Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Great Wall - Last day in Beijing

Our last day in Beijing was jammed packed but full of excitement and anticipation as we were going out to see the Great Wall today!  We started off the tour with a trip out to the Ming Tombs and the Spirit Way.  This is a tomb designed by one of the last emperors of the Ming Dynasty that was built.  We had a chance to quickly tour only one of the tombs because on our way out to the tombs, our bus was involved in a fender-bender.  As I was sitting in the front, I saw that the car infront of us slammed on it's break for no apparent reason.  Our tour guide said that in Beijing, people can sometimes bribe a police officer to get a drivers license in order to cirmumvent the lengthy process of learning how to drive.  The tour guide said that the man driving the car in front of us was a new driver and had just bought his car (a Chevrolet SUV of some type).  Poor man, our bus had minor damage, but the whole back of his SUV was smashed.  After waiting for about 1 hour we changed buses and continued on our trip out to the Ming Tomb. 

The Ming Tombs had a very European feel to the design.  I wondered if this emperor toured Europe and wanted to design his eternal resting place to mimic the avenues of Europe.  The Spirit Way is a long 2+ km way that is lined with weeping whillows and statues of all sorts of animals and giant soldiers guarding the way.  At the beginning of this long avenue is a giant turtle that is meant to signify longevity. 


After this, you enter the actual tomb.  Although there are several emperors buried in the area, the largest of the tombs is the one we visited.  The following pictures show how big of an area these tombs are.

After our quick visit to the tombs, we stopped at another government run Cloissone factory.  I had no idea that people actually have to hammer out, cut, and place each small part of copper and fix it on the vase. Then, another person has to fill it in with the different color paints/glazes.  The process seemed very detailed and an art form all to itself.  No wonder the prizes were so high! 

We ended the day by climbing the Great Wall. The steps were uneven, and worn by the number of visitors that the wall sees each year. I couldn't help but pause and remember what our tour guide said about the wall also being the largest tomb ever built. This is because as the wall was being built, workers who died while building it were entumbed in the actual wall. Although the day was cloudy and cold, it added a peaceful and serene feel to the visit. Many of us climbed up into the top of the towers through a very narrow and steep stair case and took some pretty great pictures of the surrounding country side. To think that this structure is the only man-made structure that can be seen by the naked eye from space seemed incredible. Although I went up to the second tower, many of the students went much further. I felt it was an honor being able to visit this area, take a moment to honor the people who died making the wall, and have a chance to climb the structure without being rushed or crowded like I have been told it is during the summer months. What a fantastic ending to a great trip!

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