Friday, January 06, 2012

Beijing City – 24 December 2011

Tianamen Square was our first stop and beginning at the Qian Men Gate (1360) we walked past Chairman Mao's mausoleum and down to the Forbidden City (1420). Although, at 98 acres, Tianamen Square is the largest in the world it is only about half the size of the Forbidden City.

Much of the Emperor's old palace was refurbished in time for the 2008 Olympics so we enjoyed the benefit of all the work done for that deadline. The Forbidden City encompassed 999½ rooms as heaven was believed to had 1000 rooms. We never got to see the half room so not quite sure on how that would be translated into reality. But even with almost 1000 rooms, they still did not have space for a toilet, apparently.

With gate after gate, reception halls and finally the throne room and then the living quarters, it takes quite a while to simply walk from one end to the other, without taking in all the side rooms and courtyards etc Everything is in mirror-image symmetry as befits the Chinese ying-yang philosophy.

Leaving the Forbidden City we were taken to the first of our retail experiences, tea. After a most entertaining and quite tasty Chinese tea ceremony, and the opportunity to buy, it was time for another Chinese meal and then it was off to the Heavenly Temple, a circular structure built on an artificial hill.

More retail opportunities were provided when we stopped at the Silk Market which has diversified well beyond silk.

Our evening treat was a visit to another hotel where there is a show giving a taster of Chinese Opera. After an audio-visual overview of Chinese Opera, four well known scenes were described in English on the screen then played out by the actors accompanied by English sub-titles on side screens.

Although the costumes and painted masks were quite spectacular, the high-pitched female voices and the accompanying stringed music rather grated on our western ears. The best piece was an assassin and his target fighting one another in the “darkness” in a tavern. The choreography of the fight between these two who “could not see” one another but occasionally “bumped” into each other was very well done giving a most amusing effect.

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