March 14, 2010

Wuzhen (Simplified Chinese: 乌镇; Traditional Chinese: 烏鎮; pinyin: Wūzhèn) is a historic scenic town, part of Tongxiang, in northern Zhejiang Province, China. It lies within the triangle formed by Hangzhou, Suzhou and Shanghai. Wuzhen’s area is 46.5 square kilometers.
Located in the center of the six ancient towns south of Yangtze River, 17 kilometers (10.56 miles) north of the city of Tongxiang, Wuzhen displays thousands of years of history in its ancient stone bridges floating on mild water, its stone pathways between the mottled walls and its delicate wood carvings. Also, setting it apart from other towns, it gives a unique experience through its profound cultural background.
Mao Dun, a renowned modern Chinese writer, was born in Wuzhen, and his masterpiece, ‘The Lin’s Shop’, describes vividly the life of Wuzhen. In 1991, Wuzhen was authorized as the Provincial Ancient Town of History and Culture, it was ranked first among the six ancient towns south of the Yangtze River.
Wuzhen’s uniqueness lies in its layout, being divided into six districts. These are: traditional workshops district, traditional local-styled dwelling houses district, traditional culture district, traditional food and beverage district, traditional shops and stores district, and water township customs and life district. Wandering along the east-west-east circuit created by these six districts, tourists can enjoy the atmosphere of the traditional cultures and the original ancient features of the town that have been preserved intact.

The Former Residence of Mao Dun

 

Mao Dun Museum in Wuzhen
Picturesque canal in Wuzhen
Street in Wuzhen
Originally built in the mid 19th century covering a total area of 650 square meters (7020 sq ft), the former residence of Mao Dun, a well-known Chinese revolutionary writer, was the Mao family home for many generations and witnessed the growth of this great revolutionist and writer. In 1984, the former residence of Mao Dun was renovated and extended to cover a total area of 1,731.5 square meters (18,700 sq ft) – it opened to the public one year later. In 1988, it was listed as one of the Key State Preserved Relic Units and in 1994 was renamed the Mao Dun Museum of the City of Tongxiang. The house has three exhibition areas: ‘Wuzhen, the Hometown of Mao Dun’, ‘the Way of Mao Dun’, and ‘the Former Residence of Mao Dun (renovated)’. The present Mao Dun Museum can be found to the east of the residence, which used to be Lizhi Shuyuan (Aspiration Academy) where Mao Dun spent his early school years.
[edit]Fanglu Pavilion (Pavilion of Visits to Lu)

The renowned Fanglu Pavilion obtained its name from an accidental meeting between Lu Tong, the owner, and Lu Yu, the Patron Saint of Tea in Tang Dynasty (618-907). It is said that Lu Yu once mistakenly ate some poisonous leaves and was rescued by Lu Tong, who happened to collect tea leaves at that time. In return, Lu Yun taught Lu Tong knowledge of tea and tea-making skills, which resulted in the prosperity of Lu Tong’s teahouse. Suggested by one guest, Lu Tong changed the house’s name to Pavilion of Visits to Lu, to memorize this respectable scholar. Located to the south of Ying Bridge and backing onto the city river, the teahouse enjoys a broad view of Guanqian Street and provides visitors with pleasant relaxation.
[edit]Bridge in Bridge

One of the most extraordinary sites in Wuzhen is the “Bridge in Bridge” created by two ancient bridges, one of which is Tongji Bridge crossing the river from east to west and the other is called Renji Bridge running from south to north and joining the former at one end. Either of two bridges can be seen through the arch of the other, hence the name. Having been rebuilt five times, Tongji Bridge is a 28.4-meter-long (93.1ft) and 3.5-meters-wide (11.4ft) one-curvature arch bridge, with a span of 11.8 meters (38.7ft). Renji Bridge, which has also experienced historical repairs, has a length of 22.6 meters (74.1ft), a width of 2.8 meters (9.2ft) and a span of 8.5 meters (27.9ft).
Visitors may enjoy the demonstration in the traditional workshops district of such famous traditional crafts as the printing and dyeing of blue printed fabrics, the primitive technique of cloth shoes and tobacco-planing, and operate the machines yourself to get an idea of how the original work was carried out over 200 years ago. One may also walk amongst the picturesque moss-covered streets and walls, the houses decorated with exquisitely-carved wooden and stone doors and windows, and the leisurely and quiet life of the local people in the district of traditional local-styled dwelling houses. Sink into the atmosphere of traditional culture, have a cup of chrysanthemum tea and relax by bargaining on various kinds of handicrafts and local products.

March 14, 2010

Lingyin Temple  is a Buddhist temple of the Chan sect located north-west of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China. The temple’s name is commonly literally translated as Temple of the Soul’s Retreat. It is one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China, and contains numerous pagodas and Budddhist grottoes.
The monastery is the largest of several temples in the Wulin Mountains , which also features a large number of grottos and religious rock carvings, the most famous of which is the Feilai Feng (飞来峰; literally “the peak that flew hither”).

The monastery was founded in 328 AD during the Eastern Jin Dynasty by monk Huili, who came from India. From its inception, Lingyin was a famous monastery in the Jiangnan region. At its peak under the Kingdom of Wuyue (907-978), the temple boasted nine multi-storey buildings, 18 pavilions, 72 halls, more than 1300 dormitory rooms, inhabited by more than 3000 monks. Many of the rich Buddhist carvings in the Feilai Feng grottos and surrounding mountains also date from this era.
During the latter Southern Song Dynasty, the monastery was regarded as one of the ten most important temples of the Chan sect in the Jiangnan region. However, its prominence has not saved the temple from marauders. It has been rebuilt no less than sixteen times since then. The current buildings are modern restorations of late Qing buildings. During the Cultural Revolution, the temple and grounds suffered some damage at the hands of Red Guards. However, they escaped large scale destruction partly because of the protection of Premier Zhou Enlai.
Today the temple is thriving as a destination for both pilgrims and tourists. It is regarded as one of the wealthiest monasteries in China, and regular pilgrims have included former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.

The main axis of Lingyin follows a traditional Song dynasty five-hall Chan sect structure. The main axis stretches up the Lingyin Hill. However, it should be noted that the five-hall axis is a recent recreation. Only the front three halls are a part of the Qing dynasty axis.
Hall of the Heavenly Kings
Dhritarashtra, the pipa-playing Heavenly King watching for the East and the wind
Courtyard in front the main hall bordered with trees
Guanyin, a manifestation of the Bodhisattva Avalokite?vara, with relief screen, at the back of the Grand Hall of the Great Sage
The formal entrance of the temple is the Hall of the Heavenly Kings (Chinese: 天王殿; pinyin: Tiānwáng Diàn). This hall is a double-eaved building. The front of the building carries a plaque (Chinese: 云林禅寺; pinyin: Yúnlín Chán Sì; literally “Chan temple of the Clouds and Forests”), written by the Kangxi Emperor. The principal statue in this hall is that of the Maitreya Buddha in his manifestation as the cloth bag monk, or the Laughing Buddha. At the back, facing up the hill, is the Skanda Buddha, or Weituo as he is known in Chinese. This statue dates from the Southern Song Dynasty. Arranged along the left and right are the Four Heavenly Kings. The ceiling is ornately painted and decorated with phoenixes and dragons.
Visitors to the temple are often impressed by the size and majesty of the entrance hall and its statues of the heavenly kings. Indeed, the hall of the Heavenly Kings at the Lingyin Temple is as large or larger than the main hall at many temples, reflecting its status as the centre of Buddhism in south-eastern China.
The Hall of the Heavenly Kings is the formal entrance to the temple. However, this entry has been closed in recent years, with visitors funneled instead through side doors, where separate ticket offices are set up for admission to the temple.
Grand Hall of the Great Sage
The second and principal hall is the Mahavira Hall, or the Grand Hall of the Great Sage (Chinese: 大雄宝殿; pinyin: Dàxíong Bǎodiàn). It is separated from the Hall of the Heavenly Kings by a large courtyard, featuring a raised lawn bordered with trees. To the left of the courtyard stands the Hall of the Five Hundred Arhats. The Grand Hall of the Great Sage is triple eaved and stands 33.6 metres tall. It houses, as is traditional, a statue of Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha. The present statue was carved in 1956 from camphor wood in Tang Dynasty style and coated with 60 taels of gold. It is the largest wooden Buddhist statue in China. At the back of the main statue is a statue of Guanyin, backed by a large screen that features the carved images of some 150 Buddhist personalities, including the pilgrims of the Journey to the West, Daoji, and arhats. Arranged along the sides of the hall are images of the 18 principal arhats, and other prominent Buddhists. The interior of the hall reaches about 30 metres, with a gold-painted ceiling featuring base relief images of traditional Buddhist symbols.
Hall of the Medicine Buddha
Further uphill and behind the main hall is the Hall of the Medicine Buddha (Chinese: 药师殿; pinyin: Yàoshī Diàn), housing a statue of the Bhaisajyaguru Buddha, commonly called the Medicine Buddha.Sutra Library
Uphill from the Hall of the Medicine Buddha is the Sutra Library (Chinese: 藏经楼; pinyin: Cángjīng Lóu). This, and the Huayan Hall behind it, were built from 2000 to 2002 to re-create the five-hall main axis. The Sutra Library does not house a major statue and is not open for worship.
Huayan Hall
The fifth and last hall on the main axis is the Avatamsaka Hall, or Huayan Hall (Chinese: 华严殿; pinyin: Huáyán Diàn). Also built in 2002, this hall houses statues of the three sages of the Avatamsaka Sutra, known as the Huayan Sutra in Chinese – Shakyamuni, Manjusri, and Samantabhadra.
Hall of the Five Hundred Arhats
The Hall of Five Hundred Arhats (Chinese: 五百罗汉堂; pinyin: Wǔbǎi Luóhàn Táng), also a modern addition, faces onto the western side of the court yard in front of the main hall. The building has a complex floor plan, shaped like a Buddhist swastika. Along the arms of the swastika are arranged the five hundred arhats as slightly larger-than-life bronze statues. Each statue is seated on a unique ornate seat. At the centre, where the arms of the swastika join, stands a bronze canopy housing statues of four bodhisattvas representing the four cardinal directions. This is currently the tallest solid bronze structure in the world.

March 10, 2010

Hubei provincial museum of hubei province is the only comprehensive museum, is also the most important cultural relics collection, study and display, mainly for the cultural relics collection, storage, protection, displays and exhibitions of research work. Now building is located the scenery beautiful wuchang shore, wuchang district of wuhan in hubei address DongHuLu 156.
Hubei museum preparation in 1953, “” is at the beginning of foundation was founded in 1953, hubei province people’s science on March 16, approved by the provincial people’s government in the science of hubei province, on the basis of the preparatory establishment, and museum (hubei province and cultural relic management committee of the reconsideration office, 1957 provincial museum was formally established. Since 1959 moved east lake scenic area; the spring Jan 1963 renamed hubei museum, 3000 square meters building built and opening display, January 1999, the construction area of the bells museum built 5717 square meters; In December, 2005, chu cultural centers built open, In September 2007, the new comprehensive gallery opening built.
Currently, the total area of hubei museum 81909 square meters and a building area of exhibition area 49611 square meters, 13427 square meters. Architecture is a full-bodied, with ChuFeng subject, the axial symmetry. Library consists of bells, chu culture, comprehensive display floor, have professional staff of more than 200 people (including research studies, vice librarians and 21), librarians have offices, showrooms, responsibility, coordination, archaeological SheJiaoBu, WenBao center, business department. Belonging to hubei department.
[the] [editing cultural relic.
The possession of hubei province from the original period reflect different historical periods of the social system, social production and social life of all kinds of cultural relics, specimen 14 million pieces (sets), including more than 1,000 primary relics (set), in the museum. These collections from archaeological excavations and most of all, to collect, both rich cultural relics unearthed, bright color, also has the local characteristics, basic reflects the hubei area of ancient Chinese culture, and even in China, the part of the vessels in the history of ancient Chinese culture and has the important status. And the rich cultural relic category of complete, there is main kinds of pottery and porcelain, bronze ware, lacquer wood, collation, weapons, ancient Musical Instruments, ancient calligraphy and painting, numismatics JinYuQi, etc. Collection of yun county whole area, fossils was moonhawk, promoted jian, yuan daiqing of four lovemap is world-famous.
More than 14 million in collections, many are rare curiosa of high-profile and important scientific data. If neolithic jingshan qujialing eggshells painted pottery spinning wheels, Tianmen ShiGuHe culture jade, jade eagle, And the burial site sanqiaohotel dish of shang dynasty unearthed bronze dings, big YuGe and copper ye-tomahawk, With the county of bells unearthed from the warring states zenghou yi tomb of bronze and 16 curving flowers.the curving flowers, 28 accommodation wek-jin longfeng image suitcase, astronomy, The yunmeng sleep in the qin dynasty unearthed tiger legal documents, such as bamboo has high and the extremely important historical, scientific and artistic value.
Cultural relics museum of hubei province level basically has: the warring states period, 1965 promoted in jiangling mountain 1 grave unearthed bronze jian, known as promoted. During the warring states period (in 1978, the chimes with the county zenghou yi tomb, a total of 65 bells unearthed, the total weight of 2500 kilograms. During the warring states period, the chimes with the county in 1978 grouped chimes tomb, 32, unearthed engraved words above wanli. During the warring states of bronze statue, 1978, with the county zenghou yi tomb, honour the dish of hollow out attached by the investment casting technology ACTS. Antlers set in the warring states period, bronze crane, 1978, suizhou zenghou yi tomb excavated, it is a kind of imagination mascot. The big YuGe shang, jade, 1974 closing HuangBei dish the mouth the tomb no.3 unearthed in sanqiaohotel. Bronze, shang percussion, 1977, chung Yang white aegirine is China’s first ever discovered the skin timbals drum. And the tao chicken, circle in the warring states period, the tiger block bird frame drum, 16 day dragon, the northern JinZhan Peggy, lotus, tang dynasty celadons of musicians, Ming FengGuan etc.
Hunan museum of jiangling unearthed bronze sword, promoted a super-duke bronze spear and prince a screen, drawing woodcarving birds jingmen bag of chu “Alexander mound unearthed dowry lines to meet with” chu bamboo slips of judicial documents of lacquer painting, cloud dream sleep out of the tiger qin legal documents, and wuchang bamboo slips unearthed from the land of the church in supine celadon repeated lotus honour had high historical, scientific and artistic value, As the great sui (in) the dunhuang 608 XieJing, Ming painted JiangXiaPa WuWei book, “wu master door, four ShenZhou” Ming, qiu ying, songjiang levy DongJiChang sent, “eight ShanRen ChenJiRu, ZhuDa”, “eight weird yangzhou JinNong” ZhengXie ZhangYuZhao HuangShen, and, as the house of YangShouJing, ink, are a rarity. If the revolution of 1911 ShouYi wuchang ensign, a famous star when 18 YunDaiYing revolutionary leader and revolutionary martyrs, ChenTanQiu, MAO zedong, liu shaoqi, shiyang, zhou enlai, the relics and DongBiWu monument, are rare anomaly.
[editor this segment] [treasure of the town.
The treasure of the four moonhawk, fossils, yun county whole area for marquis bells, and promoted sword, yuan daiqing four lovemap bottle.
No person I fossil skull yun county whole area for paleolithic. : 1989 QuYuan yun county whole area, cranial estuary school constantly 26 centimeters wide, cranial, 19 centimetres tall 12 centimeters, cranial hubei was first discovered the skull fossils paleoanthropology.
Zenghou yi bells: for during the warring states period, 1978, with the county, hubei province unearthed zenghou yi tomb. Clock frame long 748 centimeters, high 265 centimeters. Full of 65 pieces, (three layers of eight groups are hanging on the copper QuCheXing timberwork clock on the shelf. Each clock can play in three degrees of the scale, complete clock half dozen two-tone JiZou XuanGong can transfer. For now the general scale in C, can play WuSheng, six or seven voice sound advanced music.
Promoted to spring sword: the period in the late 1965 jiangling mountain 1 tomb, long unearthed 55.7, respectively cm.
Yuan daiqing four lovemap bottle: for the period. In 2006, the king’s ZhongXiangShi Ying jing, high caliber 38.7 centimeters, 6.4 centimeters, 13 cm long. The bottle in the peony fung act; shoulder Abdominal “four love map blue act”, namely, wang tao yuanming love, love, and jing zhou refined, cranes, love, Foot decoration lifted. Repeat Ephraim, Three layers with careless grain appearance and take grain boundary. Craft, the color green is rare, gorgeous sound by science and the excavated yuan daiqing of high-quality.

March 10, 2010

Wuhan, composed of the three towns of Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang, is the capital of Hubei Province. The three towns, separated by the Yangtze and Hanshui rivers,a re linked by bridges, and because these municipalities are so closely connected by waterways, Wuhan is also called the “city on rivers.” Being the largest inland port on the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and a major stop on the Beijing-Guangzhou Railway, Wuhan is one of China‘s most important hubs of water and rail transportation and communications. Wuhan has an old history and rich cultural traditions. It began to prosper as a commercial town about two thousand years ago, when it was called Yingwuzhou (Parrot beach). From the first century to the beginning of the third century, the towns of Hanyang and Wuchang began to take shape. During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the area became one of the most prosperous commercial centers along the Yangtze River. By the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Hankou had become one of the four most famous cities in China. Today, Wuhan is the political, economic, and cultural center of Central China. It boasts of one of China‘s leading iron and steel complexes — the Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation. Wuhan is also a city with a strong revolutionary tradition.

March 10, 2010

Guiyuan Temple, situated on Cuiwei Street, is one of the four biggest temples for Buddhist meditation in Hubei as well as an important Buddhist temple in China. First built in the early Qing dynasty (1644-1911) by two monks named Baiguang and Zhufeng on the base of Sunflower Garden owned by a poet, the temple got its name from Buddhist chants: “With purity kept in mind, one has the thoroughfare everywhere.” Guiyuan Temple has survived through more than 300 hundred years of repeated cycles of prosperity and decline, above all else, it is always leading the other temple in Wuhan with prosperous public worship, flourishing Buddhist ceremony and many pilgrims. The temple was destroyed and rebuilt for several times in its history and the present temple dates from the early Republic of China (1912-1949). Covering an area of 46,900 square meters with a floor space of 20,000 square meters, the temple mainly consists of Daxiongbaodian Hall, Arhat Hall, Sutra Collection Pavilion, etc. Guiyuan Temple was in fashion for a time although its history was shorter than White Horse Temple, the best Buddhist Temple in China. It is famous not only for spreading Buddhism throughout the whole country, but also for perfect architecture, excellent sculpture and rich collection of Buddhist doctrine among Buddhist temples. In 1956 Guiyuan Temple was listed as preserved antiques unit of Hubei province and in 1983, it was appointed as one of the key Buddhist temple of Han nationality district in China by the State Council.

March 10, 2010

Nanxun is located in the plains of northern Zhejiang Province, Taihu Lake to the south, east and Suzhou Wujiang bordering Pudong, Shanghai, Huzhou City, east gate integration. The Grand Canal, long fairways and South Lake Shen Xun river bordering the city the city, through the Nanxun things dongtiao River tributaries are the lifeblood of this town and symbolic. That the United Kingdom is the silk business lake Shanghai Waterway along the length upon dongtiao River into the Nanxun.

As early as the Southern Song period, Nanxun already “mulberry cultivation of the rich, A Yu Zhejiang right.” Series Nanxun suburbs where villagers use clean water Tiaoxi reeling, the production of mercerized Run soft, revered as a lake in the Jiapin silk. Access to the Ming Dynasty, the world sericulture interests, has been “Mo Sheng Yu lake”, and a gun into, “especially in Nanxun as a” series of Barry’s Village to produce silk so they have dubbed “series where silk” of the name. To the Qing Dynasty, silk series where it is due to high quality and the name under heaven, Guangdong, Guangdong satin yarn, silk, Shanxi Lu and Jiangsu, Fujian and other places of silk raw materials, especially high-grade materials are required to Yang to the lake silk, Jiangning, Suzhou , Hangzhou Bureau of the State of weaving silk quarter of each year are to a large number of procurement of raw silk Nanxun.

Then Nanxun town, every Xiaoman listing of new silk, silk Tai on the line will be “out Stanford Xuan Tian, Qu road congestion”, “day trading tens of thousands of gold” silk trade boom to make it less than 100 meters of silk the densely packed with dam lines to more than 50 wire line operators Nanxun silk from China into the business community, and quickly grow into the largest wire business groups, in Shanghai, 91 wire-line, 70% of the South Xun people open. Nanxun in rural areas is to a “land of mulberry are all, without exception, silkworm’s home” grand occasion.

October 12, 2009

  The Temple of the God of Taishan Mountain stands on Shenlu Street in the Chaoyang District. It is said that the temple was built as a place of worship for the Supreme Celestial Emperor of Taishan Mountain, one of the five sacred mountains of China.

  The temple was first built in the Yanyou period (1314-1320) of the Yuan Dynasty at which time it was one of the largest Daoist temples in the capital, and the first major temple in northern China belonging to the Zhengyi Sect of Daoism founded by Master Zhang Daoling. A glazed memorial archway inscribed with “In Reverence to the God of Mount Tai” stands at eh temple’s front entrance.

  The temple complex is composed of three courtyards. The main courtyard contains three halberd gates (jimen), the Hall of the Taishan Mountain (Daizongbaodian), and the Hall of Moral Cultivation (Yudedian).

  In the center of the Hall of the Taishan Mountain are statues of the God of Taishan Mountain and his high-ranking attendants. The two corridors in front of the hall house 72 statues of deities, or “Chiefs of Departments,” each representing some form of human activity or natural force.

  There are more than 100 stone tablets dating from the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties in the temple compound. The most valuable is a four-meter-high stela inscribed, “Tablet of the Daoist Master Zhang” in the handwriting of the Yuan Dynasty calligrapher Zhao Mengfu.

  The temple was burned down in a battle during the last years of the Yuan Dynasty and was rebuilt in 1449 during the Ming Dynasty. The buildings standing today date from the Qing Dynasty, though they retain the style of the Yuan and Ming periods.

 

 

October 12, 2009

Ritan Park – the Temple of Sun – is one of the four royal shrines, and is the altar of the Sun. Built in 1530 it was used by Ming and Qing Emperors to make sacrifices to the gods. But now Ritan is one of Beijing’s more peaceful parks. Certainly not as impressive or lively as the Temple of Heaven, Ritan is one of the best spots to see old folk practise t’ai chi, swordplay or twirling napkins in the morning without hordes of tourists flooding the place. Stop in for a rest at the Stone Boat Café or one of the other restaurants surrounding the park.

 

October 12, 2009

 

 

Many foreigners have come to know Nanluoguxiang in the capital’s Dongcheng District after patronizing the Pass By and Here bars. One of the best persevered areas in Downtown Beijing, Nanluoguxiang is famous for its hutong and courtyards (siheyuan) but it is also now famed for the cafes and bars and clothing and handcraft shops that line its hutong laneways. Dubbed “another bar area besides Houhai, Workers’ Stadium and Sanlitun,” Nanluoguxiang is a perfect blend of past and present.

Nanluoguxiang has a 768-metre-long south-north central lane, with 16 hutong meandering east and west of off the central lane, giving each side eight hutong. This was the typical hutong layout of the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368). With a history of more than 700 years, Nanluoguxiang is one of the capital’s oldest hutong areas and has been one of Beijing’s 25 cultural and historical protection areas since 1990. The southern end of Nanluoguxiang can be found at Di’anmen on Ping’an Dajie, with its northern end at Gulou Dongdajie (Drum Tower East Street). 

If you begin walking from the Pass By Bar at the southern end, you will find more than 30 cafes and bars, clothing and handcraft shops along Nanluoguxiang’s central lane. Unlike the streets of Houhai, bars and cafes at Nanluoguxiang are quieter, providing less-expensive food and drink. Most of them are decorated in a traditional Chinese style that matches well with their surroundings. Some make good use of the courtyards to create a comfortable and lively atmosphere.

Walk north of the Pass By Bar and you will encounter The Central Academy of Drama, the alma mater of countless Chinese TV and film stars such as Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Pedicabs are often found waiting outside its gates that serve visitors to the area. Posters of the First Beijing International University Students Drama Festival are still displayed around the academy. Some believe the tranquil hutong and the artistic drama academy determine the basic tone of the bars and shops there.

Several months ago, visitors might have encountered a narrow and dirty lane. Now, a wide, clean and tranquil lane lined by gray brick walls with bricks can be found because of renovations. Rooms that once occupied the central lane were dismantled, making the lane as much as 1 metre wider. The ancient courtyards are well-preserved, including those once used by families with a high social status. Special financial support has been provided by the local government to citizens allowing them to renovate their dwellings. The ancient doors and the stone steps at main gates have been preserved and renovated. The whole renovation project was accomplished between July and September.

To explore the hutong and the locals’ daily lives, visitors are advised to range widely from the central lane into the hutong. Hei Zhima Hutong (Black Sesame Hutong) is one worth visiting. The No. 13 and 17 courtyards in this hutong are the former residences of imperial officials. The structure of a typical siheyuan is easily seen. Beside the two sides of the stone steps in front of the large, high main gate, there stand two stone lions on two large blocks of stone. These were signs of high social status families during feudal times. The two stone lions were brought to safeguard a whole family and to symbolize their social status, while the two large blocks of stone were built to help dignitaries mount and dismount horses. The residents’ social status could also be judged from the top part of the main gate, with different patterns near their roofs. Shigu, stones made in the shape of drums put beside the main gates, are also an important parts of the siheyuan culture. Inside the main gate, a “screen wall” was used to protect the family from evil spirits. The higher social status the residents had, the more complicated were the residents’ structures. In addition, in large families, strict rules decided who lived in which room. If visitors are lucky enough, they may listen in as tour guides introduce the hutong and siheyuan culture in different languages to tourists dropped here by pedicabs. Some families in the hutong offer simple but authentic Beijing foods and drinks.

Upon departing the siheyuan, head to the area’s bars, cafes and exquisite shops. Almost all the bars and cafes here offer free WiFi Internet connections, and the drinks here are cheaper than those at Shichahai and Workers’ Stadium. A typical Heineken beer here sells for 22 yuan (US$2.75), compared with 35 yuan (US$4.38) at Shichahai. A typical Tsingdao Beer sells for 10 yuan, and there are “buy two, get one free” specials at several bars. The earliest and most famous bars in the area are the Pass By and Here bars. The Pass By Bar was set up more than seven years ago and is a favourite of expats in the neighbour-hood. The owner of the Here Bar is a photographer, thus many interesting photos can be found in his bar. Old pictures are also exhibited, such as those of Chairman Mao.

Other distinctive bars in the area include: Xiao Xin’s Cafe, Zha Zha Cafe and Hu Tong Er. Opened by a young guy from North China’s Shanxi Province, Xiao Xin’s Cafe is bright, serene and amiable. Most of the design was completed by the owner, who believes “a kitchen is more important than a living room.” The Zha Zha Cafe has an artistic and romantic atmosphere, reflecting the interests of the owner, a teacher at The Central Academy of Drama. “Zha Zha” is a sound made by a magpie, and the cafe’s Chinese name is Xi Que (magpie). In China, magpies are often believed to bring luck and happiness. Authentic Beijing foods, including snacks, can be found along the central lane. New restaurants featuring Yunnan, Indian and Korean cuisines are now available.

Of special note: in the middle of the central lane there is a youth hostel called the “Peking Downtown Backpackers Accommodation.” The place is tranquil and clean, with a standard two-bed room priced at 80 yuan (US$10). Bicycles can be rented at the hostel’s reception. The Downtown Backpackers Restaurant and Teashop are found next to the Accommodation.

Stylish clothes and handcraft shops here are frequented by locals and tourists. With its understated appearance, the Beijing Vulcan Culture & Art Bookstore is a good place for those who have fallen in love with Chinese culture. Books for domestic and foreign tourists are also available. Thangka paintings from Tibet are also sold here.

October 12, 2009

Prince Gong’s Mansion is located on the north bank of Shichahai (Shicha Lake), No.17, Qianhai Xijie, Xicheng District. It is the biggest quadrangle in the world and now it is the best preserved of the more than sixty princely mansions of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It was once the residence of He Shen, a favorite court official during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (reign: 1735-1796). As soon as Emperor Qianlong died, He Shen was put into prison and sentenced to death for his corruption by Emperor Jiaqing, the successor of Emperor Qianlong. Thus, his residence was confiscated, and afterwards, in 1851, Emperor Xianfeng (reign: 1850-1861) gifted it to his sixth young brother Yixin, Prince Gong. Therefore, the residence got its name – Prince Gong’s Mansion.

The mansion consists of the residence area and the garden area. The residence covers an area of 3.2 hectares (7.9 acres) and the buildings are magnificent. In the center is the main hall, rear hall and a two-storey verandah building with about 40 rooms. In the east and west, three courtyards respectively are parallel to the center. The wonderful and elegant garden occupies 2.9 hectares (7.2 acres), and is divided into the central, eastern and western parts.

The portal, facing the central axis of the garden, is a white marble arch in a European architectural style. This Western-style Gate is one of the three unique features of the garden; the other two are the ‘Fu’ Stele and the Grand Theater House. There were only three gates of this kind in Beijing, but the other two were destroyed. After you enter the gate, a Taihu Stone, five meters (16.4 feet) in height comes into sight. Behind the stone, there is a pond whose shape is like a bat, so it is named ‘Fu Chi’ with the meaning of blessing. An artificial hill stands in the middle of the garden and the ‘Fu’ Stele is situated in a cave in it. The bold and mighty character ‘Fu’ (means happiness in Chinese) was written by Emperor Kangxi who is a very great emperor in the Qing Dynasty. His calligraphy is excellent, though he rarely made inscriptions. This makes the character ‘Fu’ all the more precious.

The Grand Theater House is the main building of the eastern part, and can hold 200 people at a time. It is not only used to listen to Beijing Opera, but also to have the ceremonies of weddings and funerals. It is said that the whole theater did not use a nail in spite of its half-timbered architecture. Owing to its fine acoustics, it is possible to hear the opera very clearly in every corner of the hall. The decoration of the Grand Theater House is fresh and pretty, with the painting of purple flowers of wisteria vine on the columns and beams.

Huxin Pavilion in the middle of a lake is situated in the western part. Three spacious pavilions stands in the vast expanse of misty, flowing waters and it is a wonderful place to fish and admire the view. In the Qing Dynasty, drawing running water to the residence in Beijing must be approved by the emperor, and it is one of a few princely mansions which have the privilege.

 

 

 

There are piling rockworks, winding corridors and pavilions, pond, flowers and courtyards – wonder upon wonder throughout the place. The unique and elegant garden can be called ‘pearl of Shicha Lake’ and ‘fairyland of the world’. Many foreign leaders and distinguished guests have visited it, including Ryutaro Hashimoto, the former Japanese Prime Minister and Lee Kuan Yew, the former Singapore premier.