Sunday, January 20, 2013

Prince Gong's Mansion

Building eves in Prince Gong's Mansion (Gong Wang Fu)

These pictures are a couple weeks old - from right after New Years Day. Margot and I visited what is known as Prince Gong's Mansion or sometimes Prince Kung's Mansion.
Siheyuan style in Prince Gong's Mansion (Gong Wang Fu)

It was built in 1777 for a court official named Heshen. It is built in the classic Chinese style with courtyards with buildings on all four sides.

In a lesson about transient nature of power, the succeeding emperor accused Heshen of corruption and confiscated his property.
Buildings in Prince Gong's Mansion (Gong Wang Fu)

The property passed on to the emperor's son and then eventually was given to his successors son named Prince Gong.

After the fall of the Chinese imperial system, Prince Gong's grandson assigned the deed to the Catholic Church.
Courtyard in Prince Gong's Mansion (Gong Wang Fu)

The Catholic Church spent a lot of money to fix it up and then used it as a university until they were kicked out of China in 1951.

According to Wikipedia, the complex was used as  as an air conditioning factory during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

Wikipedia Entry

The Chinese government declared it a national level heritage asset and fixed it up and now it is a popular tourist attraction.

The captions of these pictures are all in Chinese but it appears they show some of the Prince's travels and court officials.

It is worth a visit although it could benefit from some more English description for the foreign visitors.

This is a room in one of the halls.
Temple at Prince Gong's Mansion (Gong Wang Fu)

This shrine is at the back of the complex. If you click on the picture you can see it a little better. Again, those are prayer requests on the red tablets.

The gate behind temple leads to a large garden.

Here is a view of the park/garden.

This picture is on the street outside the attraction. Margot thought the dog was cute with a couple of layers of cold weather gear.

Click for a better view.
Hutong tour on pedicab near Prince Gong's Mansion (Gong Wang Fu)

Prince Gong's Mansion is in an interesting tourist area with hutongs, lakes, etc. You can take a tour on these pedicabs through the hutongs.
Decorations in subway line 6 station in Beijing

I took this out of the door way of the subway on our way back. This is subway line 6 which had just opened a few days earlier. It isn't 100% finished but it is quite modern. It has interesting decorations that mirror the  neighborhood on the streets above.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Taishan - 2nd Post

Here are some more pictures from Taishan.

This is a temple at the top of the mountain.

In case you missed the first post you can see it here:

Taishan - 1st Post

My translater program says the inscription over the door says "Joyous Sound Temple"

Here I am after getting off the cable car near the top of the mountain. I've got my coat open to try and get some ventilation and evaporate some of the sweat. The temp was well below freezing.

Here are is a shot of the roofs of one of the temples.

Another temple. I don't think we visited this one.

I think this is inside Bixia temple. Bixia is one of the important Taoist temples in China.

Lots of classic Chinese architecture.

There are a lot of shops and restaurants at the top of he mountain. I'm sure this place is very busy in the summer and on holidays.

It looks like this is a spot for offering incense to the gods. I'm not sure what to make of what looks like a box inside.

I wish I had paid more attention to which temple is which. Seems like every time you turn the corner you find another one.

These folks are preparing a local snack. The cooking surface is rotating and heated. I didn't see the beginning of the process but I think the batter is spread on the surface. After the batter is cooked an egg is cracked on the cooked batter and the woman is using a squeegie to spread the egg over the pancake. Once the egg is cooked, the pancake is removed and some sauce and vegetables are added and the thing is rolled up and eaten.

This a view from the cable car station. Again, it is hard to get a sense of the scale but he lower station is on the other side of the conical mountain in the center of the picture.

Is it just me or does the mechanism for attaching the car to the cable seem a little less robust than I imagined? I guess the silver clamp is somehow released in the station to allow the car to be disconnected from the cable.

There are a number of antennae and radar and communication dishes near the top of the mountain. Sort of spoils some of the view.

There are lots of opportunities to purchase souvenirs.

This is inside Dai Temple in downtown Tai'an. It's design is similar to the Forbidden City only on a smaller scale. The emperors came here to offer prayers.

Some of the cypress trees were planted over 2100 years ago.

Another scene inside the temple.

Finally, a picture from inside the restaurant where we had dinner after the mountain adventure. Many of the restaurants in China are huge buildings and are oriented toward large family meals or business entertainment meals. This place had some family oriented facilities in the center but meals are served in private dining rooms that run around the outside of the structure on 2 levels. There are no individual tables in an open area like you typically see in an American restaurant.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Taishan -1st Set

temple at Taishan with snow on the roof

Here are a few pictures from Taishan. Shan means mountain so this is Mount Tai in English. It is one of the 5 most famous mountains in China.

Shops at the top of Taishan in Shandong ProvinceIt has been one of the most important ceremonial sites in China for most of the last 3000 years.

The mountain is 1545 meters high. In imperial terms that is about 5100 ft or nearly a mile high. It is a very dramatic landscape in that these mountains raise suddenly from the surrounding elevation of about 550 ft to 5100 ft in  just a few miles.

Nan Tian Men at Taishan in Shandong Province

The mountain is a famous destination for emperors and common folk over the centuries  It is said that if you climb all the way up you will live to be 100. The gate in this picture is Nan Tian Men or South Heavenly gate and is the target for the climbers.
The last steps of Eighteen Bends at Taishan in Shandong Province

This is a picture of the last 50 or so of the 7200 steps from bottom to the top.

As you can see some of the folks are pretty wiped out by the time they get to this point. Believe or not there are porters that carry food, cooking oil, etc up the last 3500 steps or so everyday.

This is a picture of the beginning of the trek near the bottom. It was very quiet when we started and only picked up a little during the day.

January isn't the high season. In fact there were more than a few questions raised about the wisdom of a mountain hike in January as a team building plan. But it worked out. It was cold - especially in the morning - but overall the weather was perfect for January.

This is near the beginning, I believe.  I'm pretty sure that is Hong Men or Red Gate in background.

I did not hike all the way up. I hiked the first half which does about half the total elevation change but with more level spots in between the sections of steps. I was so wiped out I apparently couldn't lift the camera to take a picture of Zhong Tian Mem or Middle Heaven Gate.

There are tablets are all over the mountain. To tell you the truth I don't have any idea what they say. I think they reflect the accomplishments or philosophy of various figures over the centuries.

This is a small temple on the lower half.
Goat head soup at Taishan in Shandong Province

Once we arrived at the mid point at about 1100 in the morning or so we stopped for a snack. We didn't have this dish although it was set out on the table to entice passers-by. It is goat head soup. Just add water and heat.

Click to enlarge.

There is a cable car from the half way point up to near the top. I and most of my colleagues opted for the cable car although 8 of our group did hike the entire distance.

This is a picture of the roof tops of one of the temple complexes at the top of the mountain.

I've sort of lost track but the temple at the top of the stairs in this picture might be the same temple above.

It is hard to convey the scale of the mountain and the difficulty of climbing the entire thing in one go. This is a picture of a section of the last part of the climb up to the top. The steps are in the valley in the center of the picture. Click to enlarge. To help put it in perspective the lower cable car station is behind the conical mountain in the center back part of this picture. The cable car station is at the HALFWAY point. Younger and/or fitter people than I do it but for me it is inconceivable in my current condition - especially the 2nd half which is mostly just steps with no break.

This guy was working on a snowman. In China the don't seem to roll the snow into balls but rather sculpt the snowmen from piles of snow.

This is a view of some of the features at the top. You can see the cable car tower in the background on the horizon.

Inscriptions at Taishan

These are famous inscriptions at the top. No idea what they say.

Locks and prayer requests at temple at the top of Taishan

This is the temple at the very top. I need to check out the story on the locks but I think it is a way to get your prayer heard by the gods. I'm pretty sure the red in the background are prayer requests written on red tablets.

You can see the elevation listed as 1545 meters on the tablet.

More pictures in the next posting.

More on Taishan --> Wikipedia - Taishan