China Fam Mar 2 - 11th, 2005
Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai
This fam was organized by the
China National Tourist Office, Air China and China International Travel
Service. Steve was from the Toronto office and Sam was our man in Beijing
who was with us the entire trip. It was the first time I had ever been to
China and I was very excited about what we were going to see and experience.
We were not disappointed about anything except perhaps not having enough
time to shop! That seemed to be the most pressing thing with most of us and
with good reason. Shopping in Shanghai was not only fun but productive.
But before I go into further detail on that, I had better stick to the
reason for going...that was to experience a different culture and visit some
incredible sights along the way so that one day I might put a tour together
to include both China and Japan Gardens. I shall start in Beijing.
It was pretty awesome arriving into a city with about 14 million people, 9
million of which travel on bikes and 4 million own cars. It also surprised
me to see how modern it was, and clean. Beijing can trace it's history back
3,000 years and is the capital of China and right now is preparing for the
King Wu was the first to declare Beijing the capital city in 1057 BC.
Subsequently, the city has gone by the names of Ji, Zhongdu, Dadu, and
finally Beijing when the Ming Dynasty Emperor Cheng Zu chose the name in
1421. Beijing was also known as Peking by the Western world before 1949.
Real estate is pretty valuable and if you are planning on buying an
apartment you are looking at around 2,000 US per square meter.
After checking into our hotel, the Capital Hotel, we had a bit of free time
then met for dinner. After dinner it was time for sleep, to dream about our
first day in China.
Our coach parked and we set off for a short walk to Tian'anmen Square. With
a total area of 440,000 square meters, Tian'anmen Square is the largest
square in the center of Beijing. The Tian'anmen Gate is a national symbol,
with the Great Hall of the People on the western side and the Museum of the
Chinese Revolution and the Museum of Chinese History to its east and west.
The Monument to the People's Heroes - the 36 meter obelisk, made of Qingdao
granite, dominates the center of the square. The Chairman Mao Memorial Hall
sits in the south. Because the 10th National People's Congress was going on
at the Great Hall of the People, the square was closed off to all. We had to
be content with just taking a photo or two, then pass by the Museum with its
huge banner of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games out front and over to the
Forbidden City's Imperial Palace. Construction of the palace began in 1406,
the fourth year of the reign of Ming Emperor Yongle, and it was completed 14
years later. In the years that followed, 24 emperors have ascended the
throne and the last emperor, Pu Yi, was driven from the palace in 1924. The
year after, the palace was converted into a museum and opened to the public.
200,000 men built it and it covers 720,000 square meters. It is said that it
could take you 2 1/2 days just to visit all of the 9,999 rooms. The picture
of the golden throne set between two golden pillars both decorated with
dragons was the symbol of feudal and imperial power. There are 12 palace
courtyards on either side. There are also three gardens - Longevity Garden,
Kindness and Tranquility Garden and the Imperial Garden. They were the
playgrounds of the imperial family.
Lunch then off to a pearl factory. Can you see all the pearls that are
growing in the shell? Then we visited the Summer Palace and its beautiful
gardens. The Summer Palace is the largest imperial garden in the world. It
is classical Chinese garden architecture. The initial construction of the
Summer Palace began in 1750, commissioned by Emperor Qinglong as a gift for
his mother's birthday. The construction took 15 years to complete. It had
the name "Qingyi Yuan" (Garden of Clear Ripples) at that time. The
plundering of foreign troops in 1860 destroyed most of the buildings, but
they were renovated in 1888 by Empress Dowager Cixi, who was said to have
embezzled the funds of the Imperial Navy to build the garden. After China's
liberation, the garden became a park and got the name Yiheyuan (Summer
Palace). Spring was a bit delayed which totally depressed me because I was
so looking forward to flower blossoms. I did see some along the trip but I
know that nature has its own schedule. I could just imagine how this garden
must smell and look like when in bloom. This evening we were treated to a
dinner and dance presentation. They had a very unique way of pouring our tea
for us as you can see.