Touring out of Beijing

By | Category: Travel destinations

Cloisonne Factory China
For those wishing to explore further a field from the main city of Beijing then the obvious choice has to be the Great Wall of China. Our journey out included a stop at the Cloisonné Factory where one can see some of the most brilliantly crafted enamel on copper work in the world. The factory is some what archaic like stepping back into the early 1900’s and sadly the workers are not the highest paid considering the stunning work they turn out. The process is complex but basically thin copper wire shapes or forms are painstakingly glued on to say a plain copper bowl to eventually for intricate patterns and designs. Then enamel in differing colours is applied layer upon layer until it fills in the copper wire design. The whole job is then fired at about 400c and it transforms in to a brilliant hard surface. Following polishing the item is ready for us punter to buy – mind you one is spoilt for choice as the sales room has thousands of items ranging from inexpensive enamelled pendants to massive £55,000 urns.

View of Ba Da Ling Gate from Great Wall of ChinaFrom here one journeys on in to the surrounding mountains and we choose the town of Ba Da Ling as our visit point to the Great Wall. This is one of the most popular sites to visit so be prepared for crowds and if you have not arranged a tour bus that takes you most of the way up to the wall then you’re in for a long hike. To say the wall is impressive is somewhat of an understatement its pure scale overwhelms one. First built in the 7th century B.C. and rebuilt, maintained and extended between then and the 18th century the Great Wall was designed to protect the Chinese Empire from attack by the Mongolians. Although the length of the wall is somewhat over 4160 miles large sections are in a state of collapse or are in areas where the Chinese do not want you to venture unsupervised but what is accessible is plenty enough for the average visitor. Having entered via the huge gate one has a choice of direction to follow – turn right after the pay booth and the climb is less strenuous and very spectacular or turn left as I did and climb to the highest tower but it’s no place for the unfit or those with any heart issues.
Climbing the Great WallThis is like mountaineering on steps and steep paved slopes – if it’s wet you will not get very far. The effort at times has one questioning one’s sanity, has it at last parted company with the gasping, heart pounding body that’s almost crying enough.

The views along this assault course remind and console one that you made the right decision as I puffed and gasped my way ever upwards until I finally reached the top tower. I assure you that the rewarding views from the top more than justifies the near cardiac arrest climb and certainly far better than had I turned right. Mind you the decent is not for the faint hearted either and really gets the old knees zinging!

The Sacred WayFollowing lunch we headed off for our visit to the Ming Tombs that lay about 30 miles northwest of Beijing at the foot of the Tianshou Mountains. Buried here are some thirteen of the sixteen Ming dynasty Emperors the other three went missing presumed murdered so no one has ever found their resting places. One enters the tomb area via the Dragon Headed Turtle Gate and then it’s well worth taking the one kilometre walk down the Sacred Way which has wonderful animal and human carvings along its entire length. From here its back on the bus for a short drive that will get you to the Tomb of Emperor Zhu Di at a place called Changling.

The Spirit Tower and entrance to Ming TombsThis was the first of the thirteen Tombs to be built and the others are all in a good state of preservation given that they were built between 1368-1644, but the Changling site is by far the biggest and most impressive. The whole site has been painstakingly restored over a period of years and the craftsmanship and decoration are magnificent. Having entered through the main gate one is struck by the serenity of the site, carefully manicured shrubs and ancient trees provide welcome shade from the sun as one moves through the gardens and climbs the steps to the imposing Hall of Eminent Favour one of Chinas most impressive surviving Ming buildings. The structure is referred to as a double eaved sacrificial hall and whilst already a huge building that’s made entirely of wood save its massive glazed terracotta tiled roofs its presence is even more imposing because it is set upon a three level stone terrace. Yongle EmperorThere is a lot to see and learn about the Ming Dynasty within this hall which is completed by a huge effigy of the young Emperor. Understandably as with all these sites photography within the building is not allowed but one can stand at the main door and photograph from outside. The actual tomb lays further on and its supposed access point is at The Spirit Tower, but even to this day the final resting place of the Emperor, his wife and sixteen concubines has not been discovered as the burial chamber lies deep below a massive mound directly behind the tower.

A very worthwhile days tour and given time for lunch plus almost two hours wall walking and some two hours at the Ming Tomb site we were back at our hotel in downtown Beijing by around six thirty and ready to dine out at the famous Ancestors Palace Restaurant where one can get some genuine Peking Duck.

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