Friday, June 30, 2017

Jingshan Park in Beijing

Directly across from the Forbidden City Gate of Divine Prowess (north gate) is Jinshan Park. Looking toward the park from the Gate, I can see the tower on top and head over there for the view.

Exiting the Forbidden City, Jingshan Park across the street

Jingshan Park was originally an Imperial Garden, an important part of the Imperial Palace, with a history of almost 1000 years.  Rising 46 meters (150 feet) above the Forbidden City, it offers spectacular views across Beijing.  The hill itself was constructed with dirt removed to form the moats of the Imperial Palace.

Steps up

 View from the top

Looking down on the Forbidden City

The small pavilion at the top of the hill holds a small store, a large buddha statue (looking out over the Forbidden City), and many tourists taking pictures.

Buddha in the pavilion on top

As I descend the far side of the hill, into the lower park property, I find that it is peony festival time and the park is filled with peonies planted in beds everywhere.

 Peony festival

Overwhelmed, I wander and wander, admiring the peonies, a flower that I frankly don't run across very often.  Finally, I've had my fill of peonies and head toward the exit.  But first, some more historical notes.  A rock marker indicates where Chongzhen, the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty, hanged himself in 1644 when a peasant uprising army broke into the city and the emperor fled from the palace.

 Markers of royal hanging

On that note, I exit the park, to ground-level views of the north side of the Forbidden City and the moat around it (a great spot for wedding photos).

 Forbidden City, moat

Professional photographer, great setting

I think I've filled the day and it's time to head back to the hotel and think about tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Forbidden City / Palace Miuseum

The Forbidden City served as the Chinese Imperial Palace for twenty-four emperors, covering almost 500 years of the Ming and Qing dynasties.  This is the world's largest palace complex, spread out over 180 acres (74 hectares) in the center of Beijing, with more than 8,700 rooms.   Originally, no one could enter the Forbidden City without the express permission of the emperor, but now, we can all enter the No-Longer-Forbidden City, now also known as the Palace Museum, after a brief wait in the ticket lines.

 Entrance to the Forbidden City

 Lines to purchase entrance tickets

As soon as I enter, the first palace and grounds around it show the immense scale of this grand area. The Forbidden City is divided into an Outer Court, consisting of three major halls where the emperor held formal ceremonies, and an Inner Court, where the emperor lived and dealt with routine government business.

Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Outer Court

Hall of Central Harmony (Outer Court)

 Inside the Hall

Palace of Heavenly Purity

The visit is supplemented by technologies not available to the emperors.

Free Wifi!

In the Inner Court, many of the small palace living areas are restored for us to view.  Life in these 3-4 room palaces must have been like living in a fishbowl.

 Palace living areas in the Inner Court

Past the small palaces is the Imperial Garden for contemplation and relaxation.

 Imperial Garden

And, weary tourists resting as they near the end of their visit.

Resting a bit

As we all exit the Forbidden City to the north, through the Gate of Divine Prowess, we see a map of what we have just wandered through.

 Heading out the Gate of Divine Prowess, more tired tourists

Map of the 180 acre complex

Wow, this is a lot to take in all at once.  I only see a few parts of this incredible complex.  But, more exploration calls and I'm on my way to my next adventure across the street.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Zhongshan Park in Beijing

As I leave Tiananmen Square, taking the underpass under busy Chang'an Avenue, I'm intending to head into the Palace Museum/Forbidden City, but I spot a small opening in the wall with a park on the other side and wander over it to see what it is.  This turns out to be Zhongshan Park, a beautiful space with numerous temples, gardens, walkways, pavilions, and halls.

Map of the park

 Zhongshan Park entrance and gateway just inside park

I first wander down the paths, admiring the architecture and landscaping.

Great paths for walking

 And courtyards, covered walkways, and gazebos for resting.

 More sights

And, a lake for relaxing or dining on the shore and amusement park rides.

 By the lake and streams

 Rides and lighthouse

The park is full of tulips.  There is a greenhouse with varieties of tulips presented by the Princess of Holland, but now is the annual tulip festival and they are planted in beds all throughout the park. What a beautiful sight!

 Tulip festival

I spend a few hours wandering in the park an exit out the side into the courtyard outside the Forbidden City, just above the Tiananmen Gate.