I could go on for days about each sight in Beijing, but I think explaining them in one chunk might just properly recreate how overwhelmed we felt witness all of it in just two days. While traveling Beijing, eight of us were lucky to be guided by a sweet and knowledgeable tour guide, Carla. At each sight we were inundated with facts and statistics that we could barely believe. Through out China there was an air of respect and reverence for the past. The country has spent years renovating and maintaining hundreds of ancient palaces, temples, and gardens. We spent days wandering through the Forbidden City, Imperial City, Houtang Village, Temple of Heaven, the Great Wall and the Summer Palace. The shear size and scale of these architectural accomplishments is mind blowing.
The only way I can even attempt to get this across is to share some unfathomable statistics:
- It took one MILLION people and 14 years to build the Forbidden City.
- The Forbidden City is comprised of 90 gardens, hundreds of houses, and over 8,000 bedrooms.
- There are seven layers of stone and brick beneath the Forbidden City to protect against enemy tunneling.
- It would take a person 27 years to sleep in each bedroom in the Forbidden City at least once.
- The Great Wall of China is over 3,600 miles long and was worked on by every dynasty other than the Xing Dynasty.
- Tiananmen Square is designed to easily fit 500,000 people for one gathering.
- The Summer Palace is larger than the Forbidden City and is comprised of multiple small villages.
- The Summer Palace contains the world's longest enclosed corridor that stretches over 2 and half miles and is scattered with hundreds of unique windows (each window is a different shape, not one is repeated)
- Each structure (palace, temple, building) in these complexes was hand painted and was retouched for the Olympics.
Possibly even more outstanding than their physical accomplishments, were the Chinese architectural rituals with respect to honoring their religious beliefs. All steps are of an odd number while the number of posts on the buildings is always even. This is done to honor the concept of Ying and Yang and create balance. Each structure has a purpose and a meaning. Some represent longevity while others can represent strength, fertility, etc. Lions guard many important buildings because they are a symbol of strength. One is always female and one is always male.
More outrageous new pieces of information in my G-Wiz file, as my mother would call it:
- Each emperor had 100 concubines that were rotated every 3 years. (EW)
- There were 10,000 yunuks (male servants) that served the emperor and each was castrated to protect against relationships with concubines. (double EW)
- The Yunuks' "body parts" were kept and could be earned back (so they could feel whole again) with years of good service to the emperor.
- The Great Wall is also known as the "longest cemetery" because of the resulting massive number of deaths of the workers.
Are you completely lost yet? Because I was.