China, Walk on the Great Wall and more…

Follow in the Emperor’s footsteps in Beijing’s Forbidden City

To best experience the Forbidden City, the enormous walled 15th-­Century structure at Beijing’s heart, later in the day is actually better. Skip the museum within the complexes grounds and head to the North Gate, going backward toward the main entrance at Tiananmen. This is where every Emperor lived from Y 1420, when the 7.8-M sqf, 980-building compound was finished, until Y 1912, when the Qing dynasty faded away.

Walk the Great Wall without the Tourists

There are a few main sections of the Great Wall that people visit. Badaling and Juyong Pass, which are among the closest to the city, are so densely packed with tourists that you might as well stay home. Then there is Mutianyu, about 90 mins outside the City Center, and Jinshanling, which is 2 hrs away. Both options have their benefits. Jinshanling, which will be all but un-touristed, is an especially nice choice if you want to walk a long section of the wall. If, however, your main goal is not to hike the wall but to just get a feel for it, go to Mutianyu.

Be awestruck by the terra-cotta Warriors of Xi’an

“Our Land’s” 1st ruler, the great Emperor Qin Shi Huang, not only began construction on the Great Wall, but he is also responsible for the terra-cotta Warriors of Xi’an. Shi Huang’s secret remained just that until Y 1974, when 3 local farmers were digging a well and came across stone Warriors. They reported it to their local official, and no sooner could you say, “Sorry, Shi Huang,” than the 8th Wonder of the World was discovered. The terra-cotta Warriors are not part of his official tomb, official tomb is about a mile away from the Warrior site, and writings from that time record it as having Mountains of Jade and Rivers of Mercury, atop which the Emperor’s body could float forever. And, recent soil testing confirms high levels of Mercury in the soil around the tomb, the largest in the world at about 22 sqm.

The Summer Palace in Beijing

This enormous complex of gardens, official buildings, and pagodas was commissioned in Y 1750 by the great 4th Emperor of the Qing dynasty, Qianlong, but is probably best associated with the so-called “Dragon Lady”, the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908), a formidable royal concubine turned regent who essentially ruled China from Y 1861 until her death. The grounds are vast, and you could easily spend a day there, but you do not need to see every building and pagoda, but do not miss the spectacular covered hallway that follows the shore of the man-made lake, which was built to resemble the shape of a Peach, the traditional symbol for longevity. This is the longest covered hallway in the world and is lovely and functional. On a hot day, the hallway creates a wind tunnel, with the breeze off the lake circulating coolly throughout the walkway.

Enjoy your travels