ancient life in this city. Hutongs (simplified Chinese: 胡同; traditional Chinese: 衚衕; pinyin: hútòng; Wade–Giles: hu-t'ung) are a type of narrow streets or alleys, commonly associated with northern Chinese cities, most prominently Beijing.
In Beijing, hutongs are alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard Residences. Many neighbourhoods were formed by joining one siheyuan to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another. The word hutong is also used to refer to such neighbourhoods.
Since the mid-20th century, the number of Beijing hutongs has dropped dramatically as they are demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Qing court was disintegrating as China’s dynastic era came to an end. The traditional arrangement of hutongs was also affected. Many new hutongs, built haphazardly and with no apparent plan, began to appear on the outskirts of the old city, while the old ones lost their former neat appearance. The social stratification of the residents also began to evaporate, reflecting the collapse of the feudal system.
Many such hutong-like areas have been demolished. During the period of the Republic of China from 1911 to 1948, society was unstable, fraught with civil wars and repeated foreign invasions. Beijing deteriorated, and the conditions of the hutongs worsened.
Siheyuans previously owned and occupied by single families were subdivided and shared by many households, with additions tacked on as needed, built with whatever materials were available. The 978 hutongs listed in Qing Dynasty records swelled to 1,330 by 1949.
Today, in some hutongs, such as those in Da Shi Lan, the conditions remain poor.
Following the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, many of the old hutongs of Beijing disappeared, replaced by wide boulevards and high rises. Many residents left the lanes where their families lived for generations for apartment buildings with modern amenities. In Xicheng District, for example, nearly 200 hutongs out of the 820 it held in 1949 have disappeared.
However, many of Beijing’s ancient hutongs still stand, and a number of them have been designated protected areas. The older neighborhoods survive today, offering a glimpse of life in the capital city as it has been for generations.
Many hutongs, some several hundred years old, in the vicinity of the Bell Tower and Drum Tower and Shichahai Lake are preserved amongst recreated contemporary two- and three-storey versions.This area abounds with tourists, many of which tour the quarter in pedicabs.
Today, some hutongs are home to celebrities and even officials. After the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests, Zhao Ziyang spent his fifteen years of house arrest inside a hutong. Zhao's hutong had previously been occupied by one of Empress Dowager Cixi's hairdressers.
Hutongs represent an important cultural element of the city of Beijing. Thanks to Beijing’s long history and status as capital for six dynasties, almost every hutong has its anecdotes, and some are even associated with historic events. In contrast to the court life and elite culture represented by the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, and the Temple of Heaven, the hutongs reflect the culture of grassroots Beijingers. The hutongs are residential neighborhoods which still form the heart of Old Beijing. Old hutongs!

Zai jian!


Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Great Wall At Badaling 2008

Ni hao!

My second time on The Great Wall at Badaling in Beijing. They say in China that you are not a man until you have climbed The Great Wall. Maybe I am twice a man now!
The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, generally built along an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China in part to protect the Chinese Empire or its prototypical states against intrusions by various nomadic groups or military incursions by various warlike peoples or forces.
Several walls were being built as early as the 7th century BC; these, later joined together and made bigger and stronger, are now collectively referred to as the Great Wall.

Especially famous is the wall built between 220–206 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. Little of that wall remains. Since then, the Great Wall has on and off been rebuilt, maintained, and enhanced; the majority of the existing wall are from the Ming Dynasty.

The main Great Wall line stretches from Shanhaiguan in the east, to Lop Lake in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. A comprehensive archaeological survey, using advanced technologies, has concluded that the Ming walls measure 8,850 km (5,500 mi). This is made up of 6,259 km (3,889 mi) sections of actual wall, 359 km (223 mi) of trenches and 2,232 km (1,387 mi) of natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers. Another archaeological survey found that the entire wall with all of its branches measure out to be 21,196 km (13,171 mi).

While some portions north of Beijing and near tourist centers have been preserved and even extensively renovated, in many locations the Wall is in disrepair. Those parts might serve as a village playground or a source of stones to rebuild houses and roads. Sections of the Wall are also prone to graffiti and vandalism. Parts have been destroyed because the Wall is in the way of construction. More than 60 km (37 mi) of the wall in Gansu province may disappear in the next 20 years, due to erosion from sandstorms. In places, the height of the wall has been reduced from more than 5 metres (16 feet) to less than 2 metres (6.6 ft). The square lookout towers that characterize the most famous images of the wall have disappeared completely. Many western sections of the wall are constructed from mud, rather than brick and stone, and thus are more susceptible to erosion. In August 2012, a 30-meter (98 ft) section of the wall in north China's Hebei province collapsed after days of continuous heavy rains.
The Great Wall, one of the greatest wonders of the world, was listed as a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1987. Just like a gigantic dragon, the Great Wall winds up and down across deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus, stretching approximately 8,851.8 kilometers (5,500 miles) from east to west of China.

With a history of more than 2000 years, some of the sections are now in ruins or have disappeared. However, it is still one of the most appealing attractions all around the world owing to its architectural grandeur and historical significance.

The pictures are my original and personal for you to see and not to copy.

Other purposes of the Great Wall have included border controls, allowing the imposition of duties on goods transported along the Silk Road, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration.

Furthermore, the defensive characteristics of the Great Wall were enhanced by the construction of watch towers, troop barracks, garrison stations, signaling capabilities through the means of smoke or fire, and the fact that the path of the Great Wall also served as a transportation corridor. When China opened its borders to foreign visitors after its defeat in the Opium Wars, the Great Wall became a main attraction for tourists. The travelogues of the later 19th century further enhanced the reputation and the mythology of the Great Wall, such that in the 20th century, a persistent misconception exists about the Great Wall of China being visible from the Moon or even Mars. Mars?
Zai jian!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Prince Gong Mansion 2008

Ni hao!
My visit to The Prince Gong Mansion in Beijing 2008. The Prince Gong Mansion (Chinese: 恭王府; pinyin: Gōng Wáng Fǔ) is located in the western part of central Beijing, China, north of the Shichahai Lake.
Consisting of large mansions in the typical siheyuan layout and gardens, the Prince Gong Mansion is known as one of the most ornate and extravagant residence compounds in all of Beijing. It is now a museum. Some of my Pictures from this visit is shown here.

Prince Gong's Mansion is one of the most exquisite and best-preserved imperial mansions in Beijing and used to house several families, and has a total area of 60,000 square metres.
The mansion buildings are located in the south; the gardens are in the north. The buildings include several siheyuan courtyards, two story buildings, and even a grand Peking opera house.

In addition to the mansion, there is a 28,000-square-metre garden, with twenty scenic spots, pavilions, artificial hills including rock originating from the Taihu Lake in Jiangsu, and ponds.

There is a 8-meter-long stele which has the character 福 (fú: good fortune), carved based on the calligraphy of the Kangxi Emperor on it.

Since 2005 the mansion has undergone renovation worth 200 million yuan. In November 2006 restoration works started on the buildings. The mansion reopened as the Gong Wang Fu museum on August 24, 2008. It will display noble families' lives and aspects of the Qing Dynasty.

The Peking opera house inside the mansion not only stages Beijing opera performances, but also other prominent forms of Chinese opera as well.

In August 2008, the Kunqu performance group from the "Jiangsu Kunqu House" performed at the Prince Gong Mansion for a week's run with their program Floating Dreams. American soprano Renée Fleming was among the audience at the opening.

The Prince Gong Mansion was constructed in 1777 during the Qing Dynasty for Heshen, a prominent court official in the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. From a young age, Heshen earned the favour of the Qianlong Emperor and he rose swiftly through the ranks in the imperial administration to become one of the top and wealthiest officials in Qianlong's court.
In 1799, Qianlong's successor, the Jiaqing Emperor, accused Heshen of corruption and had him executed and confiscated his property. The mansion was given to Prince Qing (庆郡王), the 17th and youngest son of the Qianlong Emperor.
In 1851, the Xianfeng Emperor assigned it to his brother Yixin, Prince Gong. The mansion is named after this Prince Gong.

In 1921, after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, Prince Gong's grandson offered the property as a mortgage to the Benedictine Order of the Catholic Church.

The Benedictines invested significant resources into restoring the badly dilapidated mansion for use as a university. It was then known as Furen Catholic University until the monks were evicted from China in 1951. The former Fu Jen campus was converted into Beijing Normal University, and then the Chinese Music Academy.
During the Cultural Revolution, the building was used by the Beijing Air Conditioning Factory.
In the 1980s it had a new revival.
In 1982 it has been declared as one of the Chinese National Cultural Heritages in Beijing. Since November 1996, the buildings and the gardens have become a tourist attraction. Great!

Zai Jian!


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Restaurants In Beijing 2008

Ni hao!
There are some 60.000 restaurants in Beijing! I have only dined at a smaller number of them and try to eat different food from the 8 main chinese cuisines. I like korean food too!
Cuisines from many different cultures permeate the Beijing dining scene. With literally thousands of restaurants available, dining choices are practically unlimited. And the best part is that you can splurge at a fancy restaurant or dine supremely well (any much more cheaply) at any of the smaller family-run operations located all over the city.

Beijing cuisine (Chinese: 北京菜; pinyin: Běijīng cài), also known as Jing cuisine (Chinese: 京菜; pinyin: jīng cài; literally "cuisine of the capital") and Mandarin cuisine, is the cuisine of Beijing.

As Beijing has been the capital of China for centuries, its cuisine is influenced by culinary traditions from all over China, but the style that has the greatest influence on Beijing cuisine is that of the eastern coastal province of Shandong. Beijing cuisine has itself, in turn, also greatly influenced other Chinese cuisines, particularly the cuisine of Liaoning, the Chinese imperial cuisine, and the Chinese aristocrat cuisine.

Another tradition that influenced Beijing cuisine (as well as influenced by the latter itself) is the Chinese imperial cuisine that originated from the "Emperor's Kitchen" (Chinese: 御膳房; pinyin: yùshànfáng), which referred to the cooking facilities inside the Forbidden City, where thousands of cooks from different parts of China showed their best culinary skills to please the imperial family and officials.

Therefore, it is sometimes difficult to determine the actual origin of a dish as the term "Mandarin" is generalised and refers not only to Beijing, but other provinces as well.

However, some generalisation of Beijing cuisine can be characterised as follows: Foods that originated in Beijing are often snacks rather than main courses, and they are typically sold by small shops or street vendors.

There is emphasis on dark soy paste, sesame paste, sesame oil, and scallions, and fermented tofu is often served as a condiment. In terms of cooking techniques, methods relating to different ways of frying are often used. There is less emphasis on rice as an accompaniment as compared to many other regions in China, as local rice production in Beijing is limited by the relatively dry climate.
Dishes in Beijing cuisine that are served as main courses are mostly from other Chinese cuisines, and some of the following in particular have been central to the formation of Beijing cuisine.

Huaiyang cuisine has been praised since ancient times in China, and it was a general practice for an official travelling to Beijing to take up a new post to bring along with him a chef specialising in Huaiyang cuisine. When these officials had completed their terms in the capital and returned to their native provinces, most of the chefs they brought along often remained in Beijing. They opened their own restaurants or were hired by wealthy locals.

The imperial clan of the Ming Dynasty, the House of Zhu, who had ancestry from Jiangsu, also contributed greatly in introducing Huaiyang cuisine to Beijing when the capital was moved from Nanjing to Beijing in the 15th century, because the imperial kitchen was mainly Huaiyang style.

The element of traditional Beijing culinary and gastronomical cultures of enjoying artistic performances such as Beijing opera while dining directly developed from the similar practice in the culture of Jiangsu and Huaiyang cuisines. Chinese Islamic cuisine is another important component of Beijing cuisine, and was first prominently introduced when Beijing became the capital of the Yuan Dynasty.

However, the most significant contribution to the formation of Beijing cuisine came from Shandong cuisine, as most chefs from Shandong came to Beijing en masse during the Qing Dynasty.

Unlike the earlier two cuisines, which were brought by the ruling class such as nobles, aristocrats and bureaucrats, and then spread to the general populace, the introduction of Shandong cuisine begun with serving the general populace, with much wider market segment, from wealthy merchants to the working class.

The red lanterns that line Dongzhimen Nei Dajie turn on each night about an hour before sun down, marking the rebirth of Beijing's most celebrated dining experience: Gui Jie.

Although it's known as "Ghost Street" because of the ghostly spectacle of the grocery and produce night market formerly located here, Gui Jie is now one of the most alive places you can find in the city.
Stretching over one kilometer from Dongzhimen Bridge to Jiaodaokou Dongdajie, this is the only street in Beijing that truly never sleeps.
Guijie is a 24-hour celebration of Chinese cuisine, with hungry patrons arriving anytime from noon to 4am to chow down on the street where some of Beijing's best loved specialties were created. Home to more than 200 restaurants, you can sample almost anything here, from Sichuan shuizhuyu and malatang to the rich taste of grilled seafood chuan'er and Peking duck. City Weekend helps you navigate some of the street's best tasting treats. Nice treats!
Zai jian!


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Drum And Bell Tower 2008

Ni hao!
Drum And Bell Tower was also one of my visits in Beijing 2008.
Gulou (Chinese: 鼓楼; pinyin: Gǔlóu), the drum tower of Beijing, is situated at the northern end of the central axis of the Inner City to the north of Di'anmen Street. Originally built for musical reasons, it was later used to announce the time and is now a tourist attraction.
Zhonglou (Chinese: 钟楼; pinyin: Zhōnglóu), the bell tower of Beijing, stands closely behind the drum tower.
Together with the drum tower, they provide an overview of central Beijing and before the modern era, they both dominated Beijing's ancient skyline.

Bells and drums were musical instruments in ancient China. Later they were used by government and common people as timepieces. The Bell and Drum towers were central to official timekeeping in China in the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.
The Bell and Drum Towers continued to function as the official timepiece of Beijing until 1924, when the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty was forced to leave the Forbidden City and western-style clockwork was made the official means of time-keeping.
The Drum Tower was built in 1272 during the reign of Kublai Khan, at which time it stood at the very heart of the Yuan capital Dadu.
At that time it was known as the Tower of Orderly Administration (Qizhenglou). In 1420, under the Ming Emperor Yongle, the building was reconstructed to the east of the original site and in 1800 under the Qing Emperor Jiaqing, large-scale renovations were carried out. In 1924, Feng Yuxiang removed the official status of the towers, replacing them with western time-keeping methods, and renamed the building "Mingchilou", or the "tower of clarifying shame".
Objects related to the Eight-Power Allied Forces' invasion of Beijing and later the May 30 Massacre of 1925 were put on display, turning the towers into a museum.
Nowadays, the upper story of the building serves as the People's Cultural Hall of the East City District. The Drum tower is a two-story building made of wood with a height of 47 meters. In ancient times the upper story of the building housed 24 drums, of which only one survives.
Nearby stands the Bell Tower, a 33-meter-high edifice with gray walls and a green glazed roof. In the 1980s, after much repair, the Bell and Drum Towers were opened to tourists.
This happened after my visit, but is added later. On August 9, 2008 in the People's Republic of China, two American tourists and their Chinese tour guide were stabbed at the historic Beijing Drum Tower; one of the tourists was killed.

The assailant then committed suicide by jumping from the tower. The incident occurred during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

The incident has been described as isolated since attacks on foreigners while visiting China are rare.

Three people were stabbed in Beijing, China, on August 9, 2008, by 47-year-old Tang Yongming of Hangzhou, while visiting the 13th-century Drum Tower in Beijing during the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The victims were Todd Bachman, a prominent horticulturalist from Lakeville, Minnesota, his wife Barbara, and their female Chinese national tour guide.

Todd Bachman, who died in the attack, was the father of American athlete Elisabeth Bachman and the father-in-law of Team USA men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon. Barbara Bachman was severely wounded but survived the attack. The attacker then leaped to his death from a 40-metre (130 ft) high balcony on the Drum Tower. US Olympic Committee Chairman Peter Ueberroth and US President George W. Bush both offered their condolences.

Tang Yongming spent most of his life in the outskirts of Hangzhou, and was a metal presser at the Hangzhou Meter Factory for more than twenty years. He had no previous criminal record, according to investigators.

Investigators reported that Tang was distraught over family problems. A colleague who knew Tang said that he had "an unyielding mouth", "grumbled a great deal", and was "very cynical". Another former co-worker said Tang 'had a quick temper and was always complaining about society". Police report that Tang went through his second divorce in 2006 and grew increasingly despondent when his 21-year-old son started getting into trouble. The son was detained in May 2007 on suspicion of fraud, then received a suspended prison sentence in March 2008 for theft.

Zai Jian!