On the previous day, we had visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Four of the ten top bucket list items of Beijing completed on our first day in town.
I was starting to understand why our travel agent of 25 years, who is now a personal friend, told me not to travel unguided throughout China, but as we were only going to Beijing, I did not think it was going to be an issue.
On the morning of day two, we decided to go thru Tiananmen Square again. This time we decided to go around the right-hand side of the square, rather than the left-hand side of the square.. well, we got into trouble with the authorities again. The walkway had been closed off for some reason. To this day, I still don’t know why we were not allowed to pass this section of walkway. We had a 10-minute discussion with a security guard until a lovely young Chinese national who spoke very good English came over to help out and simply explained to us, that we were not allowed on the sidewalk. We had to cross over to Tiananmen Square…..So the moral of the story is being prepared for things to be done differently in China and don’t leave the hotel without your passport, so you can show your nationality at all times.
After we passed into the square for a second time. We took another opportunity to reflect on where we were standing in the middle of Tiananmen Square. I love to watch the people taking photos of themselves like we had done on the previous day. I could just image, what the square have been like in 1989. The square is not as looks on tv, it is quite small. It looked peaceful on the day we visited.
We finally made it around the rear of the Forbidden City to the second section of the Imperial Gardens or Jingshan Park as it is now called.
Jingshan Park is the formerly private imperial park covering 23 hectares or 57 acres immediately north of the Forbidden City, where the Imperial family would walk, relax, read books. In 1928 a road was put thru the gardens to separate the gardens from the Forbidden City. The park was then open up to the general public later that year.
The last Emperor of China of the Qing dynasty left the Forbidden City in 1924, twelve years after the abdication. The Forbidden City served as the home of Chinese emperors and their households and was the ceremonial and political centre of the Chinese government for almost 500 years from the Ming dynasty, Yongle Emperor in 1420 to the end of the Qing dynasty, Henry Puyi Emperor in 1924. Emperor Henry Puyi abdicated when he was six years old. Empress Dowager Longyu endorsed the abdication on 12 February 1912, handing over power to Yuan Shikai’s Republican army. It was the beginning of the Chinese revolution in 1911. It was also a time of big change in Russia and Europe.
Jingshan Park was developed from a small hill in the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368) into a large, comprehensive garden. Many trees were planted on the hills, and the pavilions were used as holy places to offer sacrifice to imperial ancestors in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). The park became a popular summer resort for the imperial family. The park has beautiful pavilions and architecture as seen across the road at the palace.
The focal point is the artificial hill Jingshan, literally “Prospect Hill”. As you stand as the summit of Prospect Hill in the park, you can see the north gate of the Forbidden City called the Gate of Divine Might.
The park is also the most northern point of the south-north axis of inner ancient Beijing.
DRUM AND BELL TOWERS
As we wander thru the beautiful gardens of the Jingshan park for a few hours we came out at Qianhai Lake and realised we were out of the park. In Beijing you just get absorbed by the crowds. 80,000 people are allowed in the Forbidden City per day, so it gives you an idea that you just go with the crowds especially on nice days like it was that day. It has been a cold night, but beautiful winter days. All of a sudden, we were in an old neighbourhood surrounded by grey terrace houses. In ancient Beijing, only the Imperial family were allowed to use colour. So any other buildings will be grey. You know you have entered one of the old Hutong neighbourhoods. We were just going to enjoy this moment. These neighbourhoods are unfortunately disappearing in Beijing.
Before we knew we saw the Drum and Bell towers. We had a lovely encounter with a local Art teacher. He explained the history of the Drum towers to us.
The Drum Tower of Beijing, or Gulou, is situated at the northern end of the central axis of the Inner City to the north of Di’anmen Street.
The Drum Tower has been built and rebuilt numerous times during history, and existing one date from the Qing Dynasty in 1745, but now been built in a brick masonry structure to prevent a fire.
Originally built as musical instruments in ancient China. Later they were used by the government and communities to announce the time. The Bell and Drum towers were central to official timekeeping in ancient China during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. The Drum and Bell Tower could be heard for miles away as there were no tall buildings in ancient Beijing. The Forbidden City was the highest point in the city. In other cities in China, the Bell was rung at dawn and drum was beaten at sunset to indicated the beginning and end of the day.
The Bell and Drum Towers continued to function as the official timepiece of Beijing until 1924, when Chinese Revolution led to the expulsion of Henry Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, from the Forbidden City, and the adoption of western-styled clockwork for official time-keeping.
We finished the day by walking around the Old Hutong neighbourhoods near the Forbidden City back to the hotel and getting local homemade dumplings from a lady on the side of the road.
CNY 40 FOR 2 PP or NZD$9 or EUR 4.50 (IMPERIAL GARDENS)
CNY 30 FOR 2 PP or NZD$7 or EUR 3.50 (BELL AND DRUM TOWERS)
|DRUM AND BELL TOWERS||08.30-16.30|
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TRAVEL SERIES S1E8: CHINA IMPERIAL GARDENS & BELL AND DRUM TOWER BEIJING |TRAVELLERS NEST OVERLAND