Saturday, June 20, 2009

Beijing - Day 2 (Jingshan/Beihai)

Jingshan Park is just across the street from the Forbidden City. I'm hungry and thirsty and in no mood to walk around parks. But the 230,000 sq. m. Jingshan is different. If you climb to the top of Jingshan, you get a bird's eye view of the Forbidden City, which is amazing considering the size and scale of the Palace Museum. Also, did you know that 45-m high Jingshan is actually an artificial hill created entirely from dirt and soil excavated from the moats of the Imperial Palace?

We settled down for some ice cold drink and snacks, then proceeded to scale Jingshan. There are five pavilions around Jingshan and each one offers a good vantage point of the Forbidden Palace. The best is the Wanchun Ding (All Time Spring Pavilion). From here, you can also see the White Pagoda in Beihai Park across the river. I'm all ready to call it a day, but the wife is not coming back another day, so if we wanna see the pagoda we'll have to do it now. From the top of Jingshan, the White Pagoda is not that far away. Yeah, right. Took us about half an hour (or more) to get down from Jingshan, out of the park, walk a couple of blocks to Beihai Park. Maybe they should install a cable car system to shuttle people between these two parks. Forgot to mention that Jingshan Park is well-known for another thing. Within the park still stands the tree where Chong Zhen, the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty, hanged himself in 1644. Pressed for time, we didn't go see the tree anymore. I'm sure it's doing fine.

We got to Beihai a couple of hours before closing time. According to a notice, Beihai Park has been around for almost a thousand years. It was first built in 938 A.D., and was opened to the public as a park in 1925. In between, Beihai was used as an imperial summer palace. There's a lot to see like temples and pavilions and pools, but all we're after is the White Pagoda. There's a long, steep flight of stairs leading up to the pagoda. Great shot if the photographer is at the base of the stairs, the subject is at the middle, and the pagoda is at the top. Everybody had the same idea so it's difficult to take a good shot. Right beside the pagoda is the Hall of Beneficient Causation, whose four external walls are covered with 455 glazed tiles - each with an image of Buddha.

Coming out of the islet, we see this city wall with a plaque saying this is Tuancheng City - with ramparts 4.6m high and 276 meters in perimeter, covering an area of 4,500 sq. m. Going up the walls, we get to Cheng Guan Dian (Hall of Divine Light). Outside the temple is a 3.5-ton jade jar, which Kublai Khan reported used as a wine vessel.

After all that walking, we're so tired we simply took a taxi back to the hotel. For the rest of the day, we just stayed in and around the hotel. Japanese dinner at night.

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