Sunday, April 26, 2009

Temple Of Heaven


The Temple of Heaven obviously was held in the highest regard - with the tallest building during their days and its lavish park. Other elements Earth (where I went during the first day - see first Beijing post), Sun, were relegated to 'smaller' venues.

There's a good exhibition of how the blue temple was built and rebuilt, and rebuilt. The building was destroyed by two lightning strikes already, and since the all-wood structure further lures electricity with its golden tip, lighning is bound to strike that same place again in the future.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Looking For The Last Emperor

It's huge! The Forbidden City, or Imperial Palace as they would like to call it now (in an effort to give China an impression of being more "open") is simply massive. While I don't want this to sound like a tourist brochure (read all about it in Wikipedia!), let me just give you ample warning that the whole structure is city-like indeed. Unless you want a rough-shod sprint across the grounds, set out more than a half day for this.

No, it's small! Haha.

The entrance of 40 CNY does not cover the side galleries, but don't forget to take a look - there are plenty of great artifacts hidden in the labyrinthine eastern grounds. Jade carvings aplenty, the finest porcelain, and other curios are on display in the grounds. I skipped the clocks display, but found this piece interesting: a golden globe, not of the earth, but of the astronomical sky with pearls as the stars. Just look at the excitement on the patrons.

It's so large, this tourist just conked out in the middle of the day.

If you don't like red, well, China is not the place for you, and and its centerpiece landmark is just fully cloaked in it. The Forbidden City is elegantly splashed in Chinese red, from its walls to its alleyways and hidden corners. It's great for a photo shoot that requires a red background.

Red lanes all around!

There is a permanent exhibition on the western galleries with artifacts, but I would like to recommend the eastern corridors instead - they're 9 sections depicting life in the Forbidden City, on how the guards were distributed, their defense arrangements, meal preparations during festivals, and even how the concubines were, errm, housed. Plus details on how the North-South axis is important in a city laid out on a grid.

The moat surrounding the grounds

My host told me that in order to fully appreciate the purpose and significance of the grounds, I must watch Bernardo Bertolucci's epic The Last Emperor. Anybody got a copy? I couldn't find one anywhere. Anywhere cheap that is.
Thursday, April 02, 2009

Beijing's Modern Playground

I wouldn't say Beijing is a very cosmopolitan city (it's almost there though), but I would like to note on how famous architects were wont to put their stamp on the reimagining of the city. While Shanghai is mostly Art Deco and Hong Kong is distinctively Norman Foster's sandbox, Beijing opened its doors to a gaggle of architects that makes the city a clever pastiche of shining new buildings.

Too bad the tower won't be open until middle of this year.

My favorite would be Rem Koolhas' insanely playful CCTV Building. It looks like something I would've created with my Lego playset. I was pretty much fascinated by it that I think I dropped by the Guomao area thrice. Twice by chance, once by necessity.

Most tourists wouldn't probably go out of their way to drop by the CBD, so I would recommend Paul Andreu's egg-shaped building, the National Performing Arts Centre. Apart from his numerous works of gleaming glass and steel, Andreu hits closer to home as one of his early works included NAIA Terminal 1. (Just as an aside, I personally like T1 as it has a good architectural character, discounting the fact that it's quite old).

Actually, it's only half an egg...

You may also chance upon the nice artsy-fartsy district up north in San Litun. They've got this quirkily colored glass compound called The Village. It's like a cathedral-inspired shopping mall.

On my way to Sanlitun, I found this mural in a subway pass


Maybe I should do more research - I didn't chance upon an IM Pei work in Beijing...