Recycle bins at the Summer Palace

Day 3 (Saturday) - Beijing and nearby

Jade factory worker shaping a piece of jade


Saturday morning we headed out bright and early towards the Ming Tombs, about 31 miles from Beijing. On the way we stopped at the Jade Store/Factory – not on the itinerary but very interesting and, of course, most everyone bought something. We were given a quick course in jade, what to look for, what consitutes quality, what colors are most prized, etc. Then we went in the store. I ended up with jade earrings. Others bought bracelets, rings, and other items.

About an hour later we were headed again for the Ming Tombs. We actually did not see much of the Ming Tombs because we only went to one site that is open to the public, the site at Dingling. This was where the Emperor Zhu Yijuan was buried with his two empresses. Apparently you can go to the underground part where they are buried, but we were not told this or else we did not have time. We had to keep following the guide – five minutes here, ten minutes there, and so on. What we did see seemed to be more of a museum of artifacts from the tomb, gold ingots, jade pieces, gold artifacts, porcelain pieces and so on. There was intricately carved furniture, tapestry, a crown, a statue of the emperor, a throne, as well as intricately painted detail in the ceiling and other parts of the building.


Anne, Lucie, and Gene in front of one of the buildings (a museum) at the Ming Tombs north of Beijing


Close-up of edge of roof at the Ming Tombs site showing the detailed carvings.

View of part of the ceiling in the museum

Crown worn by one of the emperors

Carved elephant at the Ming Tombs


Throne of one of the Ming emperors

Cloisonné workers painting and glazing
Photo courtesy of Gene Field


After about an hour at the Ming Tombs, we headed on to the Great Wall at Badaling, north of Beijing beyond the Ming Tombs. But before we went there we stopped along the way at a cloisonné factory. We watched workers painting intricate designs onto bronze vases and other objects. Once painted, the pieces were fired. Then they were painted and refired many times before getting a final glaze and firing. The finished products were really beautiful and fairly expensive. We had lunch at the cloisonné factory and finally headed for the Great Wall.

We got to the Wall around two in the afternoon and since the sun was shining on the one wall that most people chose to climb, it was fairly warm. This area was dry and vegetation was sparse. We had been told to dress warmly because it could be quite cold there, but instead, as we began to climb, we were taking off our layers of warm clothes.

The wall is steeper than it looks and goes on and on. Some of the steps are so tall that you have to pull yourself up with the railing. The sides of the wall in some places were very high above the ground while in other spots you could walk up to the bottom of the wall and climb over. I don't know if this was the case when it was in use.

The wall was built about 2200 years ago by the the Emperor Ch'in Shih Huang Ti to protect China from the Mongol invaders and it did for many years. It was improved over the years, most recently by the Ming emperors.The wall was once more than three and a half thousand miles long and took ten years to build. It was made by thousands of workers using clay bricks. Watchtowers were built about every 100 yards. The area at the top was supposed to be the width of ten soldiers. We were told by our guide that five horsemen could ride abreast along the wall.

This section of the wall was one of the first to be reconstructed and restored some time ago for tourists. It appears to be ongoing, though, because, beyond some of the buildings down below, were machines and rubble. In 1987 it was declared a World Heritage Site. This section of the Wall is very popular, being close to Beijing.

Anne next to one of the terracotta soldiers

Some of our group going up and down the wall

It also has (according to the guidebooks) a museum and restaurants (which I never saw) and a cable ride up to the top of one side (which I also did not see). The side we went up had guard towers every so often and the views were very good as we got higher and higher.

Along sections of the Wall were what looked like the terra cotta soldiers except that they were reproductions. There were quite a few stored in one area behind one of the buildings.

Much to my disgust and dismay, as I went to take a picture of them, my camera refused to open. It would beep three times and turn off. So that was the end of my picture taking. I found out later when the company emailed me that if I had taken the batteries out and let the camera sit for twenty minutes and then put new batteries in, it might have fixed the problem. It did fix the problem, but that was later at home. The batteries that were in it were fine and I was able to view the pictures I took, I just could not take any more pictures because the lens would not work.

After heading back to Beijing and having dinner, we headed for bed.

A view from the bottom looking up

Looking down from the wall. The buses are parked in the parking lot to the left of the pagoda.

Lucie starting up the first section along with members of our M-6 bus group

8 April 2006 [China Trip Index|next]