Thursday, October 18, 2012

Yonghegong - Lama Temple

Last weekend Margot and I visited the Lama Temple or Yonghegong in Beijing. The place built in 1694 as a residence for Prince Yong of the Qing Dynasty. After Yong's death his successor converted it into a Tibetan Buddhist monastery.

It is an interesting combination on tourist site and working Buddhist temple.

The site survived the Cultural Revolution (1996-1976) thanks to the personal intervention of Zhou Enlai. During this time period many relics of the Imperial period were destroyed.

Here you can see one of the monks monitoring one of the incense burning vessels.

The streets leading to the temple and even the subway station is crowded with incense vendors.

As I said it is a working temple.

I think the sign is saying don't take pictures inside the hall. But I took it more literally. I can assure you I didn't burn any film in the hall although I did capture a few photons on the CMOS sensor in my camera.

The halls all run together so I'm not sure which on this is.

Apparently Buddha takes many forms.

That is a short fat Buddha above and several more svelte Buddhas here.

I'm sure the hand positions have significance but you will have to explore that on your own.

Sort of hard to see here but there are a series of desks or reading stations in this hall. I gather it must be used for instruction or meditation.

This Buddha is allegedly carved from a single sandlewood tree. The statue is 18 meters above ground and 8 meters below ground.

I find the architecture very interesting.

Notice the bells on many of the eves.

Another shot of the architecture.

This is a smaller hall off to the side.

I thought the grass on the roof was interesting.

I imagine this place was spruced up with a fresh coat of paint for the Olympics 4 years ago. It looks really nice.

There are a number of ginko trees in the compound. I didn't realize they bore fruit.

These are nice - but fake. They appear to be made of painted wood.

There is a small museum inside with a number of artifacts. This is a robe. Margot was impressed by the embroidery.

Ok. These items are made from human skulls. Those are kapala or cups on the top and damaru or drums on the bottom.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the closeup below.

If I read the wikipedia article right one half is a male skull and the other half is a female.

Learn more here --> Damaru or Kapala

Interesting information about the source of skulls and which have the most ritual power. --> Kapala Sources

This is bumpa or ritual vase. Not as exotic as the damaru or kapala.

After we left the temple we walked down a hutong toward the subway station. Here are a number of narrow passage ways off the main alley.

I can never tell exactly here the common property ends and someone's home begins. Depending of the length there may be dozens of homes off these little passageways.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dongjiaominxiang II Update

Former French Legation in Beijing

You may recall a blog posting from last week that led off with this picture of the former French Legation in Beijing. At the time, I indicated that I didn't know how it was currently being used.

Well, it turns out that it has been used for the last 42 years as the home of the former King of Cambodia, Norodom Sihanouk. Sihanouk was a good friend of China and was allowed by then Premier Zhou Enlai to stay in the residence on the site after he was deposed in 1970.

This all came to light in newspaper articles published on Monday after Sihanouk passed away. You can learn more (maybe more than you want to know) about Sihanouk and China in this article. --> Sihanouk and China

Here is the original posting in case you missed it. -->  Dongjiaominxiang II

Another topic.

You may recall my interest (maybe obsession) with the source of visitors to the blog. For the longest time I was missing 6 states from completing the milestone of having someone from every state visit the blog. After a drought of 5 months I picked up visitors from New Mexico, Vermont, and Idaho recently. That leaves Delaware, North Dakota and Wyoming on the no show list. If you know anyone in any of those states, please forward the blog URL to them. Thanks.

For the record the blog has had visitors from 88 different countries. The most recent are Algeria and Dominican Republic.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dongjiaominxiang II

Former French Legation on Dongjiaominxinag

We took another walk down Dongjiaominxiang last weekend. This time we headed west. This is the site of the former French Embassy. Not sure what it is now.

If you missed the earlier post, click for some background.  Dongjiaominxiang

I posted this picture in the earlier post.

Here is the same wall 2 days later. Almost finished.
St. Michael's Church on Dongjiaominxinag

In some ways this picture sort of sums up the area. This is St Michael's church. An apartment building behind it, storefronts and apartments in front including the little convenience store.

Parking is a challenge in Beijing. Until recently buildings weren't built with parking in mind. This building has gone with a multilevel approach. If you look closely on the upper levels of the close end you can see some car bumpers.
Former Yokohama Specie Bank on Dongjiaominxinag

This is the the former Yokohama Specie Bank.

The building was completed in 1910.

Former National City Bank of New York (Citibank) on Dongjiaominxinag

This is former National City Bank of New York. We know it now as Citibank.

It was constructed in 1914.

Former French Post Office on Dongjiaominxinag

This is site of the former French Post office. It is a Sichuan style restaurant, now.

Just a street scene. The red banners on the door are left over decorations from Chinese New Year, I believe.

People's Supreme Court on the site of th former Russian Legation on Dongjiaominxinag

The building behind the trees is the very modern Chinese People's Supreme Court.

It is on the site of the former Russian Legation.

Park on Zheng Yi Lu in Beijing

This park is very quiet and peaceful. A world away from the hustle and noise of Chang'An Avenue.

It is in the center of the old quarter on Zheng Yi Lu. I imagine the flags are there to acknowledge National Day.

Sculpture of girl playing an instrument in park on Zheng Yi Lu in Beijing

This is one of several sculptures in the park.

Sculpture of girl reading a book in park on Zheng Yi Lu in Beijing

Here is another sculpture.

This link has a lot of interesting history and trivia about the old Legation Quarter of Beijing.

Former Legation Quarter

Nature, other than plants, is hard to find in Beijing. These spiders had quite a web complex set up in the park just out of arms reach from the sidewalk.

Not sure what kind they are.

Beijing Hotel on Chang'An Avenue

Not sure why I keep posting pictures of this hotel. I guess I'm fascinated by its place in history with the photograph of the Tian'anmen troubles back in 1989.

Click here for more info in an earlier blog posting.  Scroll to the bottom. Beijing Hotel

If you were wondering what ever happened to Lurch. I spotted him on Wangfujing the other night.

Apparently he has adopted a Rastafarian lifestyle.

This guy definitely stood out in the crowd.

Crowd scene on Snack Street at Wangfujing in Beijing

One more picture from Snack Street.

Sort of hard to tell but this is one of the side streets with the small restaurants along the sides. I have no idea what the banners say but I imagine the proclaim the restaurant name or their specialty.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dongjiaominxiang, Xidan and Tian'anmen Square

St Michael's church in Beijing on Dongjiaomenxiang

Margot noticed an article in the China Daily News about more quiet places in Beijing to visit during the National Day holidays. One area mentioned is Dongjiaominxiang. Turns out this is right near our apartment. This area was known as the Foreign Legation area prior to the 1950's and was home to many foreign embassies. The embassies have all moved but the area still has one of the larger concentrations of foreign architecture in Beijing.

We took a walk through part of the area in Wednesday.

This is a picture of St. Michael's Church.

The church was closed off behind this gate so it was tough to get a decent picture. I took the picture above by sticking the camera through the bars up over my head.

A moment after we turned around to go down the street this couple came out of the gate (apparently - I never saw the gate open). Looks like a photo shoot in the church.

Here is a plaque across the street from the church that gives more of the history.

Click to enlarge.

Subway station mural in Beijing

Actually, I'm not sure which day I took this picture. I'm pretty sure it is in the Jianguomen Line 2 station but don't quote me on that. There is actually very little art in the Beijing Subway stations - they are pretty utilitarian - this was a pleasant surprise.

Line 1 was originally built to also serve as a nuclear fallout shelter per the Russian model. That is pretty utilitarian.

This wall was actually on the street on the way to the church. Couple of thoughts. You can never tell how old something is in Beijing. A brick wall may be 100 years old or brand new. Seems like a lot of work to build a wall like this - someone has to make the brick, transport it, mortar it into place, several skim coats, add the tile look, etc. One thing about it - there is no shortage of labor in China.
Xidan Street pedestrian bridge in Beijing

We took the subway over to Xidan. I had heard that this is a major shopping area in Beijing. The place was packed. Seemed to be more Beijingers shopping - very few foreign tourists and a lot fewer Chinese tourists compared to Wangfujing. Margot did buy a Mahjong themed Rubik's cube.
Great Hall of the People in Beijing

We took the subway one stop east to Tian'anmen West. This dropped us off outside the Great Hall of the People. This is were the government holds their Party meetings and congresses. They also greet all the visiting foreign dignitaries there. This is the north entrance.

The Great Hall of the People is kitty corner from the Tian'anmen entrance to the Imperial City and directly across the street from Tian'anmen Square.
Tian'anmen Sqaure flower display for National Day 2012

This shot is looking east across Tian'anmen Square toward the National Museum from the Great Hall of the People.

Here we have crossed the street and are looking north. The security line was pretty short here.

This is one of the Megatron type display boards on the square.

It amazes me that they work so well in even bright sunlight. They are facing north.

This little girl was getting her picture taken. Chinese people are very patriotic. It is hard to judge but I'd say on par with Americans. Lots of little Chinese flags, face decals, etc.
Flower display for National Day 2012 in Tian'anmen Square

As promised a couple of days ago, here are a some better pictures of the flower displays.

This is about half of the group of people who lined up to pick up any litter on the square.

Another shot of the flowers.

These guys were getting into the picture taking.

The head decorations were pretty popular with the young girls.

Here are a few pictures from a couple of days earlier.

Tian'anmen Square

Sun Yat-sen portrait in Tian'anmen Square on National Day 2012

I'm pretty sure this is Sun Yat-sen. He was a leading figure in the revolution that over threw the Imperial government. He was a founder of the Kuomintang party and one of the few politicians widely respected on both sides of the Taiwan Straits.

Learn more here --> Sun Yat-sen

Big crowd yesterday.

Here are some pictures from this spring with a much smaller crowd.

Tian'anmen Square March 2012

Here  we have crossed the street and are in front of the National Museum.

I thought the light is the trees was nice.

Not sure what is going on here. Shift change I imagine. Let me know if you can find any hint of a smile on this group.

Sort of a weird picture to include but this woman had a series of bruises or marks across her shoulders and neck from the Chinese medicine cupping treatment.

When I was looking up a wikipedia entry I learned that this treatment is actually Arabic in origin.

Cupping Therapy