Robin's Adventures

An Asian Adventure

Heading to Beijing

Our adventure began with a flight from Los Angeles to Beijing with a brief 4 1/2 hour layover in Tokyo. The journey lasted about 20 hours, with 15 1/2 hours of that journey in the air.

We stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beijing which tried to provide a lovely view of the city from our room. Unfortunately, the air quality in Beijing is so poor that the view was always hazy and visibility was limited. The current population of Beijing is more than 21 million people. What a shame that these people never see a blue sky.

The Great Wall

Although the original Great Wall dates back as early as the 7th century BCE, most of what currently remains was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The Ming portion of the wall is about 5,500 miles long and was built primarily as a defensive measure to protect against nomadic Mongol tribes. The wall is made of brick and stone and has an estimated 25,000 watchtowers.

We took a small gondola on a cable to get to the Great Wall, and then walked along the steps that connected one watchtower to the next.

More Great Wall

In spite of the popular myth, the Great Wall is not visible from the moon. According to Wikipedia, it would require a visual acuity of 7.7 times better than normal to see the Great Wall from the moon.

Given the poor air quality, we were lucky to see the wall between one watchtower and the next. I am sure that on a clear day, the wall looks like it goes on forever and the view must be spectacular.

The Cloisonne Factory

We visited a cloisonne factory in Beijing and had the opportunity to see how cloisonne is made. It was an interesting and time consuming process. Through the magic of video, you can see this process in less than two minutes.

Summer Palace

The Summer Palace, which was first built in 1750 as residence with a garden and lake where the royal family members could rest and entertain, is now a public recreational area with a lake, gardens, and old palace buildings.

There is a covered walkway, known as the long corridor, that has colorful decorative beams and ceilings. At almost 800 yards in length, this is the longest corridor in China and, prior to 1990, it was the longest corridor in the world. This corridor leads to a variety of buildings with distinctive names such as the Hall of Joy and Longevity and the Hall of Dispelling Clouds.

More Summer Palace

There are many buildings at the Summer Palace. The buildings in the front are the palace area and they are designed to carry out affairs of state.

Behind the palace buildings are the residence buildings with living space for the members of the ruling family as well as the concubines for the emperor.

Surrounding the residence area is the garden area where members of the royal family would spend time relaxing and enjoying the natural landscape.

Gardens at the Summer Palace

The Gardens at the summer palace were designed with bridges, pavilions, water, stones, and plant life that show off the elements of a traditional Chinese landscape.

While the design elements provided a beautiful and peaceful setting, the effects of pollution were obvious as we strolled through the gardens. The vegetation in many areas had become very dry and brown. In addition, the air quality was very poor and the sky was hazy and grey.

Kunming Lake at the Summer Palace

Kunming Lake, which covers three- fourths of the area of the park, is a man-made lake that is only about five feet deep.

Spanning the lake is the 164 yard long Seventeen-Arch Bridge. There are 544 white marble lions carved onto the columns of the bridge.

In the lake is a Stone Boat made of marble. The legend says that the emperor was told that "the waters that bear the boat are the same that swallow it up." He took this to be a metaphor meaning that the emperor should care about his people or they will overthrow him. Thus, he ordered the creation of a strong stone boat that cannot be overturned by the waters.

Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square, a 109 square acre city square in the center of Beijing, contains the Monument to the People's Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.

The name Tiananmen, which means "Gate of Heavenly Peace," refers to the red gate just to the north of the square that serves as the entrance to the Imperial City which was the outer part of the Forbidden City (Chinese Imperial Palace).

The square is best remembered in the west as the site of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. The government declared martial law and used tanks and assault riffles to kill hundreds of student demonstrators and protestors.

Forbidden City

The Forbidden City served as the official offices and residence of 24 different Chinese emperors from 1420 to 1912. The City, which is more than 180 acres, has 980 buildings.

The city is surrounded by 22 foot high walls and a moat that is six feet deep. The front section of the city was used for ceremonies and affairs of state. The back portion of the city was used as the residence for the royal family.