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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!