Sunday, 29 July 2012

24 July - Chengdu Panda Research Station (China)

The Chengdu Panda Base is the base for giant panda conservation, and also combines natural scenery and man-made landscapes to create living areas for giant pandas, red pandas, and other Chinese endangered animals.

The giant pandas are only found in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. In total there are fewer than 1000, of which 80% are distributed within the territory of Sichuan province. The Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Centre has been created and imitated the panda's  natural habitat in order that they might have the best possible environment for rearing and breeding. The Research Centre covers an area of 92 acres. Giant pandas, lesser pandas, black-necked cranes, white storks as well as over 20 species of rare animals are fed and bred there throughout the year. Verdant bamboo, bright flowers, fresh air, a natural hill form part of the Centre.

The facilities for giant pandas include a fodder room, sleeping quarters, medical station, research laboratories and a training centre. A great number of plants and as many as ten thousand clumps of bamboos and bushes have been cultivated to provide for the giant panda's  diet and habitat. The Centre is planning to expand by another 500 acres of land on which to simulate a natural environment in order to prepare the giant pandas bred at the centre for release into the wild.

The following photographs were taken on an enjoyable visit to the panda centre, but I did have my fill of pandas by the end of the visit. What a horrible remark some would say!

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The Red Panda lying on the walkway handrail and taking no notice of anyone
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22 July - Xi'an City and City Wall (China)

Xi'an, located in central north-west China, records the great changes of the country and is the birthplace of the ancient Chinese civilization in the Yellow River Basin area. It was the eastern terminal of the Silk Road and the site of the famous Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty.  More than 3,000 years of history including over 1,100 years as the capital city of ancient dynasties, has left Xian with an amazing heritage.


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City streets from the Bell Tower
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Taxi

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Electric motorbike

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Taxi
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Happy children
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A bewhiskered Chinese
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There were a number of dogs dressed so
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Comfort is everything
              













When Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), captured Huizhou, a hermit named Zhu Sheng admonished him that he should 'built high walls, store abundant food supplies and take time to be an Emperor,' so that he could fortify the city and unify the other states. After the establishment of the Ming dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang followed his advice and began to enlarge the wall built initially during the old Tang dynasty (618 -907), creating the modern Xian City Wall. It's the most complete city wall that has survived in China, as well being one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world.

The wall now stands 12 metres high, 12-14 metres wide at the top and 15-18 metres thick at the base. It is 13.7 kilometres long and has a deep moat surrounding it. Every 120 metres there is a rampart which extends out from the main wall. All together there are 98 ramparts on the wall which were built to defend against the enemy climbing up the wall. Each rampart has a sentry building, in which the soldiers could protect the entire wall without exposing themselves to the enemy. The distance between every two ramparts is just within the range of an arrow shot from either side so that they could shoot the enemy, who wanted to attack the city, from the side. On the outer side of the city wall, there are 5,948 crenellations, namely battlements where the soldiers could look out from and shoot at the enemy. On the inner side, parapets were built to protect the soldiers from falling off. Ancient weapons did not have the power to break through a wall and the only way for an enemy to enter the city was by attacking the gate of the city wall. This is why complicated gate structures were built within the wall.


 
                                       



Xian City Wall


20 July - Xi'an Terracotta Warriors (China)

The Terracotta Museum is located east of Emperor Qin's Mausoleum, which covers a total area of 20 hectares. Three main buildings of the museum, which were named Pit 1, Pit 2 and Pit 3, were set up on their original sites in the order that they were found.

In March 1974 the farmers from Xiyang Village accidentally discovered many broken pottery figures while digging a well 1.5 km away from Emperor Qin Shihuang's Tomb. After archaeological Xian Terra-cotta Armyexcavation it turned out to be a pit in which were buried terracotta warriors and horses from the Qin Dynasty. In 1976 another two pits were found nearby. They were named Pit 1, 2 and 3 according to the time they were found and have a total area of 22,780 square metres.

In 1975 a museum with an area of 16,300 square metres was built on the site of Pit No.1 with the aim of protecting the valuable historical relics. The museum was officially finished and opened to the public in 1979. The exhibition hall of Pit 3 was finished and opened to the public in 1989 and five years later the exhibition hall of Pit 2 was open to the public.Xian Terra-cotta Army In a visit by myself and family in 1983 only Pit 1 was open to the public and few warriors could be seen, the building being little more than a shed over the excavations. I was enthralled with what I saw then and now thoroughly enjoyed visiting the site again still trying to imagine what the whole area will look like when it will eventually be excavated, which is not likely to be in my lifetime as it is such a huge area with so much work to be done. The power and authority of the emperors who had the work done in the first place is more than difficult to comprehend.

Pit 1 is in an oblong shape tunnel of 230 metres long from east to west and 62 metres wide from north to south. It is 5 metres deep. It occupies an area of 14,260 square metres. Inside the tunnel, there are ten earth-rammed partition walls. The floors are bricks-paved. The terra-cotta warriors and horses in Pit 1 are lined in a real battle formation. To the east end of the pit standing facing east are three rows of terra-cotta warriors in battle tunics and puttees. There are 70 in each row with total number of 210 altogether. Armed with bows and arrows, they form the vanguard. The ten rammed partition walls cut Pit 1 into eleven latitudinal passage ways. There are 38 columns of warriors in the east with horse-drawn chariots in the centre. The armour-clad warriors carrying long-shaft weapons are probably the main body of the formation and show the main force.

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Pit 2 is situated 20 metres to the north of Pit 1. This Pit is L-shaped and composed of four different mixed military forces in four rows. There are more than 1,000 pieces of pottery figures, 500 horse-driven chariots and saddled horses. The pit is about 6,000 square metres.

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Pit 3 is in a concave shape having a size of 520 square metres. In the pit was discovered one chariot, four terracotta horses and 68 clay armoured warriors. Pit 3 only contained one kind of weapon called "shu", which had no blades and was said to be used by the guards of honour. Discovered also in this pit were a remains of deer-horn and animal bones. This is maybe the site where sacrificial offerings and war prayers were practice.

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In December 1980, two sets of large painted bronze chariots and horses were unearthed near the tomb of the first Emperor of the Qin Dynasty. They were listed as No.1 and No.2 respectively according to their discovery. They were then enclosed in a wooden coffin and buried in a pit seven metres deep. When excavated, the chariots and horses were seriously damaged due to the decayed wooden coffin and the collapse of earthen layers. No.2 bronze chariot and horses were found broken into 1555 pieces when excavated. It took two-and-half years to restore them and they were opened to the public on 1 October 1983. No.1 bronze chariot and horses were also open to the public in 1988.

18 July - Beijing City and the Forbidden Palace (China)

The flight from Kathmandu to Beijing included a stop at Kunming Airport to clear immigration, customs and change planes. Our luggage had not been booked through to Beijing. During the flight an Australian red wine was served with dinner when I thought it would have been a Chinese wine. No matter, I drunk it anyway and it was nice!  The airport looked very new and was very impressive with live trees growing in one part of the terminal.

China, Kunmimg Airport, 15 July 2012 (2)
Inside Kunming Airport

Fuel Costs : Petrol Yuan 93/litre (92p/l), Diesel Yuan 98/litre (100p/l), Exchange rate £1 = 98 Yuan


Our residence for the stay in Beijing was the Central Youth Hostel across the road from the main railway station, the biggest in the East. The Hostel advertised itself as the budget hotel for business people and a first class hostel for backpackers. As hardly any of the staff spoke or understood English to any reasonable degree perhaps they should start there before giving themselves such airs. The bureaucratic requirements when booking in need to be seen to be believed but we eventually had twin rooms allocated. The place was not too bad but communal showers and toilets does not always work especially as there were times when there were not enough available. At least the toilets were marked ‘squatting’ or 'European’ style. The morning started about 0500 hrs with the Chinese people hawking, spitting and cleaning their noses very loudly then shouting to each other as if they were the only people in the place. Generally they seem to have no consideration for others in hostels and their hygiene could be improved if compared to that practised by the European.

Beijing's subway is really something to see and use. The whole system is clean; no rubbish, no graffiti, no ripped seats and fairly easy to use. Signs and announcements on the trains are in Chinese and English and it was possible to find someone to help out when I was lost though a person who actually spoke English was not easy to find. Before entering any subway station all bags were X-rayed, with no exception. The cost of the subway was 2 Yuan (20p) whatever the distance and this may be over one hour's travel. Set into the tunnel walls were video screen advertising products. It looked as though there were fifty or so screens in a continuous line so when flashing past them they looked to be one screen so that the same part of the advert could be seen. What they could do to someone suffering from migraines I hate to think. The subway was well used as most trains were very full.

The buses cost 1 Yuan (10p) for any distance travelled on that bus. They also had rolling screens with destinations and the next bus stop indicated in English. Finding out which bus to use was more of a problem so the subway was the easier choice.

The roads in and around Beijing were up to four lanes wide in each direction and this included those near Tiananmen Square. There was plenty of traffic on the roads and no driver had any patience for other drivers or pedestrians as first in won every time. There were a lot of policemen around and it was noticeable that when not waving their arms or telling people what to do they all stood to attention, even the ones directing traffic in the middle of the road. When walking anywhere singly or in groups they all marched, never sauntered.

Generally everything I saw was clean with people continually brushing up and removing rubbish. The population was very good in using rubbish bins. The one place that stood out in comparison was the site of the Ming Tombs, which looked as if it had not been cleaned for ages.

Following are pictures of the Forbidden City. They all look somewhat similar and I was disappointed with the visit there as about half of the site is closed. When I last saw it in 1983 there were many more building to visit and I think that it then made it more interesting. All it seemed like to me was that I walked in one door then straight through to the back door with little of interest in-between as the buildings looked somewhat similar. Certainly the place was big enough to disguise the number of tourists there, apparently more than usual as it was the school holidays throughout China.


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Pot for keeping water to put out fires
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Door ornament
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Looks as if I should go and visit the Hall of Mental Cultivation to get in the right right frame of mind to continue travelling with some in the group that drive me round the bend