Plcaces to visit in China

 

Forbidden City

 

Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, and ?? in Chinese.

It was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty, from 1420 to 1912. It is located in the centre of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum. It housed the emperors and their households as well as the ceremonial and political centre of Chinese government for almost 500 years.

When Hongwu Emperor’s son Zhu Di became the Yongle, he decided to move the capital from Nanjing to Beijing, and started to build what would become the Forbidden City in 1406. Over one million workers were required and the construction was lasted fro 14 years.

 

From 1420 to 1644, the Forbidden City was the seat of the Ming dynasty. The Qing rulers changed the names on some of the major buildings, to emphasise “Harmony” rather than “Supremacy”,[15] made the name plates bilingual (Chinese and Manchu),[16] and introduced Shamanist elements to the palace.

In 1860, during the Second Opium War, Anglo-French forces took control of the Forbidden City and occupied it until the end of the war.[18] In 1900 Empress Dowager Cixi fled from the Forbidden City during the Boxer Rebellion, leaving it to be occupied by forces of the treaty powers until the following year.

 

In 1912, with the abdication of Puyi, the last Emperor of China, the Forbidden City ceased being the political center of China, after housed 24 emperors, 14 of the Ming dynasty and 10 of the Qing dynasty.

 

In 1933, the Japanese invasion of China forced the evacuation of the national treasures in the Forbidden City. Part of the collection was returned at the end of World War II, but the other part was evacuated to Taiwan in 1948 under orders by Chiang Kai-shek, whose Kuomintang was losing the Chinese Civil War. This relatively small but high quality collection was kept in storage until 1965, when it again became public, as the core of the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

 

The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage in 1987 by UNESCO as the “Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties”, due to its significant place in the development of Chinese architecture and culture. It is currently administered by the Palace Museum, which is carrying out a sixteen-year restoration project to repair and restore all buildings in the Forbidden City to their pre-1912 state.

 

With with 961 metres (3,153 ft) from north to south and 753 metres (2,470 ft) from east to west , the Forbidden City is in rectangle shape. People always think that there are 9,999 rooms, based on oral tradition. However, this is not supported by the fact. The Forbidden City consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,886 bays of rooms. The Forbidden City is enclosed in a larger well-protected area called the Imperial City. It was designed to be the centre of the ancient, walled city of Beijing.

The Forbidden City remains important in the civic scheme of Beijing. The central north–south axis remains the central axis of Beijing.

The Forbidden City is surrounded by a 7.9 metres (26 ft) high city wall and a 6 metres (20 ft) deep by 52 metres (171 ft) wide moat. The walls are 8.62 metres (28.3 ft) wide at the base, tapering to 6.66 metres (21.9 ft) at the top. These walls served as both meant to defend and retain the palace. They were constructed with a rammed earth core, and surfaced with three layers of specially baked bricks on both sides, with the interstices filled with mortar.

Entering from the Meridian Gate, there is a large square, pierced by the meandering Inner Golden Water River, which is crossed by five bridges. Beyond the square stands the Gate of Supreme Harmony. Behind that is the Hall of Supreme Harmony Square. A three-tiered white marble terrace rises from this square. Three halls stand on top of this terrace, the focus of the palace complex. From the south, these are three great halls, namely, Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony, and the Hall of preserving Harmony. The Hall of Supreme Harmony is the largest, and rises some 30 metres (98 ft) above the level of the surrounding square. It is the ceremonial centre of imperial power, and the largest surviving wooden structure in China. It is nine bays wide and five bays deep, the numbers 9 and 5 being symbolically connected to the majesty of the Emperor. In the Ming dynasty, the Emperor held court here to discuss affairs of state. During the Qing dynasty, as Emperors held court far more frequently, a less ceremonious location was used instead, and the Hall of Supreme Harmony was only used for ceremonial purposes, such as coronations, investitures, and imperial weddings. The Hall of Central Harmony is a smaller, square hall, used by the Emperor to prepare and rest before and during ceremonies. Behind it, the Hall of Preserving Harmony, was used for rehearsing ceremonies, and was also the site of the final stage of the Imperial examination. All three halls feature imperial thrones, the largest and most elaborate one being that in the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

 

The design of the Forbidden City, from its overall layout to the smallest detail, was meticulously planned to reflect philosophical and religious principles, and above all to symbolise the majesty of Imperial power.

Almost all the roofs in the Forbidden City bear yellow glazed tiles due to the fact that yellow is the color of the Emperor. However, there are two exceptions. The library at the Pavilion of Literary Profundity had black tiles because black was associated with water, and thus fire-prevention. Similarly, the Crown Prince’s residences have green tiles because green was associated with wood and thus growth.

 

The main halls in outer and inner courts are all arranged in groups of three. It represents Heaven. The residences of the inner court are arranged in groups of six, which representing the Earth.

 

The collections of the Palace Museum are based on the Qing imperial collection. According to the results of a 1925 audit, some 1.17 million pieces of art were stored in the Forbidden City. In addition, the imperial libraries housed a large collection of rare books and historical documents, including government documents of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

 

Today, there are over a million rare and valuable works of art in the permanent collection of the Palace Museum, including paintings, ceramics, seals, steles, sculptures, inscribed wares, bronze wares, enamel objects, etc. According to an inventory of the Museum’s collection conducted between 2004 and 2010, the Palace Museum holds a total of 1,807,558 artifacts and includes 1,684,490 items designated as nationally protected “valuable cultural relics.”

 

Great Wall of China

One of the most iconic symbols of China, the Great Wall is the longest wall in the world, an awe-inspiring feat of ancient defensive architecture. Just like a gigantic dragon, it winds up and down across deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus, stretching approximately 13,170 miles (21,196 kilometers) from east to west of China. It deserves its place among “the New Seven Wonders of the World” and the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China.

 

In 220 B.C., under Qin Shi Huang, sections of earlier fortifications were joined together to form a united defence system against invasions from the north. Construction continued up to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), when the Great Wall became the world’s largest military structure. Its historic and strategic importance is matched only by its architectural significance.

 

The wall spans from China’s western frontier to the east coast, but the most integrated and best preserved sections are close to Beijing. So this is what people usually refer to when talking about the Great Wall of China.

 

The mystery of the construction of the wall is amazing. The construction, which drew heavily on the local resources for construction materials, was carried out in-line with the local conditions under the management of contract and responsibility system. A great army of manpower, composed of soldiers, prisoners and local people, built the wall. The construction result demonstrates the wisdom and tenacity of the Chinese people. Great Wall carries a considerable part of Chinese culture. It has long been incorporated into Chinese mythology and symbolism. The most well-known legend is about the collapse of a section of the Wall caused by Meng Jiangnu, who cried bitterly over the death of her husband after he died while building the wall. This legend has been spread widely through textbooks, folk songs and traditional operas.

 

The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, generally built along an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China to protect the Chinese States and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe. Several walls were being built as early as the 7th century BCE;[2] these, later joined together and made bigger and stronger, are now collectively referred to as the Great Wall.[3] Especially famous is the wall built 220–206 BCE by Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Little of that wall remains. Since then, the Great Wall has on and off been rebuilt, maintained, and enhanced; the majority of the existing wall is from the Ming Dynasty.

 

Other purposes of the Great Wall have included border controls, allowing the imposition of duties on goods transported along the Silk Road, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration. Furthermore, the defensive characteristics of the Great Wall were enhanced by the construction of watch towers, troop barracks, garrison stations, signaling capabilities through the means of smoke or fire, and the fact that the path of the Great Wall also served as a transportation corridor.

 

One of the earliest known references to this myth appears in a letter written in 1754 by the English antiquary William Stukeley. Stukeley wrote that, “This mighty wall of four score miles [130 km] in length is only exceeded by the Chinese Wall, which makes a considerable figure upon the terrestrial globe, and may be discerned at the Moon.”The claim was also mentioned by Henry Norman in 1895 where he stated “besides its age it enjoys the reputation of being the only work of human hands on the globe visible from the Moon.”

 

With a history of more than 2,000 years, some of the sections are now in ruins or have disappeared. However, it is still one of the most appealing attractions all around the world owing to its architectural grandeur and historical significance.

The Terracotta Army

 

The Terracotta Army (Chinese: ???) is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife.

 

The figures were discovered in 1974 by local farmers. The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Estimates from 2007 were that the three pits containing the Terracotta Army held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which remained buried in the pits nearby Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum. Other terracotta non-military figures were found in other pits, including officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians.

 

Qin’s tomb appears to be a hermetically-sealed space the size of a football pitch. The tomb itself remains unexcavated, though Siam Qian’s writings suggest even greater treasures.

“The tomb was filled with models of palaces, pavilions and offices as well as fine vessels, precious stones and rarities,” reads a translation of the text.

The account indicates the tomb contains replicas of the area’s rivers and streams made with mercury flowing to the sea through hills and mountains of bronze. Precious stones such as pearls are said to represent the sun, moon, and other stars.

Modern tests on the tomb mound have revealed unusually high concentrations of mercury, lending credence to at least some of the historical account.

Chinese archaeologists are also using remote-sensing technology to probe the tomb mound. The technique recently revealed an underground chamber with four stairlike walls. An archaeologist working on the site told the Chinese press that the chamber may have been built for the soul of the emperor.

Experimental pits dug around the tomb have revealed dancers, musicians, and acrobats full of life and caught in mid-performance, a sharp contrast to the military poses of the famous terra-cotta soldiers.

But further excavations of the tomb itself are on hold, at least for now.

“It is best to keep the ancient tomb untouched, because of the complex conditions inside,” Duan Qinbao, a researcher with the Shaanxi Provincial Archaeology Institute, told the China Daily in 2006.

 

The terracotta army figures were manufactured in workshops by government laborers and local craftsmen using local materials. Heads, arms, legs, and torsos were created separately and then assembled. Eight face moulds were most likely used, with clay added after assembly to provide individual facial features. It is believed that the warriors’ legs were made in much the same way that terracotta drainage pipes were manufactured at the time. This would classify the process as assembly line production, with specific parts manufactured and assembled after being fired, as opposed to crafting one solid piece and subsequently firing it. In those times of tight imperial control, each workshop was required to inscribe its name on items produced to ensure quality control. This has aided modern historians in verifying which workshops were commandeered to make tiles and other mundane items for the terracotta army. Upon completion, the terracotta figures were placed in the pits in precise military formation according to rank and duty.

 

The terracotta figures are life-sized. They vary in height, uniform, and hairstyle in accordance with rank. Originally, the figures were also painted with bright pigments, variously colored pink, red, green, blue, black, brown, white and lilac. The colored lacquer finish and individual facial features would have given the figures a realistic feel. However, much of the color coating had flaked off or become greatly faded.

 

Most of the figures originally held real weapons such as spears, swords, or crossbows, and the use of actual weapons would have increased the figures’ realism. Most of the original weapons, however, were looted shortly after the creation of the army, or have rotted away. Nevertheless, many weapons such as swords, spears, battle-axes, scimitars, shields, crossbows, and arrowheads were found in the pits.

 

Potala Palace

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The Shaolin Monastery (Chinese???pinyinShΰolνn sμ), also known as the Shaolin Temple, is a Chan (“Zen”) Buddhist temple in Dengfeng CountyHenan ProvinceChina. Dating back 1,500 years, Shaolin Temple is the main temple of the Shaolin school of Buddhism to this day.

Shaolin Monastery and its Pagoda Forest were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010 as part of the “Historic Monuments of Dengfeng.”

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Mount Tai, located just north of Tai’an city in East China’s Shandong province, is a mountain of historical and cultural significance, with impressive views and beautiful natural scenery. It’s just 50 km (30 miles) south of Shandong’s capital Jinan, so access is convenient.

The word tai in Chinese means stability and peace and the name Tai’an is attributed to the saying: “If Mount Tai is stable, so is the entire country” (both characters of Tai’an have an independent meaning of stability and peace). Mount Tai is crowned by Jade Emperor Peak (in Chinese mythology, the Jade Emperor is the most powerful god in heaven) with an altitude of 1,545 meters.

Mount Tai is the greatest of the Five Great Mountains, the most famous mountains in Chinese history, destination of imperial pilgrimages and sacrifices for over three thousand years. Their religious significance transcends faith; they have been associated with Confucianism and Buddhism, but their strongest relation is with Taoism.

Each of the Five Great Mountains is related to one of the five cardinal directions. Mount Tai is the mountain of the East; it is associated with birth, sunrise and renewal. The first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang (of Terracotta Warriors fame) announced the unity of China from the summit of Mount Tai, two hundred years before the birth of Christ.

Nowadays, Mount Tai is a UNESCO World Heritage site, visited by six million people every year. There are dozens of temples, stone tablets and inscriptions lining the path to the summit, making the mountain a cultural as well as natural attraction.

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