24 January 2010

DUCK FEAST

We feasted on Beijing duck lunch at one of the Quanjude Restaurants (全 聚 德)after the Forbidden City Tour. Quanjude is a famous Chinese restaurant known for its "Peking Roast Duck" trademark and its long standing culinary heritage since its establishment in Beijing since 1864.

The restaurant chain sells over 2 million roast ducks served in 400 different styles to over 5 million customers annually. There are 50 affiliates across China.


Szechuan style, hot peppers and onions


Sweet & Sour


Slicing and serving


Skin and meat are served together


Stir fry melons


Duck stew with melon


Lettuce in oyster sauce


Cabbage with duck and mushrooms

23 January 2010

FORBIDDEN CITY (紫 禁 城)

The Forbidden City is one of the seven wonders of the world. To really tour the whole place one needs at least 5 days.  Tour only covered a fraction of the City and many areas were not open to public.

金 水 橋 - The Inner Golden River flows beneath the bridges which are consequently referred to as The Inner Golden River Bridges. The central bridge was used exclusively by the emperor. The two flanking it were for use by members of the royal family. The two outer bridges were for court officials. The bridges have marble balustrades richly carved with dragon and phoenix motifs. With the ever present threat of fire damage to the palace buildings, the river served as a water reservoir as well as being a decorative feature.


The large courtyard beyond the river covers ten thousand square meters. It is treeless as, in Imperial China, the emperor was regarded as the Son of Heaven. Born to rule the empire, his was the loftiest position no one and nothing could appear higher. The Hall of Supreme Harmony, is the highest building in the Forbidden City and not even trees could overshadow it.


Taihemen (太和門), north of the square, is the main gate of the Outer Court which is fairly grand. The gate is guarded by two bronze lions. These symbolise imperial power. The lion on the east side is male. Its right front paw is placed on a globe denoting that imperial power extended world-wide. The lioness on the west side has its left front paw on a lion cub. This denotes a thriving and prosperous imperial family. The gate is important as it was here that the emperors' wedding ceremonies were usually held.


Entering Taihemen is the Taihedian (太和殿), Hall of Supreme Harmony across the spacious square, which covers 30,000 square meters. Standing on a three-tier marble terrace, this grandest timber framework ever in China is overwhelming.


The hall was erected in 1406 and has undergone many repairs. As the heart of the Forbidden City, the so-called Golden Carriage Palace, used to be the place where emperors received high officials and exercised their rule over the nation. Grand ceremonies would be held here when a new emperor ascended the throne. Celebrations also marked emperors' birthdays, wedding ceremonies and other important occasions such as the Winter Solstice, the Chinese New Year and the dispatch of generals into fields of war.


Inside the hall, the floor is paved with special bricks which were fired long and then polished by being soaked in tungoil. As a symbol of imperial power, the sandalwood throne, standing on a two-meter high platform, is located in the centre of the hall and surrounding by six thick gold-lacquered pillars decorated with dragons. Dragons are covered all over the golden throne. Around the throne stands 2 bronze cranes, an elephant-shaped incense burner and tripods in the shape of mythical beasts. The hall is heavily decorated with dragons. In the middle of the ceiling is the design of 2 dragons playing with pearls. They were made of glass, painted with mercury.


The Hall of Central Harmony (中和殿) served as a rest place for the emperor when he was on his way to hold ceremonies in the Hall of Supreme Harmony. When everything was ready, he would go to the Hall of Supreme Harmony to receive homage. It was here that he consulted with his ministers and officials.


Baohedian (保和殿) the Hall of Preserved Harmony stands at the northern end of the three-tier marble terrace. It is larger than the Hall of Central Harmony. It was usual for imperial banquets to be held here. Such banquets might be to celebrate a princess's marriage. The emperor would entertain high officials, the bridegroom and his father together with their relatives who served the imperial government. Each year, on the eve of the New Year's Eve, banquets would be held to feast and honour provincial governors, Mongol princes, civil and military officials.


At every courtyard you will find huge water urns. They are for storing water to extinguish fire during that period.


Especially during summer, the palace would easily caught fire.


Nine Dragon Screen Wall (九龍辟) - This glazed screen wall facing Huang Ji Men was constructed when Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty renovated the "Ning Shou Gong" (Palace of Peace & Longivity) area. There are 9 dragons on the wall, hence the name. It has a double thatched cover with yellow glazed tiles, and sits on a white marble stone. This wall is comprised of 270 glazed decorative bricks, with seawater as the background. 9 dragons are encircled by waves clouds, and separated by 6 groups of rocks. A yellow dragon is in the centre, and 8 dragons in blue, white, purple and yellow are on both sides.


The Hall of Spiritual Cultivation was the retired palace for emperors' fathers. When Empress Dowager Cixi lived in the Hall of Joyful Longevity during Guangxu's reign, she had breakfast and supper in this hall. The hall is now the main chamber of Treasure Gallery, exhibiting jewellery,  utensils, tea-services, wine pots and cups made of gold, silver or jade, gold seals and gold albums.


Headdress of 1st Empress Dowager of Ching Dynasty (孝 庄 后)


Phoenix Crown with 5 gold filigreed phoenixes inlaid with pearls and gems


Marten court hat with pearl inlay worn by empress


Golden phoenix wash basin for the empress


Golden wine cup with pearl and gem inlay


Gold Ruyi - carved in gold inlaid with gems


Gold ornaments inlaid with pearls and gems


Jade Narcissus


The pearl-inlaid gold celestial globe was made by the Qing Dynasty's imperial Household Dept during the Qianlong reign (1736-1795). It is the only gold celestial globe that survives today.


Rest room of the emperor


Musical instruments


The emperor's bed


Mourning Chamber in memory of Concubine Zhen. Concubine Zhen (1876-1900) nee Tatala, was chosen in 1888, together with her elder sister, the 5th level consort, as wives of Emperor Guangxu. In 1894 she was promoted to consort.


In 1900 she was thrown into the well by Empress Dowager and drowned. In 1901 she was posthumously conferred the title of Noble Concubine, the 3rd-level consort. Concubine Jin, her sister, set up the mourning chamber to praise her sincerity and determination.


The well-known purple wall that kept those inside the Forbidden City from access to the outside world.


Jingshan (景 山) is an artificial hill in Beijing covering an area of more than 230,000 sq m, and spans across both the Xicheng District. Originally an imperial garden, it is now a public park known as Jingshan Park. The hill was constructed in the Yongle era of the Ming Dynasty. It consists of 5 individual peaks, on top of each peak has an elaborate pavilion. The last emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Chongzhen committed suicide by hanging himself here in 1644.

21 January 2010

TIAN'AN MEN (天 安 門)

We visited the home of the emperors on the 2nd day, which is the Forbidden City. Before entering the "Home" we had to cross the national symbol of China which is the well known Tien'An Men square. It was very windy and cold in the wide openness, fingers were literally frozen while trying to capture the magnificent scene.

Tian'An Men square is the large plaza in the centre of Beijing City, named after the Tian'An Men which sits to the north, separating it from the Forbidden City. It is the largest city square in the world which has been the site of many events among which a gathering of pro-democracy protesters in 1989.


人民英雄紀念碑﹣Monument to the People's Heroes is a ten-storey obelisk that was erected as a national monument of the People's Republic of China. The monument was built in memory of the martyrs who laid down their lives for the revolutionary struggles of the Chinese people during the 19th and 20th centuries. On the front of the monument there is an inscription in Mao Zedong's handwriting, which reads "Eternal Glory to the People's Heroes". On the back of the monument there is a message which was drafted by Mao Zedong and written by Zhou Enlai.


Tian'an men literally the "Gate of Heavenly Peace" is a famous monument in Beijing, the capital of the People's Republic of China. First built during the Ming Dynasty in 1420, Tian'An Men is often referred to as the front entrance of the Forbidden City. It is located along the northern edge of Tian'An Men square. To enter the Forbidden City from Tian'An Men square, one has to go under the tunnel as it is impossible to cross the wide heavy traffic road.


The Meridian Gate, Wu Men is the southern entrance of the Forbidden City. Wu Men is the largest and most imposing of the entrances and is the main gate to the Forbidden City. It has 5 openings and is 35.6 meters high. The gate is surmounted by five pavilions name Wu Feng Lou, which means "The Tower of the Five Phoenix". The tower housed drums which were beaten to announce the emperor's departure for the Temple of Heaven, while bells were rung to announce their departure to the Ancestral Temple.


Everyone who entered the Forbidden City had to observe strict rules concerning the use of the Meridian Gate. The central arch was for the exclusive use of the emperor. However, an empress was granted the privilege of using this entrance once, and only once, on her wedding day.

As a special honour, the three finalists who achieved the highest awards in the national examinations presided over by the emperor, would be permitted to march through this archway, following their interview with the emperor. The smaller arch to the east was used by ministers while that to the west was used by the royal family. The remaining arches were used by petty officials. Ordinary people were forbidden to enter the city.

16 January 2010

WARM & COMFORT

Darkness came very early in Beijing during winter. By 4.30pm the sky started to turn gray and was in total darkness by 5pm. Due to the coldness we retired early back to hotel after dinner around 8pm. We all wondered what sort of hotel we were staying although it was quoted as 5-star hotel when we booked the tour.

We stayed at the JW Marriott during the entire tour and it turned out to be a comfortable and lovely hotel, near a big high end shopping mall. The rooms are spacious and breakfast provided was international buffet, offering Western, Chinese and Japanese food. As the lighting was not conducive that I did not take any food photos.


Festive mood in the hotel lobby


Hugh beautiful Christmas tree adorned with lovely ornaments


Festive feel


Beautiful decor to greet you at the entrance of the room


Where does this door lead to?


Spacious and bright bathroom


Big bathtub to soak up tireness


Big LCD to entertain


Pity no internet access


Cosy corner to relax


Comfortable bed with warm thick comforter