We’ve taken a brief overview of the four (OK, now officially two) central districts of Beijing. Now it’s time to spread further out into what are commonly referred to as the “inner suburbs”. The apparent diversity and sheer physical range of the city is vast, extending into rural Beijing, but more of that later.
Although out of Beijing’s centre, Shijingshan still appears to have a lot going for it in terms of remarkable historical survivals. I read that a journey by road out to the district would be long, whatever that means, and as such, the subway may make more sense. Everything I hear about Beijing’s roads makes the prospect of travelling on them less than appealing – but then we only hear the nightmare stories, right? Choose carefully. Ask someone who knows.
The China Quaternary Glacier Museum instantly caught my eye: I’ve never been to a glacier museum, I didn’t know such a thing existed.
There are temples to explore, parks and the Ming dynasty tomb of a Eunuch: Tianyi’s Tomb to be precise, along with the nearby Eunuch Culture Museum. We are so far out of our frame of reference here, it’s remarkable.
Referring back to temples: a place to consider must surely be Badachu, a park set below the Western Hills containing a complex of eight temples and monasteries in the Buddhist tradition, now restored.
Remarkable Ming frescoes can be found at Fahai Temple in both replica and authentic flavours (depending upon your choice of entrance fee). Be prepared to view the genuine versions by torch light (really?) as strong artificial lighting – even camera flashes – are prohibited.
Again, the subway option seems to make sense unless you like the long haul by taxi or bus. Well, so I hear: I’ve never tried any of them. Apparently, recent expansions to the subway network reinforces that option. Choose between overground fumes and impacts or underground crowds and pick-pockets – at the risk of over-simplification.
I heard this though: taking a bottle of water with you on subway excursions is recommended, especially if the weather is warm. That would make sense. Having hosted Chinese students, I discovered that our “pleasantly mild” is their “too cold”, so I dread to think how I would react to their “hot”.
Again, Haidian is out of the central action, but seemingly possesses charms all of it’s own. The Summer and Old Summer Palaces in various states of ruination and restoration, and the Five Pagoda Temple sound worthy of exploration if you love that look of ornate, tiered towers, flared, tiled roofs, architectural ornamentation.
There are more parks and grounds to wander in (Purple Bamboo Park, Beijing Botanical Gardens and Fragrant Hills, amongst others); it’s a dis-service to dismiss them in such a manner but there is so much to experience in a city so vast. The Great Bell Temple & Museum is worthy of note for – yes – the Great Bell: standing nearly 7 metres tall and inscribed with Buddhist sutras, in over one quarter of a million Chinese glyphs.
In contrast to remarkable historical survivals, the “official” version of history is also on hand at the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution. Choose the version you want to believe, perhaps?
Haidian is also the home to the prestigious Peking and Tsinghua Universities, and Beijing’s electronics-store Mecca: Zhongguancun. Outside of the immediate high street consumer playground, the broader region contains seven technology “parks” and is home to world players and giants in the technology arena. This is China’s Silicon Valley.
More next time.
Next time: Trips and Tales (Part 119) Arrival Beijing #8
[Photo by dbaron]