Asia - China

China 2019

Day 1 – Travel

Our adventure in China has begun.  We are on a Trip-A-Deal Warriors of China tour.  We left from Sydney on a China Eastern Airlines flight to Beijing via Hangzhou.  Good flight but big delay in Hangzhou. Finally arrived in Beijing at 3.30 am, met by the tour guide at the airport and transported to our hotel.  So many Aussies travelling together!

 

Day 2 – Beijing

Our first stop today was the Beijing Zoo to see the Pandas.

Tiananmen Square is located at the centre of Beijing. Here you can see the Tiananmen Tower, Monument to the People’s Heroes, Great Hall of the People, Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall and see the national flag raising ceremony. Thousands of people come to the Square every day from all over China as well as overseas tourists. Its was the scene of the 4 June 1989 democracy protests which resulted in the government declaring martial law.  Many people were killed or injured in the ensuing struggle. 30 years on it is hard to imagine that day.

At the north end of the Square is Tiananmen Tower. Initially built in 1417 during the Ming Dynasty (1368 A.D.- 1644 A.D.), the Square was the front door of the Forbidden City.

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The granite Monument to the People’s Heroes is at the centre of Tiananmen Square. Built in 1952, it is the largest monument in China’s history. ‘The People’s Heroes are Immortal’ written by Chairman Mao is engraved on the monument.

West of Tiananmen Square is the Great Hall of the People. This building, erected in 1959, is the site of the China National People’s Congress meetings. The floor of the Central Hall is paved with marble and crystal lamps hang from the ceiling. The Great Auditorium behind the Central Hall seats 10,000. The Banqueting Hall has 5,000 seats. The gardens outside it were fabulous.

The Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao is at the south side of Tiananmen Square. This Hall is divided into three halls and Chairman Mao’s body lies in a crystal coffin in one of the halls surrounded by fresh bouquets of various famous flowers and grasses.  The line of people waiting to pay respect is huge normally but today it was closed as it was a Monday and all museums are closed Mondays.

The China National Museum at the east side of Tiananmen Square. Erected in 2003 it is a combination of Chinese History Museum and Chinese Revolutionary Museum. Inside the Chinese Revolutionary Museum are a lot of material objects, pictures, books and models to present the development of modern China. The Chinese History Museum shows a large number of cultural relics illustrating the long history and culture of China from 1,700,000 years ago to 1921 when the last emperor left the throne.

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This evening we attended the dramatic musical The Golden Mask Dynasty which was an optional tour. It tells a mythical fairy tale story of war & romance with dances, acrobatics, costumes and a large-scale production. There is even a scene with a waterfall on stage!  An hour show, visually stunning!

 

Day 3 – Beijing

The Jade Museum was our first stop today so we could learn the history of jade. In Chinese, jade is pronounced as “Yu” and it has a history in China of at least four thousand years. We observed the skilled artisans at work as they created their intricate designs and had time to explore and buy at the shop.

Then we went to Juyong Pass to see a part of the Great Wall of China.  The Wall meanders through China’s northern mountain ranges from the Yellow Sea to the Gobi Desert – a distance of more than 5600 kilometres.  The wall was constructed over many dynasties starting with the Qin Dynasty (around 200BC) and finished during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).  The Juyong Pass is particularly steep and became a key defence point to protect Beijing.  Just standing on the Wall is amazing – so much history!

The stairs were quite a challenge – quite steep and so many!!! this part of the Wall has 1800 steps with 12 fortresses along the way. A great tribute to Rod was that he made it to the top. Officially he is a Great Wall Hero.

In the afternoon, we took an optional tour to see Beijing’s 700 year old Hutong’s (narrow lanes) area. The area is being preserved as an historical site and is quite a contrast to modern Beijing. We visited a local family living in a courtyard style home and experienced the local customs including a delicious home-cooked dinner.

 

Day 4 – Beijing to Xi’an

This morning we went to the Tongrentang Chinese medicine centre. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a different approach to health care. Where Western medicine fixes problems when they occur, TCM aims to prevent the problems from arising in the first place. They promote healthy eating, balanced lifestyle and herbs to assist any deficiencies that they may detect in the body. Very interesting and worth researching.

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The city centre is very upscale, every elite brand that you could imagine could be seen along this on mall/street. Then we wandered down an alleyway and were amazed by the contrast.

The Forbidden City served as the Imperial palace for 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911). Ancient Chinese astronomers believed that the Purple Star (Polaris) was the centre of heaven and the heavenly emperor lived in the Purple Palace. the palace for the emperor on earth was also called the Purple Palace.  It was forbidden to enter without special permission of the emperor. Hence the name The Purple Forbidden City, or just The Forbidden City.

It is now the Palace Museum and is to the North of Tiananmen Square. It is the world’s largest palace complex and covers 74 acres. It has a 52 metre moat, a 10 metre wall and more than 8700 rooms.

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Then it was onto Beijing Airport for our flight to Xi’an. Xi’an surprised us by its size, it is a city of 9 million people.

 

Day 5 – Xi’an

Today – the Terracotta Warriors and Horses.  The mass display of the carved warriors is unbelievable!  The photos will not do it justice.  Honestly astounding!

Emperor Qin Shihuang (259-210BC) was the first empower of China, bringing together various provinces under his rule.  He was the one who ordered The Great Wall to be built. He also commanded that the warriors be constructed to guard him in the after-life.

The thousands of detailed life-size models represent the army that united China at the end of the Warring States Period (476–221 BC). They were molded in parts, fired, then assembled and painted. Once they were finished, a wooden floor was put over them and they were buried. To ensure that no one would find the site, the emperor ordered the workers to be killed.  Some escaped and after the emperor died they came back and smashed the warriors.

The Terracotta Army figures’ excavation is regarded as one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century. It had lain underground for more than 2000 years before farmers digging a well in 1974 uncovered what is now considered one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world.

The first part of the Terracotta Army site to be discovered was named Pit One. In 1976, two other pits were uncovered nearby, and were named Pit Two and Pit Three.

Since their discovery, archaeologists and craftspeople are painstakingly reconstructing them from the pieces that have been found. Each warrior or horse may take up to 6 months to reconstruct.  If they can’t find all the pieces, they only do what they can.  That is why in some of the photos you will see some pieces missing.

The tomb is a treasury for the Chinese people and for the whole world. In December 1987, UNESCO selected the Tomb of the First Emperor (including the Terracotta Army Vaults) as a World Cultural Heritage Site.

Here is what the archaeologists start with.

More photos because… well because

We also went to the Terracotta Warrior Reproduction Factory where replica warriors are made and sold to tourists.

Day 6 – Xi’an to Suzhou

This morning we went back to school and learnt about Chinese calligraphy. Very interesting, and we were taught to write happiness.

We visited the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, a major tourist site located on the central axis of the Jianfu Temple in south Xi’an. The Small Wild Goose Pagoda is completely built of stone. The top three floors have been damaged, but it adds to the appeal of the pagoda. As a national AAAA scenic spot and a world heritage site, the Buddhist pagoda survives from the Tang Dynasty.

In the grounds was a magnificent rose garden and a bell with a beautiful tone – Jane from our group rang it three times to let everyone at home know that we are well. Oh yes, and a 1300 year old tree.

Then, in the afternoon we went to Xian Airport for our flight to Shanghai. Upon arrival, a tour representative met us at the airport and for the transfer to Suzhou (approximately a 1.5-hour coach ride) to check-in to the hotel.

To put things into perspective we have been told, if you want to learn about Chinese history for the part 600 years, go to Beijing. If you want to learn about its history for over 2000 years, go to Xi’an.  And for 2500 years, go to Suzhou.

 

Day 7 – Suzhou to Wuxi

Suzhou, which dates back to 514 BC, is sometimes called the ‘Venice of the East’. We visited the famous Lingering Garden, recognised with other classical Suzhou gardens as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

China is renowned for its exquisite silk, so naturally a visit to the Silk Spinning Factory was in order.

In the afternoon we took the optional tour to cruise along the Grand Canal to view life along China’s ancient waterway.

 

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Then we took the coach to Wuxi (approx. 1 hour) and enjoyed free time at leisure in nearby Nanchan Street, an ancient street which has been elegantly renovated.

Day 8 – Wuxi to Hangzhou

This morning we visited Li Lake Park, a recreational area with beautiful gardens that is visited by local people and tourists alike. It’s only a couple of hours from Shanghai so people come here for the weekend to breathe the air and relax. One of the draw cards is the Forever Bridge – when you pass over it you become younger. If you walk across holding hands with your partner you will be together forever. I choose to believe this.

We went to a Pearl Factory where they had some fabulous pearl jewellery. We learnt that there are 5 colours of pearls – white, gold, black, pink and lavender. Very interesting to see a young oyster being opened and it contained 35 small pearls.  If the pearls are too small or imperfect they are ground down to make pearl dust and this is used in creams or made into tea to promote smooth skin.

Then went via coach to Hangzhou (approx. 3 hours).

 

Day 9 – Hangzhou to Shanghai

We had a boat ride on Hanzhou’s West Lake this morning and a brief walk around it’s Grounds. A place of tranquillity on the outskirts of the city. Very beautiful.

Hangzhou is considered the tea capital of China, we we’re taken to the Tea House at Meijiawu Tea Village in the hinterland of West Lake Park, considered one of the most important Longjing Tea productions in China. We enjoyed the beautiful village scenery while learning about China’s special tea culture and how to appreciate the taste and health benefits of this special green tea.

The optimum time for picking is in early spring where only the youngest leaves are chosen. We were here after the final harvest but were still shown how to select the right leaves.

We then went by coach to Shanghai (approximately 2.5 hours).

Tonight we went to the (optional) Chinese acrobatic show “ERA: The Intersection of Time”. This was an excellent show highlighting acrobats, jugglers, high wire artists, a magician and comedians. excellent performances.

Day 10 – Shanghai

Shanghai is divided by the Huang Pu River into eastern and western sections. The Bund is a five-block riverfront promenade along the river where you can see the modern skyscrapers on the eastern side and the classic European architecture on the western side.

Shanghai Museum is home to more than 120,000 objects and artworks. Beautiful building and well laid out.

We had lunch in the area called the French Concession on the west side of the river.

In the afternoon joined an optional half-day tour of Shanghai including Yu Garden, believed to have been built more than 400 years ago. The exquisite garden architecture has made the garden one of the highlights of Shanghai.

The area is part of the old town of Shanghai and there were many restaurants, shops, souvenir kiosks, crafts and fabulous old style buildings. Fabulous area.

In the evening, we took the optional “Night Cruise on the Huangpu River”.

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Day 11 – Shanghai to Sydney

This morning we joined an optional tour to experience the famous Maglev Train.  The train reached a speed of 431 km per hour.  Maglev (magnetic levitation) is a system of train transportation that uses two sets of magnets, one set to repel and push the train up off the track, then another set to move the ‘floating train’ ahead at great speed, taking advantage of the lack of friction.

We went to the financial district and took photos of the three tallest buildings from an interesting perspective and took in the sights of this ultra modern area.

Last minute shopping was done at the ‘fake market’.  Fun.  All sorts of interesting stuff from suitcases and handbags to toys, suits, sunglasses, electronics, you name it and they had it.   It was a must to bargain HARD for the things you wanted.  Everyone came back having shopped themselves silly.

In the afternoon we were transferred to Shanghai Airport for the return flight to Sydney.  And just like that our China adventure is done.  Loved it all!

Day 12 – Home

Reflecting on our time in China, I am thankful for a great groups of fellow travellers, guides that helped us every step of the way, lovely hotels and a new understanding of modern China.

 

 

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