The Great Wall and the Forbidden City


Welcome to Beijing

Welcome to Beijing

Presented by Barb Cook

The Great Wall of China is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and quite an architectural and construction feat. We visited the Juyongguan section of the Wall outside of Beijing.  Built in sections and later connected, it stretches for more than 5,000 miles.  Its origins can be traced to the 7th century BCE when independent kingdoms constructed separate walls to keep out marauding nomads and invaders.  China’s first emperor linked many of these walls during the Qin Dynasty (221 – 207 BCE). It was renovated several times in later centuries. Built along the rolling ridges of steep mountains, it offers spectacular, even awe inspiring, views and is surely one of humankind’s greatest architectural achievements. Climbing is what you do as you traverse the Wall. It is billions of uneven, hand-hewn stone steps of varying heights and widths worn by countless footsteps and years of weather.  It was a fantastic and exhausting experience.  I did not reach the top of the crest. A good ways up, I realized that discretion might be the better part of valor as one slip on a step while descending could be very unfortunate. The views were marvelous. The number of people participating in this experience was amazing: old and young, agile and infirm.





We stopped at the Cloisonné Shop for a somewhat westernized Chinese lunch, which we downed in short order so we could shop downstairs.  The selection of merchandise was overwhelming, and there were lots of salesgirls there to help you make a selection and spend your money as you moved from one counter to another.  A shop adjoined the facility and it was interesting to see how the Cloisonné pieces were made.






The Forbidden City was our next stop and it was a truly humbling and mind-boggling experience. It is huge and was built in 1420 and lavishly lived in by the Ming and Qing dynasties. It covers about 250 acres with 980 buildings and included palaces, temples, and gardens.  There is an outer courtyard and an inner courtyard, four gates and is surrounded by a tall wall. During our seemingly endless stroll with even more steps, our guide shared a wealth of culture, classic Chinese architecture, and history with us. The colors and designs were lovely. Here the emperors dwelt in seclusion, the lives of all therein ordered by a complex set of rules and taboos. The facility was spruced up for the 2008 Olympics.








We drove by Tiananmen Square, which lies in the very heart of Beijing, the site of the disastrous student demonstrations on June 3, 1989, when government officials slaughtered many of the demonstrators. Our guide had been one of the students participating in the uprising, but was not there at the time of the killings. The Square itself is huge: 34 acres in size and surrounded by historic buildings, including the Great Hall of the People, Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall, the National Museum, and two ancient buildings.  Because of its recent political history, the Square is no longer open at night.

The student rebellion, although having a tragic end, was successful because now the government has begun increasing social services available to the people and has become more liberal and progressive.

The excursion to Beijing for a day was a long trip. It should have been 12.5 hours, but it ended up almost 14 hours. To speed up our return trip to the ship, we traveled the 100 miles from Beijing to Xingang on a bullet train.  The smooth ride at 239 KM an hour took just a short 28 minutes.



One Response to “The Great Wall and the Forbidden City”

  1. Ah, again some nifty photographs! It sounds quite fascinating although I had never wanted to go to China. You do make it appealing. we’re eager to see more. thank you for sharing.

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