October 12, 2009



The White Cloud Temple is in southwestern Beijing. It was called the Temple of Heavenly Eternity during the Tang Dynasty and the Temple of the Great Ultimate during the Jin Dynasty. It is the largest Daoist architectural complex in Beijing and was the headquarters for the Dragon Gate sect. Although historical records indicate that there were Daoist temples in Beijing during the Tang Dynasty, it was not until the early Yuan Dynasty that they came to be built on a large scale. The Yuan Emperor Shizu (Kublai Khan), whose reign lasted from 1260 to 1293, appointed a Daoist priest from Shandong province to the position of”National Teacher,”which nominally put him in charge of all Chinese Doaist affairs. This priest’s name was Qiu Chuji, but he was commonly known as the Sage of Eternal Spring (Changchun Zhenren). While Qiu Chuji was in Beijing, he resided in the Temple of the Great Ultimate, which he expanded and renamed the Temple of Eternal Spring (Changchungong). From then on, it became the center of Daoism in northern China. It was not until the Zhengtong era (1436-1449) of the Ming Dynasty that its current name was adopted.

  The extant temple was rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty and exemplifies the Daoist architecture of the period. The complex is composed of multiple courtyards set out on a central axis. From front to back the structures are as follows: a memorial archway, the main gate, a pool, a bridge, the Hall of Officials of the Heavenly Censor ate (corresponding to the Buddhist Hall of Heavenly Kings), the Hall of the Jade Emperor and the Hall of Religious Law (corresponding to the rear hall of a Buddhist temple).

  In the center of the rear courtyard is the Hall of the Patriarch Qiu, devoted to the worship of Qiu Chuji, and behind this, the Hall of the Four Heavenly Emperors, the second story of which is the Hall of Three Purities (corresponding to the Sutra Repository of Buddhist temples and housing the Daoist Tripitaka). Here one can see the similarity between Daoist and Buddhist temple architectures, though the decorative details and paintings make use of specifically Daoist motifs such as lingzhi fungus, specifically Daoist immortals and cranes, and the Eight Diagrams.

The temple contains a stela with calligraphy by Emperor Qianlong recording in detail the history the history of the temple and the life of Qiu Chuji.

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

Beijing’s traditional courtyards (siheyuan) still house many of the city’s residents within the second ring road, which marks the limits of old Beijing. Siheyuan line the small lanes, or hutongs, that make up most of the central part of the city. However, many of the siheyuan, which consist of four rooms around a central yard, are being torn down at present, and quite a large proportion of those who have enjoyed courtyard living for generations have now moved to high-rise blocks of flats in new residential areas.

The siheyuan is a typical form of ancient Chinese architecture, especially in the north of China. They are designed to make it as comfortable as possible to live in a climate that is at times inhospitable. For instance, the siheyuan are enclosed and inward facing to protect them from the harsh winter winds and the dust storms of spring. Their design also reflects the traditions of China, following the rules of feng shui and the patriarchal, Confucian tenants of order and heirarchy that were so important to society.

It is normal for the four rooms to be positioned along the north-south, east-west axes. The room positioned to the north and facing the south is considered the main house and would traditionally have accomodated the head of the family. The rooms adjoining the main house are called ” side houses” and were the quarters of the younger generations or less important members of the family. The room that faces north is known as the “opposite house” and would generally be where the servants lived or where the family would gather to relax, eat or study. The gate to the courtyard is usually at the southeastern corner. Normally, there is a screen-wall inside the gate so that outsiders cannot see directly into the courtyard and to protect the house from evil spirits. Outside the gate of some large siheyuan, it is common to find a pair of stone lions. The gates are usually painted vermilion and have large copper door rings. All the rooms around the courtyard have large windows facing onto the yard and small windows high up on the back wall facing out onto the street. Some do not even have back windows. Some large compounds have two or more courtyards to house the extended families that were a mark of prosperity in ancient times.




Housing is now one of the most difficult problems facing Beijing, a city that is growing both spatially and in terms of population at a fast rate. As such, one siheyuan now often houses several families and many yards have been taken up with additional rooms. This contributes to the “rabbit-warren” nature of the hutongs. The living conditions in many siheyuans are now considered squalid, especially as very few have private toilets or washrooms. To solve the apparent problems of overcrowding, the siheyuan are being torn down and replaced by modern blocks of flats. There are, however, still some grand siheyuan in Beijing that have been preserved in all their former glory. Mainly built for nobles and high officials before the turn of the century, many have been turned into museums, and others are being lived in by present-day governmental officials or used as government offices.


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.


Hours: Daily

Address Huáihai Zhong
Lù 1843

Phone: 021/6437-6268

Prices Admission ¥8

Transportation No Metro

Soong Ching-ling (1893-1981) is revered throughout China as a loyalist to the communist cause. Born in Shanghai
to a wealthy family, she married the founder of the Chinese Republic, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, in 1915. Unlike the rest of her family members (the most famous being her youngest sister Soong Mei-ling, who married Chiang Kai-shek)
who all fled China after 1949, Soong Ching-ling stayed and was given many important political and
cultural posts in the communist government. This 1920s villa, built by a Greek sea captain in the French Concession, served as her residence from 1948 to 1963. Little is changed at this two-story house with white walls and green
shutters with many of the rooms much as Soong left them. Unfortunately, only the first floor living and dining areas are accessible; her upstairs office, bedroom, and the bedroom of her devoted maid, Li Yan’e, are closed to the public for conservation reasons. There are two black sedans in the garage, one presented to her by Stalin in 1952. A new annex just inside the gate displays relics from her life, including her Wesleyan College diploma, phonograph records, family photos, and letters from the likes of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and American correspondent Edgar Snow. Soong
Ching-ling died in Beijing in 1981 but is buried with her parents and her maid in the Wanguo Cemetery in western Shanghai.

After the end of the War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-1945), Madame Soong Ching-ling, wife of Sun Yat-sen, generously donated the house at Rue Moliere (now Xiangshan Lu) as a “Memorial Museum to the Father of the Nation,” and rented another house.

In the following years, Soong Ching-ling did not have a decent residence. Finally, Generalissimo Chiang
Kai-shek, her brother-in-law, arranged for her to have the villa at 1843 Huaihai Zhonglu in Shanghai.

The boat-fashioned villa was originally built in 1920, and was owned by a German shipbuilding tycoon. It was
later sold to a German doctor and then in 1929 to a Chinese businessman.

The villa was first the home of Chiang’s second son, Chiang Wei-kou, and later a hostel for a KMT governmental
bureau. It was only in March 1948 that Soong Ching-ling moved into the house.

In the sitting room, two pictures hang above the mantelpiece — one of Sun Yat-sen and the other of Mao Zedong
visiting Soong Ching-ling in 1961.

In the sitting room, Soong Ching-ling received many heads of state and top-ranking officials — Mao, Liu
Shaoqi, Zhu De, Zhou Enlai, Kim Il-Sung of North Korea, Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, Sukarno of Indonesia and Sirimavo Bandaranaya of Sri Lanka.

In the dining room, there is an oil painting of Soong’s mother and some gifts from foreign state leaders.

To the east of the sitting room is a library, which contained more than 4,000 books in Chinese, English, French and Russian.

The bedroom on the second floor contains a set of teakwood furniture Soong’s parents sent her as dowry. On the wall is a wedding picture of Soong and Sun Yat-sen.

The clock, once used by Sun, sits on the mantelpiece and the time is frozen at 8:18pm, the time Soong Ching-ling
left the world. Outside the bedroom is a large veranda. Also on the second floor is Soong’s study and the bedroom of Soong’s nanny Li Yan’e.

In the 1950s, an auxiliary building was added near the villa to accommodate Soong’s staff and guards. Many
activities of the China Welfare Institution, of which Soong Ching-ling was chairman, were held in the compound.

Soong Ching-ling died on May 29, 1981. Of the three Soong sisters, of whom it is said one loved money, one loved
power, and one loved China, only the patriotic Ching-ling died in her own country.

In 1988 the residence was formally opened to the public.

Who is Soong Ching-ling

Soong Ch’ing-ling (Simplified Chinese: 宋庆龄;
Traditional Chinese: 宋慶齡; pinyin: Sòng Qìnglíng;
Wade-Giles: Sung Ch’ing-ling) (January 27, 1892 – May 29, 1981) was one of the Soong sisters—three sisters whose husbands were amongst China’s most significant political figures of the early 20th century. Also known as Madame
Sun Yat-sen
, she was described as the “one who loved China“. Her Christian name was Rosamond.

She was born to the wealthy businessman and missionary Charlie Soong in Nanshi (a part of nowaday Huangpu
District), Shanghai, attended Motyeire School for Girls in Shanghai, and graduated from Wesleyan College
in Macon, Georgia, United States.

She married Sun Yat-sen in Japan on October 25, 1915 after he divorced Lu Muzhen. Ching-ling’s parents greatly
opposed the marriage, as Dr. Sun was 26 years her senior. After Sun’s death in 1925, she was elected to the Kuomintang (KMT) Central Executive Committee in 1926. However, she exiled herself to Moscow after the expulsion of the Communists from the KMT in 1927.

Although Soong reconciled with the KMT during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), she sided with the Communists in
the Chinese Civil War. She did not join the party but rather was part of the united front heading up the Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang.


Soong Ching-ling accompanied Sun Yat-sen in 1924 on his final trip to Beijing.

In 1939, she founded the China Defense League, which later became the China Welfare Institute. The committee
worked for peace and justice, and now focuses on maternal and pediatric healthcare, preschool education, and other children’s issues.

In the early 1950s, she founded the magazine, CHINA RECONSTRUCTS, now known as CHINA TODAY, with the help of
Israel Epstein. This magazine is published monthly in 6 languages (Chinese, English, French, German, Arabic and Spanish).

After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, she became the Vice Chair of the People’s Republic of China (now
translated as “Vice President”), Head of the Sino-Soviet Friendship Association and Honorary President of the All-China Women’s Federation. In 1951

she was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize (Lenin Peace Prize after destalinization), and in 1953 a collection of her writings, Struggle for New China, was published. From 1968 to 1972 she acted jointly with Dong Biwu as
head of state.

On May 16, 1981, two weeks before her death, she was admitted to the Communist Party and was named Honorary
President of the People’s Republic of China. She is the only person ever to hold this title.

Unlike her younger sister Soong May-ling, who sided with her husband Chiang Kai-shek and fled to Taiwan with the Nationalist government, Soong Ching-ling is still a beloved figure in mainland China.

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.

October 12, 2009



Shichahai is a famous scenic area that includes three lakes (Qian Hai, meaning Front Sea; Hou Hai, meaning Back Sea and Xi Hai, meaning Western Sea), surrounding places of historic interest and scenic beauty, and remnants of old-style Beijing residences, Hutong and Courtyard. It is located in the northwest part of Beijing, and covers a large area of 146.7 hectares (about 363 acres).

The history of Shichahai can be traced to as far back as the Jin Dynasty (1115 – 1234). During the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368), it was the terminal point of the Great Canal, which was a main reason for its prosperity. In the period of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), when the channels ceased to be as smooth as they used to be, Shichahai changed from a bustling hub to a place of leisure where people could stroll around to admire the vast scenery or enjoy the cool shade under willows trees.

  Shichahai is always a good place for local Beijingers’ recreational life, and in the last 200 years, many governmental officers, celebrities, monks and nuns chose to build mansions, temples and nunneries in Shichahai. Thus, Shichahai’s attraction lies not only in its natural beauty, but also in the historical value of its architecture. The most famous ones among these historical buildings are gong wangfu(Prince Gong’s Mansion, Chun Wang Fu (Price Chun’s Mansion), the Former Residence of Song Qing Ling, the Former Residence of Mei Lan Fang (the well-known Peking Opera master) and Guang Hua Temple.

  The greatest point of interest in Shichahai today is its residences, hongtong and countyard. In and around Beijing City, Shichahai is one of the best places to view well-preserved Hutongs and courtyards. Visiting Hutongs by pedicab has become a popular activity for visitors from China and abroad. The most famous Hutong is Jin Si Tao, which actually includes 18 hutongs and keeps the original layout of Hutong Area. Another one is Yan Dai Xie Jie, meaning an oblique street which looks like a long-stemmed pipe. This street used to be a famous street selling long-stemmed pipes.

  People can also find two Old Brands in Shichahai. One is Kao Rou Ji, a restaurant selling roast meat, which has a history of over 150 years. The other is Bao Du Zhang, which has sold cooked tripe of sheep for four generations.

Mutianyu  is a section of the Great Wall of China located in Huairou County 70km northeast of Beijing. The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is connected with Jiankou in the west and Lianhuachi in the east. As one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs.
First built in the mid-6th century during the Northern Qi, Mutianyu Great Wall is older than the Badaling section of the Great Wall. In the Ming dynasty, under the supervision of General Xu Da, construction of the present wall began on the foundation of the wall of Northern Qi. In 1404, a pass was built in the wall. In 1569, the Mutianyu Great Wall was rebuilt and till today most parts of it are well preserved. The Mutianyu Great Wall has the largest construction scale and best quality among all sections of Great Wall.
Built mainly with granite, the wall is 7-8 meters high and the top is 4-5 meters wide. Compared with other sections of Great Wall, Mutianyu Great Wall possesses unique characteristics in its construction.
Watchtowers are densely placed along this section of the Great Wall – 22 watchtowers on this 2,250-meter-long stretch.
Both the outer and inner parapets are crenelated with merlons, so that shots could be fired at the enemy on both sides – a feature very rare on other parts of the Great Wall.




The Mutianyu Pass consists of 3 watchtowers, one big in the center and two smaller on both sides. Standing on the same terrace, the three watchtowers are connected to each other inside and compose a rarely seen structure among all sections of Great Wall.
Besides, this section of Great Wall is surrounded by woodland and streams. The forest-coverage rate is over 90 percent.
Today, this section of wall is open to visitors. Mutianyu Great Wall Cable Car Company is available to help visitors. Another feature of the wall at Mutianyu is the wheeled toboggan ride down from the wall on a winding metal track.
Adjacent to the Mutianyu wall is its namesake village, which has been hailed by the Chinese government as a model village because of its rebirth largely thanks to tourism and glassware industries. Mutianyu Village is twinned with the village of Shelburne Falls in the state of Massachusetts.

October 9, 2009


In July 2003, the Water Cube design was chosen from 10 proposals in an international architectural competition for the aquatic center project. The Water Cube was specially designed and built by a consortium made up of PTW Architects (an Australian architecture firm), Arup international engineering group, CSCEC (China State Construction Engineering Corporation), and CCDI (China Construction Design International) of Shanghai. The Water Cube’s design was initiated by a team effort: the Chinese partners felt a square was more symbolic to Chinese culture and its relationship to the Bird’s Nest stadium, while the Sydney based partners came up with the idea of covering the ‘cube’ with bubbles, symbolising water. It should be noted that contextually the cube symbolises earth whilst the circle (represented by the stadium) represents heaven. Hence symbolically the water cube references Chinese symbolic architecture.
Comprising a steel space frame, it is the largest ETFE clad structure in the world with over 100,000 m² of ETFE pillows that are only 0.2 mm (1/125 of an inch) in total thickness. The ETFE cladding allows more light and heat penetration than traditional glass, resulting in a 30% decrease in energy costs.
The outer wall is based on the Weaire–Phelan structure, a structure devised from the natural formation of bubbles in soap foam. The complex Weaire–Phelan pattern was developed by slicing through bubbles in soap foam, resulting in more irregular, organic patterns than foam bubble structures proposed earlier by the scientist Kelvin. Using the Weaire–Phelan geometry, the Water Cube’s exterior cladding is made of 4,000 ETFE bubbles, some as large as 9.14 meters (30 feet) across, with seven different sizes for the roof and 15 for the walls.
The structure had a capacity of 17,000 during the games that is being reduced to 6,000. It also has a total land surface of 65,000 square meters and will cover a total of 32,000 square metres (7.9 acres). Although called the Water Cube, the aquatic center is really a rectangular box (cuboid)- 178 meters (584 feet) square and 31 meters (102 feet) high.