Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Beijing Opera

Beijing Opera

Beijing Opera traces its roots to outdoor entertainment in China's markets and streets.

Beijing Opera

Both musicians and performers developed a "strident" style to make themselves overheard above the crowds. Beijing Opera can also include mime and acrobatics.

Although called Beijing Opera or formally Peking Opera, the art form originated in Anhui and Hubei provinces in south central China, and became popular in the mid-nineteenth century when it was patronized by the Qing Dynasty court in the capital.

Beijing Opera runs to over 1,000 storylines based on historical events, popular fiction and Chinese legends.

Beijing Opera

There are 4 main actors' roles sheng, dan, jing, chou which are further sub-divided:

sheng - leading male roles
- laosheng - bearded old men
- xiaosheng - young men
- wensheng - public servants, scholars and sages
- wusheng - soldiers (acrobats)

dan - female roles
- loadan - older women
- qingyi - costumed aristocrats
- daomadan - Chinese Amazons
- caidan- female comics

jing - painted face parts of warriors, demons, statesmen

chou - the clown

Beijing Opera Venues

Changan Grand Theater
Evening performances
Jianguomen Subway Station; Circle & East-West Lines

Lao She Teahouse
Evening performances
Hepingmen Subway Station; Circle Line

Old Station Theater
Evening performances/afternoon Sundays
Qianmen Subway Station; Circle Line

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Markets in Beijing

Panjiayuan Market

Yashow Market

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Media Restrictions in China

Chinese authorities will allow foreign journalists more access to the country in the run up to the 2008 Olympic Games.

At present, journalists need government approval to report outside Shanghai and Beijing but a Foreign Ministry spokesperson has confirmed that under new regulations, reporters will need only the permission of their interview subjects from now on until the end of the Games.

The new rules come in to affect from January 1, 2007 and will run to October 17, 2008.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Beijing Temples

Beijing Temples

The Temple of Heaven is probably Beijing's most well-known temple, but the city contains literally hundreds of other temples.

Temple of Heaven

The Ming Dynasty Temple of Heaven (or "Altar of Heaven"), which is located in the south of the Temple of Heaven Park, was used as an altar by the the Emperor to perform his ceremonial rites as the Son of Heaven: praying for good harvests, seeking forgiveness from the gods for the wrong-doings and sins of the Chinese people.

Beijing Temples

Access - Getting There

Chongwenmen or Qianmen Subway Stations. Chongwenmen is on both the Circle Line and Line 5. Qianmen is on the Circle Line.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Great Wall of China Facts

Great Wall Facts

Parts of the Great Wall were built over 2,000 years ago

You CAN'T see it from space

The wall is a UNESCO World Heritage site listed in 1987

The wall is approximately 4,000 miles long

Great Wall of China Facts

The wall averages 15 to 30 feet high and 15 to 25 feet wide

That dead slaves were buried in the wall is probably untrue

The Great Wall is not one continuous wall but a series of walls joined together

The wall was built by prisoners, soldiers, and local people

The Great Wall visible to tourists today was built mostly during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China

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Images Courtesy & Copyright ©

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Beijing Street Food

Beijing Street Food

Beijing has some excellent cheap eats to be found on its streets.

Most Beijingers frequently grab something from a street stall, whether it be the ubiquitous breakfasts youtiao (a deep-fried stick of dough) and zhou (rice congee or porridge) washed down with a cup of douzhi (bean curd milk) or another type of snack such as kao yang rou chuan (a roasted lamb kebab).

Beijing Food Stall

Other common foods found on street stalls include mala tang (spicy noodle soups), hongshu (baked sweet potatoes) and rou jiamo (braised pork in a baked bun). More exotic fare may include some varieties of insect including white scorpions, cicadas and centipedes.

Beijing Food Stall Insects

The most famous place for tourists to sample Beijing street food is Donghuamen Night Market, near Wangfujing Dajie opposite the Xin Dong An Plaza, where prices at its multitude of food stalls are much higher than just off the street anywhere else in the city. The nearest subway station is Wangfujing on the East-West Line.

On the whole most street food in Beijing is safe to eat, but those with weak stomachs may prefer to eat elsewhere.


Delicious food

Beijing Street Food

Beijing Street Food

Steamed dishes

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Taichi in Beijing

Taichi in Beijing

Thousands of mostly older people begin their day with a session of taichi (taijiquan) in Beijing's parks and other open spaces.

Taichi in Beijing

taijiquan - which can translate as "boundless fist" or "supreme ultimate fist" is a soft-style martial art, with obscure historical roots, which became more formalized and widely practicised in 19th century China.

A group of older people practicing taichi in a Beijing park

The poses in taichi would seem to be based on the natural and graceful movements of animals and birds and the practice of this martial art aims to promote the circulation of "chi" energy around the body, improve concentration, balance and calm the mind for meditation and reflection.

As a means of defence, taichi emphasizes re-directing violent blows aimed at the practitioner.

Images Courtesy & Copyright ©

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Beijing Olympics News

Beijing Olympics News

Music producer Quincy Jones has joined movie directors Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan) and Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as a consultant on the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Jones, the producer of the charity anthem "We are the World" and whose film scores include In Cold Blood and The Color Purple will compose an original song for the occasion around the official theme "One World, One Dream."

Several Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) tombs have been discovered this year, the latest only this week, as construction work continues on the 9,000-capacity Beijing Olympic shooting venue, the Beijing Shooting Range Hall in the Shijingshan District of the capital.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Capital Hotel Beijing

Capital Hotel Beijing

Capital Hotel Beijing The 322-room Westerner-friendly Capital Hotel Beijing is within easy walking distance of two of the city's most famous sightseeing attractions, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

The modern, well-appointed Western-style rooms have excellent views of the city.

The Capital Hotel Beijing makes for an excellent choice on any business or leisure trip to Beijing.

No. 3, Qianmen East Street, DongCheng District, 100006 Beijing

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Foreign Legation Quarter

Foreign Legation Quarter

East of Tiananmen Square is the former Foreign Legation Quarter. Although many of the buildings were destroyed in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 and others have been converted for state use, a visit here may envoke something of the history of European interaction with China in the 19th century.

Foreign Legation Quarter
Foreign Legation Quarter

Among the surviving sights is the Catholic St. Michael's Church on the corner of Taijichang Toutiao and Dongjiaomin Xiang, the buildings of the Belgian Embassy opposite the twin-spired church and a former French post-office at 19 Dongjiaomin Xiang.

The arched gate of the entrance to the former Japanese legation still stands on Zhengyi Lu near the British Legation, which is now part of State Security buildings. The Huafeng Hotel, south on Zhengyi Lu, is now a run-of-the mill business hotel but occupies the former site of the Grand Hotel des Wagon-Lits and dates back to 1905.

Access: Chongwenmen, Qianmen, Wangfujing subway stations

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

China Visas

China Visas

Nearly all foreign visitors to China need a visa.

China visas can be obtained from Chinese embassies and consulates overseas. Visa forms are often available for download from the Chinese embassies' websites. A single-entry travel visa is designated as type L and is valid for 30 days. The visa must be used within 3 months of the date of issue. 90-day visas are also available.

Chinese visa stamp

You need:
* a completed visa application form
* a passport valid for at least six months from the intended date of entry into China
* a passport photo
* a passport with a blank double page page in it

You can normally collect your passport after three days in the UK, but if you pay extra, you can pick it up the next day, or the same day depending on the fee.

Chinese Embassies Overseas
3-4-33 Moto-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan 106-0046
Tel: 03-3403-3388
Fax: 03-3403-3345
E-mail: info[at]
Hours: (Monday to Friday) 9.00am-12.00pm (except Chinese and Japanese Holidays)

Chinese Embassy in Washington DC
2201 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20007
Tel: (202) 338-6688, (202)5889760 Fax: (202) 588-9760

Chinese Consulate General in New York, NY
520 12th Avenue, New York, NY 10036
Tel: (212) 244-9392 Fax: (212) 465-1708

Chinese Consulate General in Chicago, IL
100 West Erie Street, Chicago, IL 60610
Tel: (312) 803-0095 Fax: (312) 803-0110

Chinese Consulate General in Houston, TX
3417 Montrose Blvd., Houston, TX 77006
Tel: (713) 520-1462 Fax: (713) 521-3064

Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles, CA
443 Shatto Place, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Tel: (213) 807-8088 Fax: (213) 807-8091

Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco, CA
1450 Laguna Street, San Francisco, CA 94115 Tel: (415) 674-2900 Fax: (415) 563-0494


Chinese Embassy in the UK
31 Portland Place, London.
Tel. 090 0188 0808
Hours: 9.00am-12.00 pm

Chinese Consulate General in Manchester (0161-2248672)

Chinese Consulate General in Edinburgh (0131-3164789)


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Beijing China Youth Journalists Home Hotel

Beijing China Youth Journalists Home Hotel

Much of the recent development in Beijing has also included new hotels and hostels - greatly increasing the variety and number of accommodation options in the Chinese capital.

Beijing China Youth Journalists' Home Hotel
One that caught my eye for its great name alone is the Beijing China Youth Journalists' Home Hotel. So for all you budding hacks out there this has got to be the place for you.

It's near to the Sanlitun Bar district as any self respecting hotel for journalists must be and has modern and clean rooms. The business center has fax and internet services available so you can get your Olympic story off in time.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Holiday Inn Beijing

Holiday Inn Beijing

No. 98, Beilishilu, Xichengqu, 100037 Beijing

Holiday Inn Beijing
Holiday Inn
The 343-room Holiday Inn Beijing makes for a good base for any visit to Beijing.

Located near to Beijing's financial district it is especially convenient if you have business in the city.

The hotel is just 3 minutes' walk from the nearest subway station, Fuchengmen Station on the Circle Line, and not far from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City by car.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Workers Stadium Beijing

Workers Stadium Beijing

Workers Stadium Beijing

The Workers Stadium (Gongren Tiyuguan) in Beijing will be one of the venues for the Olympic soccer tournament in 2008. The 72,000 capacity stadium which is set in a park is the home ground of Beijing's Guoan, who play their home games here or at the smaller 33,000 capacity Beijing Fengtai Stadium on Sundays. There are rumours the team may move to the new National Stadium after the Olympics.

Guoan, sponsored by Hyundai, are a solid China Super League outfit and rank with Shanghai's Shenhua and Dalian's Shide as one of China's top teams.

Stadium exterior

The multi-purpose stadium was the main stadium for the 1990 Asian Games.

The nearest subway station to the Workers Stadium is Dongsishitiao on the Circle Line - not far from the Sanlitun entertainment area.

Read more about this iconic Beijing stadium

Statue, Workers Stadium Beijing

Hotels in Beijing -

Chinese Etiquette


Friday, September 22, 2006

Mealtime Etiquette

Chinese Etiquette at Mealtimes

* Fill your neighbours’ teacup when you fill your own, and don't leave the pot with the spout pointing directly at anyone.
* Try and finish all the rice in your bowl.
* But as for the dishes, when you’re full, stop eating, don’t eat to be polite.
* Don’t blow your nose at the table.
* Don’t reach for food with rice on chopsticks.
* If you invited them to dinner, you pay the bill. If you didn’t, you can offer to pay, but will be refused.
* Relax and enjoy yourself. For Chinese people, eating is an enjoyable experience to be shared with friends. If you spend your time worrying about offending people, you’ll miss out.

Chinese Etiquette at Mealtimes

Eating in China is meant to be fun, and some of your best stories to take back home may concern the things you ate and the conversation that went on over the dinnertable. The most important thing, therefore, is to remember not to get too hung up about things. Your Chinese host is much more interested in impressing you with his nation’s culinary wonders than making sure you use your chopsticks properly. Noone will mind in the least if you don’t know any of things below, we’re just telling you them so you better understand what’s going on.

If you walk into a private room in a fairly nice restaurant, the table will be laid out already with chopsticks, condiments etc. You may notice that the napkins are folded rather ornately, and not all folded in the same way. One in particular may look rather phallic... Tempting though it may be, don’t grab the seat next to the cotton schlong - that’s the seat for the host. It might well be directly opposite the door you came in from, so that the host can see when people come in, and finds it easier to catch the waitress’s eye.

In China, eating is a thing to be done with friends. Everyone is given a small bowl or plate of their own, and the food is on dishes in the middle of the table. There are no serving spoons, everyone just picks food off the plates with their chopsticks. Once you get used to it, it’s a lot easier than fiddling around serving yourself a big spoonful of everything, but if you really find the prospect distasteful, you have two options. If you say directly that you don’t want to eat this way, you might be thought of as a prude. You could instead try something a little bit cunning – say that you have a cold, and ought to use a serving spoon to avoid infecting other people. If your host overrides you and says it doesn’t matter, ask the waiter directly. Your other alternative is to say that you can’t really use chopsticks, then you can use the knife and fork to shovel food your way before everyone else digs in. By the end of your time in China, you’ll have forgotten your worries and will be diving in like a native.

When you start eating, dishes will be brought to the table one by one, cold ones first. If there’s a turntable, the host will probably spin it round to offer the first taste to whoever’s the most important guest. If it’s you, and you’re feeling confident, you could join in and try spinning it on to someone else who you think should eat first, or back to the host. Don’t say that they’re more important, just say that they should eat first ‘Nĭ xiān chī-你先吃!’ It doesn’t actually matter remotely who does eat first, it’s just a nice way of being polite, and for the host to show that he wants you to have a nice meal, and doesn’t want you to feel you have to hold back or stand on ceremony.

Throughout the meal a good host will encourage his guest to eat, telling them to ‘try a bit of this’ (Cháng diănr zhĕge – 尝点儿这个) and ‘have a bit more of that’ (Duō chī diănr nèige – 多吃点儿那个). A very friendly host might even grab food with chopsticks and dump it right onto your plate before you have time to refuse. You can either just say thank you and eat what he gives you, or you can join in the game by encouraging him to eat too.

Alcohol is often a very important part of the meal. In a more macho setting, drinking can be serious competition. Most of the time, it’s pretty relaxed. The standard procedure is for the host to propose a toast at the start of the meal – he might say something along the lines of welcoming guests, or looking forward to doing business together. People also toast individuals – often just a way to get that person drunk, and so as the alcohol flows, the excuses dug out for toasts become more transparent.

You might find that pretty soon your little bowl or plate is so full of bones etc that you can’t use it. Have a look at what everyone else is doing. In some restaurants the staff will come along and give you a new plate when the first is full. In others (smaller, cheaper establishments), it’s normal to just put bones etc on the table. Some restaurants have wipe-clean tables and throw away tablecloths for this very purpose.

Some people don’t like it if you reach to pick up meat or vegetables with grains of rice still stuck to your chopsticks, and quite a lot of people don’t like it when others blow their nose at the table – even if they turn around or stand up to do it. Just sniff quietly, or go to the bathroom. Some things vary from region to region and from person to person. For example, for some people will think it a little uncouth if you hold your rice bowl with your hand underneath the bowl. According to them, that looks like the way a beggar eats, and the correct technique is to grip the bowl at the rim with the fingers. Other people have never heard of this idea.

When you’ve finished eating, you don’t need to carry on eating to show that you liked it. Just say that you did. It is your host’s duty to ensure that you are not just full but ready to burst, so all the time you keep on eating, he hasn’t fulfilled his obligations yet.

When it comes to the bill, whoever did the inviting usually does the paying. It’s normal for everyone to offer to pay the bill, and often people make quite a show of trying to pay, but give up in the end. In Chinese the way you say ‘I want to invite you to eat’ is the same as ‘I want to pay for you to eat’ – in other words, the idea that whoever invites also pays is ingrained in the language, and inherent in the concepts of inviting and paying. To do it any other way, you’d have to invent new language.

One last thing – you might think it seems Chinese people are rather rude to waiting staff. It’s true the standard way of attracting the waitress’s attention is to shout at her rather than to wait to catch her eye. It could be argued that Chinese restaurants are noisy, so one needs to shout to be heard, or that the waiting staff expect this treatment, and therefore it’s not rude. Another explanation could be that eating is so important to Chinese people (that’s certainly true), that such niceties as being polite must not be allowed to interfere. On the other hand, Chinese people will probably think you are rather polite and sophisticated if you are a little more subtle. If you do need to catch the attention of a waiter/waitress, the best term to use is ‘Fúwùyuán 服务员’ which translates roughly to serving person. Twenty years ago waiters were called ‘Xiānshēng – 先生’ meaning Mr, and waitresses ‘xiăojiĕ - 小姐’ meaning Miss. However, in today’s China ‘xiăojiĕ’ has taken on the meaning of prostitute, and so you probably shouldn’t say it.

Chinese Etiquette


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Beijing Weather China

Beijing Weather China

The 2008 Olympic Games will take place in Beijing from 8-24 August 2008.

The Olympic schedule will be during Beijing's hot summer when temperatures can rise over 38 degrees Centigrade (100 degrees Fahrenheit).

July and August are also the two months with the most rain in the city. So visitors are advised to pack some waterproof clothes and an umbrella.

Beijing Weather China

The best time to visit Beijing is during the Spring and Autumn seasons when rainfall and temperatures are lower and it is not too cold. Winters in Beijing (which normally last from December until March) can see the mercury plunging to below 0 degrees Centigrade (32 degrees Fahrenheit) and temperatures can go much lower - even reaching minus 10 degrees Centigrade or less!

The huge demand for water in the city from its growing population and massive new building projects in addition to its location on the edge of a generally arid landscape has threatened Beijing with possible water shortages in the future.

The Olympic organizing committee and civic authorities are doing their best to repackage Beijing as a "green Olympics" and encourage rain water recycling and tree planting but Beijing's two most important reservoirs, Miyun and Guanting, will not be sufficient to meet demand by 2010 according to the China Daily.

The dry spring weather also sees huge dust storms cross the city. Indeed 27% of China's land area is desert! Come the spring and 2,300 square kilometers (900 square miles) of arid, over-grazed and over-cultivated farmland in northern China - an area twice the size of Hong Kong - is swept away in dust storms each year. The dust clouds are a problem for China's neighbours, Korea and Japan, and the red dust storms have been known to reach as far afield as the USA.



Everyday Chinese Etiquette

Everyday Chinese Etiquette

* Don’t lose your temper.
* If you’re invited to a home, bring a present like fruit, sweets or tea. Avoid giving clocks or pears! (see below).
* The floor is seen as dirty, don’t sit on it, if you want to, put newspaper down.
* Use your common sense- if someone doesn’t seem to like a certain topic of conversation, don’t force the issue.
* Take care not to criticise people too harshly in front of others.
* Don’t expect vast amounts of privacy – there’s not enough space for it!
* Try not to worry about people spitting, they are not doing it to insult you.

Cultural Misunderstandings!

Most people who haven’t been to China imagine a country with very complex, formal etiquette. Then when they visit China they come away with the impression that Chinese people are rather rude! The true situation is that Chinese people are just like any others- friendly and open once you get to know them, more careful when you first meet.

One of the first things a visitor may note is the areas of conversation that are and are not taboo. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask someone you don't know very well if they’re married, and if not why not. The same applies to the question of children. On the other hand, Chinese people tend to stray away from more in depth conversations about relationships, and questions of politics. The reluctance to discuss politics is not only a consequence of China's recent history, but is something also present, although to a lesser extent, in the greater Chinese diaspora. It stems from the Confucian ideas of respect for elders and rulers, and the tradition or ideal of rule by scholars and educated people.

When foreigners first visit China, not understanding a word of Chinese, it’s easy to think of Chinese people as loud, brusque and argumentative. It’s true Chinese people seem to talk louder than everyone else, but apart from that, all of these things are cultural misunderstandings, and here’s why:

The English word ‘polite’ is usually translated into one of two ways. The first word is Lĭmào (礼貌). This is an admirable trait, to not be lĭmào is deplorable. The other word is kèqi (客气). Kèqi means polite, but to be kèqi is not a good thing. Kèqi implies that by being polite, someone is hiding their true feelings and thus keeping a distance between the two of you – and what could be more terrible than that? Ideally, you want to be very lĭmào, but not at all kèqi, admittedly a difficult tightrope to walk.

Where a Westerner in China may think a Chinese person is being brusque, they are actually just avoiding excessive kèqi. As Chinese people become closer friends, so they drop the kèqi, to the extent that it’s perfectly acceptable for good friends to make the most frankly critical remarks to each other’s faces. This is not being rude, it’s a sign of trust.

If your Chinese friend doesn’t say please and thank you very much, it’s not because they’re not grateful, but because they don’t want to appear obsequious. They wouldn’t think twice about passing you the soy sauce, so why should you say thank you when they do it? If two people on the next table appear to be having a blazing row, they’re not. To genuinely lose one’s temper in public would be an utterly shameful act. Those people are simply enjoying a bit of banter, exchanging opinions, not being kèqi, and all at the volume that Chinese people like to talk at. A noisy mealtable is, incidentally, a happy one. If everyone’s really quiet, the host will probably try to jolly things up a bit with a few raucous, gregarious toasts.


A few guidelines

If you’re invited to somebody’s house as a guest, it’s polite to bring a present. As a foreigner, it’s a good idea to bring some cultural tradition of your country, if not then sweets, tea, fruit and flowers are all sure bets. Cigarettes and alcohol are great if the person partakes, but obviously a bit silly otherwise.

Everyday Chinese Etiquette

Things not to give as presents are clocks and pears. Because Chinese is a language with a lot of synonyms to ‘give a clock’ in Chinese sounds like you are going to someone’s funeral, and to share a pear with someone sounds like you are going to separate from them.

Other things best avoided include the colours black and white, because black is associated with dirt and dishonesty, and white is the colour of funerals. Anything connected with the number four is also not that good an idea, since its pronunciation is similar to the word death. This association is so strong that property on the fourth floor is usually cheaper than anywhere else.

When Chinese people meet for the first time, it’s not uncommon to exchange business cards, even if they’re not meeting in a business situation. If you’re going to be in China for a long time, it might be a nice idea to get some printed. When accepting a business card proffered, take it with two hands, and take at least a cursory glance over the details before putting it away.

Nowadays Chinese are most likely to shake hands when they meet strangers, especially if it’s a foreigner. Don’t squeeze too tightly or hold on for too long, it’s a handshake not an arm wrestle!

On weddings and birthdays, it’s traditional to give money in a red envelope, a Hóng Bāo (红包).

Chinese people like to be punctual, waste their time and feel their wrath!

Spitting. A lot of Chinese people do like a good spit. Don’t be perturbed if someone hawks up a nice big green one just as you walk past, they are not doing it to insult you. They’re just trying to clear their sinuses a bit. Spitting though, is definitely on the way out, and most urbanites consider it highly uncouth. Beware if you spit on the street in Beijing, you face an on the spot fine.

Face (Miànzi – 面子 or lian3 脸) is a rather complicated issue which some people take more seriously than others. Basically it boils down to embarrassment – don’t embarrass people, but particularly not in front of strangers.

Most importantly of all, remember this is a country that developed in isolation from Western influences for thousands of years, so if it wasn’t a bit different something would be very wrong. Relax, sit back, take the good with the interesting, and remember when in China do as Chinese do or rather, Rù xiāng suí sú - 入乡随俗 (upon entering the locality, follow the customs).


Chinese National Anthem

Chinese National Anthem

The Chinese National Anthem (Zhōngguó Guógē – 中国国歌) is called ‘The March of The Volunteers’ (义勇军进行曲 - Yìyong3jūn Jìnxíngqu3). It is popularly believed to have been written on a tobacco paper by leftwing poet Tian Han as he rotted in a Nationalist jail cell in Shanghai in 1935. In reality, he wrote it the year before for a play. The music was composed by Nie Er.

Chinese National Anthem.

Most educational establishments have a flag-raising ceremony at the beginning of the week where you can hear patriotic students belting out the lyrics. In the old days it would have been sung in every factory at the start of the shift-no more.

Nie Er died whilst swimming in Japan in 1935. Tian Han was a victim of Cultural Revolution purges and died in prison. The song itself first gained popularity among the anti-Japanese resistance during the Sino Japanese War (1937-1945). It was officially adopted by the CCP as the National Anthem in 1949. It suffered setbacks during the Cultural Revolution when it’s author Tian Han was imprisoned, but is now back and firmly entrenched as the National Anthem.

Here are the lyrics in English, pinyin and Chinese.

Arise! All who refuse to be slaves!
With our flesh and blood let us build our new Great Wall!
When the Chinese Nation faces its greatest peril,
Let us send a last cry in her defence! (Lit: Everyone is forced to send out their last cry)
Arise! Arise! Arise!
Our 10,000 hearts beat as one!
Brave the enemy's fire, March on!
Brave the enemy's fire, March on!
March on! March on! On!

Qi3lái! Búyuàn zuò núlì de rénmen!
Ba3 wo3men de xuèròu zhùchéng wo3men xīn de chángchéng!
Zhōnghuá Mínzú dào liao3 zùi wēixiǎn de shíhòu,
Měigerén bèipò zhe fāchū zùihòu de hou3shēng.
Qi3lái! Qi3lái! Qi3lái!
Wǒmen wànzhòngyīxīn,
Mào zhe dírén de pàohuo3, Qiánjìn!
Mào zhe dírén de pàohuo3, Qiánjìn!
Qiánjìn! Qiánjìn! Jìn!



Monday, September 18, 2006



Beijing's characteristic hutongs (residential alleyways) are disappearing quickly as redevelopment takes place ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games in the city.

In their glory-days when up to a quarter of Beijingers lived in their narrow confines, hutongs were long, snaking, maze-like alleys made up of old style houses situated on the four sides of a courtyard (siheyuan) and small, squat shop-houses.

Now city authorities are urging residents to leave the hutongs ahead of planned road-widening and redevelopment schemes for the 2008 Summer Games.

hutong pedicab tour

Some hutong districts have been conserved however, such as those around the Drum Tower area and it is possible to take an organized tour of the best-preserved hutongs in a pedicab or hire your own bicycles.

Some of Beijing's most famous hutongs are Jiuwan hutong (Nine Bend Alley), Beijing's oldest hutong - Zhuanta hutong (Brick Pagoda Alley) and the city's longest hutong Dongjiamin Xiang at 3 km in length in the Dongcheng district.

The fate of the city's traditional houses (siheyuan) mirrors that of wooden townhouses (machiya) in Kyoto in Japan which were bulldozed in the 1980's and 1990's but are now enjoying something of a revival.

Read more on hutong


The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall is the ultimate symbol of China. It’s mentioned in the National Anthem, it’s on bank notes, and it’s used to sell anything from red wine to automobiles. The Chinese refer to the wall as Chángchéng (长城), or as the 10,000 Li Great Wall (万里长城-Wàn Lĭ Chángchéng), a li being a measure of distance equal to 500 meters.

The Great Wall of China

It stretches East to West from Shanhaiguan on the Yellow Sea to the Gobi Desert’s Jiayuguan, a fortress traditionally viewed as the last outpost of civilisation, a distance of over 6000km. The wall was begun in the Qin Dynasty (221-207BC) when China was first united under one flag. Later dynasties expanded and repaired what they inherited. The Ming dynasty saw the most building work, and it was during this time that the wall first came to be faced with bricks and stone. Most of the wall visible today dates from this era. Up to one million workers may have died in the wall’s construction, many of whom were convicts or forced labourers, hence the wall acquired another nickname, ‘the longest graveyard in the world’. The construction used an estimated 180million cubic metres of earth.

The Wall was built in order to protect China from the marauding barbarians to the North, but it never really lived up to its repair bills. Both the Mongols (who established the Yuan dynasty) and the Manchus (who established the Qing dynasty) bribed and tricked their way through the wall on the way to invading China.

Many people from China and elsewhere believe fervently that the Wall is the only man made object visible from space, but this has yet to be corroborated by Astronauts, Cosmonauts or Taikonauts. The idea appears to date from a book published by Robert Halliburton, where he claims that it is the only man-made object visible from the moon... The book was published in 1938, almost thirty years before anyone had been to the moon to find out. Unfortunately, most of us will never get to go to the moon to settle the argument, but if you’re in Beijing, there are plenty of places you can see the wall from.

Some areas of the wall have been totally renovated, and cater so well to tourists that they acquire something of a theme park atmosphere. Other areas are so barren and desolate that getting there at all can be a challenge. Stray unkempt bits of wall litter the countryside north of Beijing, but unless you have weeks to spend on trial and error, it’s best to try one of the places below. As Mao Zedong said ‘Bù dào Chángchéng fēi hăo hàn’- if you don’t go to the Great Wall you’re not a real man (不到长城非好汉)

There are various options for getting to the wall. If you’re really counting the Yuan and fēn, then the cheapest option is usually local public buses. This is also usually the most difficult way. The other choices are officially recognised Tourist Buses, hiring out a taxi, or any of the myriad private tour buses. For tour buses, the best thing will probably be to ask at your hotel, they should know the most convenient option from where you are. For a taxi, you’ll need to agree a price before you go, and the driver will probably insist on this too. Taxi prices quoted below are a rough estimate for the return trip, including having the driver sit in the car park waiting for you for a few hours.**

Mùtiányù 慕田峪

On a good day, the views at Mutianyu are stunning. The wall winds over green hillside (yellow at the wrong time of year) with guard towers dotted along its length. It can get very crowded when the tour buses turn up, other days, if you’re lucky, you’ll have it virtually to yourself. The entrance fee is 85Y. You have the option of a cable car or a steep climb from the car park to the wall. Take bus 916 from Dōngzhímén (东直门) bus station, get off at Huáiróu (怀柔), and jump onto one of the minibuses (~30Yuan is reasonable). Alternatively, there is tour bus no. 6 from Xuānwǔmén (宣武门). Taxis cost ~400 Yuan.

Sīmătái 司马台

Simatai is home to some of the most jawdropping wall-views. The wall runs along sheer cliffs and plunges hundreds of metres down mountainsides. There is a cable car to one of the highest points, the alternative if you want to reach this part is a lot of steep climbs. If you plan to do it on foot, equip yourself so that you can have both hands free if necessary. Entry is 30Y, the cable car a further 50Y. Tour bus no.12 from Xuānwǔmén (宣武门) (70Y) is one of the best options, a taxi is around 400. Public transport to Simatai is not straightforward, and will not significantly undercut the Tour Bus. If you really want to do it, you’d need to take a bus to Mìyún (密云) first, from either Dōngzhímén (东直门) or Xīzhímén (西直门), (one possibility is no. 970 from Dōngzhímén, there are others). Then you have to hop onto one of the minibuses to Sīmătái Chángchéng (司马台长城).

Bādálĭng 八达岭

This is one of the easiest parts of the wall to get to, and possibly the most renovated part. This is where world leaders are brought. The sights are smashing, but the drawback is that it’s also the most crowded and the most commercial. Entry costs 40/45Y, which also buys you entry to the Great Wall Museum located here. To get here by public transport, take bus no. 919 from Déshèngmén (德胜门). Various tour buses are available: No.1 from Qiánmén (前门) No. 2 from Beijing Railway Station (Bĕijīng huǒchēzhàn-北京火车站), No.3 from Xīzhímén (西直门) or Beijing Zoo (Bĕijīng Dòngwùyuán-北京动物园)

Jūyōngguān 居庸关

Juyongguan is much the same story as Badaling, the views are great and it’s easy to get to, but you might find it a little more crowded than it was in the days of marauding Huns. To get here just follow the instructions for Badaling, but tell the bus drivers you want to get off at Juyong guan. (Nĭhăo, wǒ xiăng zài Jūyōngguān Chángchéng xià chē, xièxiè! – 你好,我想在居庸关长城下车 – Hello, I want to get off at Juyongguan Great Wall, thanks!) Admission 45Y.

Jīnshānlĭng 金山岭

Jinshanling is a very charming, unrepaired section of wall with crumbling watchtowers and pretty vistas. It can be start of a walk towards the even more impressive, but slightly more touristed, Simatai. The hike is about ten kilometres, but it’s very tough going. To get here, it’s a bus to Mìyún (密云) first, from either Dōngzhímén (东直门) or Xīzhímén (西直门), (one possibility is no. 970 from Dōngzhímén, there are others), then a minibus to Bākèshíyíng (巴克什营). If there are no direct ones, the bus to Gǔbĕikǒu (古北口) stops here. Admission 30Y

Gubĕikou 古北口

Gubeikou itself is home to another very wild section of wall, and there’s a temple too. To get here, take the bus to Miyun then the bus to Gǔbĕikǒu as explained in the Jinshanling section.

Huánghuā 黄花

This is one of the wildest accessible sections of the wall. A few years ago there was no tourist infrastructure whatever here, apart from a man demanding 1Y for tickets. Inflation has driven this up to 15Y, and the government has been restoring some areas of the wall to make them safer. To get here, take bus 916 from Dōngzhímén (东直门) to Huáiróu, (怀柔) then a minibus direct to the wall Huánghuāchángchéng 黄花长城.


Beijing China A-Z

Beijing China A-Z

A Accommodation, Accommodation Options, Affordable ArtAir Pollution, Ai Weiwei, Architecture, Acrobatics, Airport, Alcohol, Ancient Observatory, Art Space 798, Athletes Village, Atmosphere Bar

Back Lakes area
Back Lakes area
B Back LakesBadaling, Bai TheaterBanks, Ban on Smoking in Taxis, Bear Rescue Center LaosBear Rescue Center Vietnam, Bei Hai Park, Beijing Facts, Beijing in the Snow IBeijing in the Snow IIBeijing Lights Up, Beijing Olympics ChantBeijing Opera, Beijing Population, Beijing Sandwich, Beijing Temple FairBell Tower, Bicycle Hire in HangzhouBicycles, Bolaven Plateau, Bomb Shelter Bar, Botanical Gardens, Bund

C Calçada Pavements Macau, Calligraphy, Calligraphy Brushes For Sale, Calling Home From ChinaCanon Repair CentersCapital Airport, CCTV Building, Centro in the Kerry Hotel, Chaoyangmen, China Air, China Millennium Monument, Chinese Athletes, Chinese ChessChinese Public ParksChinglish, Chinggis BeerChippy, Chopsticks, Cloisonne, Coffee, Confucius, Confucius Temple, Counting in Chinese, Culinary MindsCycling

D Dancing in Lu Xun ParkDashanzi, Datun, Ditan Park, Dongcheng, Dongdan, Donghuamen Night Market, Dongzhimen, Double Decker Buses in Hong KongDrum Tower, Duck Recipes

E Embassies, Emin Minaret, Emperor, Eunuchs, Etiquette

F Feng Shui, Fengtai Softball Field, Festivals, Fish Bird & Insect MarketFlag of China, Food, Foreign Legation Quarter, Flights, Forbidden City, Fragrant Hills, French ConcessionFriendship Stores

Beijing China A-Z
Great Wall of China
G Gate of Heavenly Peace, Gay, Gobi DesertGomar Monastery, Grand HyattGrand Millennium, Grave Cleaning, Great Hall of the People, Great Wall, Great Wall Hiking & CampingGreen T. HouseGuan Yuan Shi Chang, Guzheng

H Haidian, Hangzhou, Hanoi Opera HouseHappiness Bar Pangu PlazaHaze Nightclub, Health, Hepingli, Holiday Inn, Home Inn BeijingHongdetang ChurchHong Kong Mass Transit Logo, Hong Kong Weather, Hong Qiao Market, Horseracing, Hospitals, Hostels, Hotels, Hou Hai, Hu Jintao, Hutong, Hutong Pedicab ToursHutong Video

I Internet, Ice Festival

J Jade, Jiang Zemin, Jianguomenwai, Jiayou Beijing, Jimmy & TommyJingshan Park, Juyongguan

K Kapok Hotel, Keeping Fit, Kites, Kung Fu, Kunming Flower & Bird MarketKunming Stone Forest

L Lake KarakulLama Temple, Lama Temple Revisited, Lao She, Lantern Festival, Light BusesLijiang, Ling Long Pagoda, Little Red Book, Liu Xiang, Long Life Garden, Longtan Park, Lost in Beijing, Lugou Bridge (Marco Polo Bridge)

M Made in China, Madian Qiao, Majong, Mandarin, Manhole Covers, Mao's Mausoleum, Map, Mascots, May Day, Mid Autumn FestivalMilitary Museum, Ming, Ming City Wall, Mingjing Yuan Eyeglasses Market, Ming Tombs, Mobile Phones, ModernistaMoney, Mongolian Wrestling, Music, Music FestivalsMutianyu

N Nanluoguxiang, National Anthem, National Aquatics Center, National Holidays, National Stadium, National Stadium Ready, National TheaterNational Theater Video, Ni Hao!, Noodles, Noon Day Gun, Nuijie Mosque

O Olympics 2008, Olympic FeverOlympic ParkOlympic Pool, Olympic Torch, Olympic Stadium Night View, Opera, Orange Interior

P Pacific Department Store, Pandas, Panjiayuan Market, Parks, Peace Hotel, Police, Police Museum, Population, Post, Prince Gong's Mansion, Pudong International Airport

Q Qi, Qianmen, Qing, Qiongzhu Temple, Quail's Eggs

R Rainbow Hotel, Recycling in Shanghai, Red Army, Religion, Rental BicyclesRestaurants, Revolutionary Classical Theme Restaurant, Rickshaws, Ritz Carlton HotelRMB

S Safe OlympicsSALTSchool Band, St Joseph's Church, Shanghai Maglev, Shanghai Museum, Shangri-la BeijingShichahai, Shopping, Sights UnseenSiheyuan, Simatai, Sex, SIM Cards, Shopping, Snooker, Snow, Soccer, Sofitel Metropole HanoiSoho on Guanghua Lu, Sophia Vari ExhibitionSouth East Corner WatchTower, St Joseph Seminary Church, Stanley MarketStreet Signs, Summer Palace, Subway, Sunken Garden

T Tai Chi, Tao, Taxis, Tea, Temple of Heaven, Telephones, Temple Fair, Terminal 3That's BeijingTiananmen, Tianjin Architecture, Tianjin Eye, Tianjin Tower, Tibet StupaToilets, Tours, Traffic RestrictionsTrains, Transport, Twitter

U Underground, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Uyghurs

V Valentine's DayVisas, Visas From Japan

W Wangfujing, Water Cube, Water Polo, Weddings, What does Beijing mean?, White Cloud Temple, Winter in BeijingWorkers' Stadium, Wudaokou, Wukesong, Wuta Temple

X Xiaolongbao, Xicheng, Xidan, Xiushuijie, Xmas Services in Hong Kong, Xuanwu

Y Year of the Dragon, Yonghegong, Yuanmingyuan, Yu Garden

Z Zhangjiajie SkywalkZhongguancun Electronics Market, Zhongnanhai, Zhongshan Park, Zhongguo!, Zoo

Beijing China A-Z


Hotels in Beijing -

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square

If Beijing is the centre of the Chinese universe, then Tiananmen Square (天安门广场 - Tiānānmén Guăngchăng) is its heart.

It was in 1949 here that Mao Zedong declared the foundation of the People’s Republic of China to an audience of one million adoring revolutionaries and it was here that he lead the mass rallies of Cultural Revolution.

It was here again, that another million people gathered to mourn the Great Helmsman’s death in 1976. The events of 1989 saw Tiananmen become a household name, but whilst the terrible events of those torrid times live on the minds of Beijingers, many Chinese see them as a blip on the road to further economic progress rather than a dent on their true aspirations.

Tiananmen Square

The square itself may be nothing more than a vast field of concrete, but if you read up in advance about all the events in China’s history that have happened here, then finally arriving will awe you into silence and make your hairs stand on end.

At over 400,000 square meters in area, Tiananmen Square is easily the largest urban square in the world. During the late Qing dynasty the Boxer Rebellion caused widespread destruction in Beijing – the area was cleared and the square was born, though it did not achieve its current size until the Mao era.

To north of the square is the famous portrait of Mao Zedong, on the gate from which the square takes its name, the Gate of Heavenly Peace - Tiananmen. At the other end of the square is another gate, Qianmen, or the Front Gate, once the front gate of the Imperial City.

Mao Portrait

At the centre of the square is the Monument to People’s Heroes, a vast granite obelisk which commemorates people who have died in the revolutionary cause. The panels depict various revolutionary events, the inscription on the North face reads ‘Eternal Glory to People’s Heroes’ in Mao’s handwriting.

South of the Monument is Mao’s mausoleum, where the millions of visitors per year take the opportunity to file past the father of the nation’s waxy corpse. Queues are long but move fairly quickly. There’s a little display before you get to the museum where you can leave flowers if that’s your thing, and at the exit, stalls selling all the Mao souvenirs you could ever want.

West of the Square is the Great Hall of the People, home to the Chinese legislature and the venue for official ceremonial activities and Communist Party Meetings. You can get inside when meetings are not in session.

To the East of the Square is the National Museum of Chinese History. At the Northern end of the Square is the National Flag. There are flag raising ceremonies at sunset and sunrise, if you can get up in time then the sunrise one is a better bet because the crowds are smaller. When important foreign guests are in town, the visitors’ national flag is flown along with the Chinese one.

The square is filled with the most extravagant montages, fountains, billboards and flower displays during national holidays, but most of the time it’s just a place to hang around and watch life go by. Beijingers of all ages come to fly their kites, and old men sit by the walls of the Forbidden City comparing pet grasshoppers (a popular pastime) and discussing the events of the day.

You’ll probably be approached by people offering to take your photograph for a fee, but don’t confuse them with the students and visitors who just want to have their photograph taken with the funny foreigners. Other people will try to sell you postcards and Beijing 2008 caps (they started doing this before Beijing even won the bid), but they’re usually quite nice about it since strictly speaking they’re not allowed to sell on the square.


Beijing UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Beijing UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Beijing UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Temple of Heaven

The Ming dynasty Temple of Heaven has become almost an icon of Beijing and is a must-see on any visit to the city. Founded in the early fifteenth century, the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan), is a complex of cult buildings set in a large park. It was here that the Emperor performed important rituals throughout the year. The design of the buildings had a lasting influence on religious architecture throughout Asia.

Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang

The Forbidden City and the Imperial Palace in Shenyang have been listed together as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The palace in Shenyang is a smaller version of the Beijing palace and was constructed between 1625-26 and 1783.

The Summer Palace and Imperial Garden

The Summer Palace (Yiheyuan) dates from the mid-eighteenth century and was built as a summer retreat from the Forbidden City. It was destroyed by Western forces in 1860 but restored in 1886 and again after 1949. The palace complex consists of a number of residences and temples.

Beijing UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The Great Wall

The Great Wall is the world's largest military structure and was constructed from the second century BC to the seventeenth century AD. Over 600 km of the wall dating from the Ming Dynasty are accessible to the north of Beijing.

Parts of the wall such as the 18 km-long Juyongguan Pass section are just over 50 km north of Beijing.


The Forbidden City

Forbidden City, Beijing

The Forbidden City, otherwise known as the Palace Museum, is one of the must-see sights in Beijing. With a total of 9999.5 rooms (because only heaven could have 10,000 rooms) and an area of over 720,000 square metres, it was the Imperial residence during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Forbidden City, Beijing


It is a UNESCO world heritage site, and a powerful national symbol which appears on the official seal of the PRC.

Construction of the Palace began around 1407, during the reign of Yongle, the third Emperor of the Ming dynasty. It is thought that up to a million workers may have been coerced into working on the palace’s construction. It was inhabited by more than 20 Emperors, and during that time built up an incredible collection of treasures and artwork. The palace was burnt to the ground when the Manchus stormed it in 1644, and has been comprehensively looted on several occasions in its history but there’s still plenty to see.

The name ‘forbidden city’ is a translation of one of the Chinese terms for it- 紫禁城- Zījĭnchéng, so called because ordinary folk would be punished by death if they found their way in uninvited. The Forbidden City is also referred to as 故宫 – Gùgōng.

The whole city is surrounded by a moat, and a 10 meter high red wall with watch towers on each corner. Come along in the morning and you’ll see lots of old Beijingers doing their morning exercises by the moat.

To get to the Palace, head North from Tiananmen Square and under the Mao portrait. Continue for another few hundred metres and you’ll be at the Forbidden City ticket booths. There are audioguides available, or you could employ the services of a guide.

Meridian Gate
Meridian Gate
One of the best places for a view of the Forbidden City, and the Beijing cityscape is Jingshan Park (景山公园 Jĭngshān Gōngyuán), which is directly North of the Forbidden City. Formerly known as Coal Hill, it is here that the last Ming Emperor Chongzhen is believed to have died. As enemy troops stormed the palace, he fled through a back exit and hung himself from a tree. To get to the park, leave the palace through the rear exit to the North, Shenwumen.

The palace is symmetrical in layout and the main halls and gates of the Forbidden City lie on a North-South axis which runs all the way across Beijing – to Yongdingmen in the South, and Zhonggulou in the North.

The main entrance to the palace is through the South Gate, known as the Meridian Gate (午门 Wu3 Mén), so named because the emperors believed they were at the centre of the universe-on the meridian.

Beyond this is the Gate of Supreme Harmony , and then the largest of the palace’s halls, the Hall of Supreme Harmony. This hall was used for official celebrations, and to receive high officials.

Beyond this are two more halls of the Outer Palace, The Hall of Central Harmony, which served as a study for the Emperor, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, which had various functions over the years, from the location for official banquets to an Emperor’s walk-in wardrobe.

Next along the North-South axis are the three main halls comprising the Inner Palace, the exclusive domain of the Emperor, his concubines, and the eunuchs who served and advised them. The first is The Hall of Heavenly Purity (the Emperor’s sleeping quarters). Next is The Hall of Union (or of Celestial and Terrestrial Union). The name is a metaphor – for the union of the Emperor and his Empress, and the hall was used by the Empress for official engagements. Finally you arrive in The Hall of Earthly Tranquility

The North gate is called Shenwumen, which means ‘The Gate of Divine Might’ (神武门 Shénwu3 Mén).

Forbidden City

Read more on the Forbidden City


Beijing Capital Airport

Beijing Capital Airport

Beijing Capital Airport is the busiest airport in Asia by aircraft movements, with direct flights to virtually every major city in the world.

A taxi from the airport to the city centre usually takes one hour, and costs 150-200RMB. If you are approached by a taxi driver inside the terminal building, just ignore them and carry on to the rank. Make sure they use the meter.

Beijing Capital Airport

Alternatively, there is an Airport Bus, which is very quick and comfortable in comparison with most Chinese buses. There are currently five different routes, linking the airport to Fangzhuang, Xidan, Beijing Railway Station, Gongzhufen and Zhongguancun.

Capital Airport handled more than 30 million passengers in 2005, and a new terminal is due to be completed in 2007, just in time for the Olympics.

15 km South of Beijing is the new Nanyuan Airport. It is quite small and offers relatively cheap internal flights to Chinese cities. There is an airport bus that runs from Xidan to Nanyuan Airport.