Sunday, October 30, 2011

Beijing - Wanfujing Museum, Ming Wall, Dongtang Church and a Guqin

While C attended the International Cosmic Ray Conference in Beijing, I was free to explore Beijing ... again; I was in Beijing seven years ago. So I was wondering how much Beijing had changed. The first thing that struck me was the enormous amount of traffic. Cars were running (or rather standing in the traffic jams) without end. And mostly Audis and Mercedes cars, not the small Chinese cubes they had a couple of years ago. With the high amount of traffic has come the smog. There are only short times after a rain washed down the smog particles that you actually can see the sun or the stars. It is funny, because they have a temple of heaven but you can't see the heaven under the pall of smog; and they have a temple of earth but you can't see the earth either because it is plastered up with streets for cars. How very sad. Plus I got my cough back which I also had in Delhi. This was the not so good part of Beijing. Luckily there were plenty of nice things :)

So let us look back into the past when there were no sky scrapers and shopping malls. To have a closer look at what was beneath the malls I went to the Wangfujing museum. In 1996 they started building the Oriental Plaza shopping mall and during construction work they found Palaeolithic remains. Part of the original finds' layer has been kept open and is the centre piece of the exhibition; with several showcases full of artefacts surrounding it.

If you think this is just a patch of dirt, you might want to have a closer look. Here you can see a fire place with burnt stones, bones and some charcoal. This already gives you a date, the technology, the diet, the time of occupancy within the year, whether it was a more permanent camp or just a short lived hunter's camp, and, and, and... Fascinating isn't it? All the information from a couple of broken stones and some ash on the dirt :)

You can read more and have a look at some other finds here (English) and here (German).

Since the entry fee is very moderate I decided to spent some more money on a nice tea in the Paris Baguette coffee shop next to the museum, after all it is placed right in the middle of the shopping mall.

Thus invigorated I went to see the Ming city walls, the last remaining pieces of the former city walls. Built in the early 15th century, it was originally about 40 km long. In the Ming-city-wall park there is a 1.5 km long piece of the Ming dynasty wall:

Close by is also the National Post Stamp Museum which features a bronze figure of a post man from earlier times as well as modern one on the opposite side:

From here I took a taxi (since when did they become so expensive? And where were all the young student taxi drivers?) to the Dongtan church or also called Wangfujing Cathedral (王府井天主堂), one of the two only Roman Catholic churches in Beijing. Although Roman churches are supposed to be open for prayer, this one was not but then, the Pope doesn't recognize it as such anyway. As if the church should be picky ... At least I can show you a photo of its exterior, which is from the rebuilt church (the original was destroyed by earth quakes) from 1904 in Romanesque style:

Maybe you are interested in some more photos from my way back to the hotel:
Famous actors (Sammo Hung, 洪金宝) is featured in the magazines

Ming dynasty city ruins called the 'Ruined Walls', a gate construction used during the Ming Dynasty, but given up under Qianlong (18th century) when the Imperial Palace was opened to the public:

Entrance door in a street close to the Imperial Palace:

A first glimpse on the Imperial Palace:

And of the not so beautiful moat.

And some poorer districts opposite the Palace:

By now it was high time to return to the hotel because we had tickets for a performance of Li Xiang Ting (李祥霆), a music professor who played the guqin, a Chinese zither as part of a music festival in the Forbidden City Concert Hall (北京中山音乐堂). A very memorable performance, especially since he engaged the audience so well. They could choose poems or self-written pieces and he interpreted them on his guqin.

Watch a video of him here or here. Or watch him on youtube.

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