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Faces of Beijing

Security staff are present in almost every corner, open space and in railway stations.   I view this as the Government being conscious of emphasising on public safety, doing much about this matter and projecting a seriousness about social order.   

Bags of would be passengers are scanned on monitoring machines when you enter railway stations in the Beijing area - and you are more likely to be bodily checked as well.

The symbol of protection against evil spirits and negative forces, the iconic stone lion appears in various colours, styles and appearances in front as pairs, one on the right and the other on the left, at various key buildings and sites.   Shown above is at the Summer Palace outside Beijing.

Always standing with an open aggressive countenance, they have a rectangular base adorned with various meaningful carved motifs.   Those around the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace reflect mostly Ming and Qing Dynasty cultural echoes,.   You would not find these lions at the Great Wall at Mu Tian Yu.

It is worth travelling the extra time and mileage to the Great Wall of China at Mu Tian Yu and avoid the bigger  tourist numbers at Ba Da Ling.    The walls, ramparts, battlements and foot steps here have been restored, although still retaining their splendour, gradients and historical presence.

At its height of existence, the Great Wall measured around 8850 kilometres, during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644).

The Great Wall, visible from outer space, refers to a collection of military protection fortifications, including forts, garrisons, barracks, watch towers and gates.   Sections of the Wall have been built and rebuilt throughout the course of the dynasties in the past two thousand over years.    It is eroded or swept by desert sand in many places in the far west and does reach the East China Sea at Dandong.

The watch towers were critical in the utilisation of the Great Wall, for from here huge fire signals were lit as part of communication processes before the age of the telegraph, the telephone and the internet.   This meant 24 hour sentry duty and the deployment of thousand of military soldiers who often worked far away from families and home for many years.

The ordinary Chinese folk historically refer to the Great Wall in negative terms and with trepidation.  Thousands of ordinary people died building this Wall and many were first conscripted from war and oppression.   Living there meant putting up with extreme weather conditions, narrow spaces and looking out at wide open hills and rather empty landscapes.

It is said that "walls are only as good as the man controlling it".     After the last Ming Dynasty Emperor hung himself as political and social chaos reigned during the take over by rebels led by Li Zi Cheng, an illustrious and reputable commanding Ming Dynasty General, Wu Sungui,   opened a vital Great Wall gate to allow the Manchu invaders in at the critical Shan Hai Pass.  General Wu had allowed the breach of the Wall, ostensibly to get the help of the Manchus to over come the rebels, but apparently also in a personal heart breaking act to avenge the holding of his own daughter by the rebels.

Stone, tampered earth, wood and brick made on site were part of the various materials used in constructing the Great Wall.    Recent research speculates that a small amount of sticky rice was part of the mix that went into the white mortar that still holds the bricks in good sections of the Wall.

Well known  foreigners who reported on the Great Wall through out history included the North African Ibn Battuta, Matteo Ricci, the Portuguese writer Joao de Barros, William of Rubrick, Marco Polo,  Giovanni de Pian and Jesuit Banto de Gois.

On my recent trip, I did not come across many European visitors as I had expected.
It is said these days China need not depend on foreigners for many things in its economy, including tourism.    The rise of purchasing power, the increase in numbers of the middle class and China's continued burgeoning dominance in wealth has made many locals travel more often, both internally and overseas.

The streets, pavements and streets of Beijing are amazingly clean and maintained well.
I have seen cleaners work 24 hours, often detailing clean ups even in the slots between tiles and sides of walls.   They use a rather organic and natural broom of a long handle and a huge tie up of dried brown leaves.

The electrically operated motor bike (photographed above) is prevalent, whether carrying goods, vendor's products or with Grand Dad ferrying kids.   They can be observed in the Hu Tongs, tourist parks and busy lanes.

A classical facade of a fort gate near the Bell and Drum Towers, within walking distance of Qianmen in Beijing.
The huge and solid doors have lion faced door knockers against a backdrop of heavy red, anointed by round metal knobs.

Roof eaves above are daintily decorated with bright coloured tiles, often in layers and in shapes that are round and follow the precepts of Feng Shui, Taoism and Buddhism.   On the day we visited, the plaza between the two Towers were full of families seeking evening relief after a warm and humid September day.


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