We explored so much while traveling to China on our Imperial China Viking River cruise. The sites were amazing, I wanted to share some of the highlights of our trip.
You will want to visit the Bund in the evening to see all of the lights and walk on the walkway along the Huang River. From the Bund you can see the Oriental Pearl TV Tower which is Shanghai’s most recognized landmark. You will also want to visit the Wu Gardens which is very beautiful and tranquil. This five-acre garden consists of six sections separated by boundary walls: Grand Rockery, Ten Thousand-Flower Pavilion, Hall of Heralding Spring, Hall of Jade Magnificence, Inner Garden and Lotus Pool.
The Shanghai Museum has a collection of over 120,000 pieces, including bronze, ceramics, calligraphy, furniture, jades, ancient coins, paintings, seals, sculptures, minority art and foreign art. The masks and clothing were extremely interesting. You could spend a long time visiting all of the rooms and looking at the displays.
We visited the Wuhan Museum. The Chime Bells Exhibition Hall contains two parts: the Exhibition Hall and the Music Hall. In the Exhibition Hall, you can see many cultural relics that have been unearthed from the tomb of Yi, such as the exquisite bronze vessel known as ‘Crane Standing on the Antler’, ancient halberds, triangle-shaped swords called Shu, and the bamboo slips that were used for writing on in ancient times. The most famous treasure is the Chime Bells, which is the largest bronze musical instrument ever discovered. With a set of bells of different sizes, it can play various tones of the musical scale. Musicians wearing ancient clothes play a replica of the Chime Bells twice daily. Being a bell ringer myself, this was very fascinating performance of beautiful, ancient music.
Three River Gorges
The three river gorges are the Dragon, Misty and Emerald Gorges. It is a beautiful area which you visit on a smaller boat than the river cruise ship. The sites were spectacular and you saw hanging coffins up high in the Misty Gorge. The higher up the person was buried, the more important that person was. We saw a Buddhist temple along the rock walls with a walkway along the rocks for about a mile. The children that live out in the rural areas take the river taxi to the main towns where they attending boarding school during the week. They need to walk 1-2 hours from their village to the water’s edge to take the river taxi on Sunday afternoon and returned on Friday afternoon.
The pagoda was built against a rock, so only three walls were man-made. To reach the pagoda, you walk through the town and across a swinging bridge. The first thing you notice about this pagoda is that its windows are round, which signifies heaven. The temple walls are painted in red with very colorful decorations. The Chinese believe in odd numbers being the most significant. To reach heaven and the temples at the top, you must climb the 99 steps. There are paintings and statues to look at along the way. When the dam was completed on the Yangtze River, they were afraid that the temple would flood, so they built a retaining wall so that they do not have to worry about moving the temple.
It was a treat to visit the Chongqing Zoo and see the Giant Panda’s. There were eight adult pandas and a one year old panda. Panda feeding time is between 8:30 AM – 10:30 AM, which is the best time to see them. The panda is the symbol of China and a national treasure. There are also the red pandas and many other animals at the zoo as well as an Art School.
Note: Currently, if you take the Viking River cruise from Shanghai to Beijing you visit the zoo in Chongqing to visit the pandas. If you take the Viking River cruise from Beijing to Shanghai you visit a family in Beijing but do not see the pandas.
We visited the unbelievable Terra Cotta (which means baked clay) Warriors which were built during the Chin Dynasty. The average height of the warriors was 5’ 7”, they are approximately 2000 years old and there are about 8000 warriors. The warriors were made in two separate sections. The head and neck were made separately from the body and then slipped into the body section. After the warriors were made, they air dried them and then they fired them for five days. There was one complete kneeling archer found, the cross bow was wooden but had disintegrated. The building originally had a brick floor, with dirt walls and a wooden roof which was destroyed when the Chin Dynasty was attacked and it was burned. There are three buildings with sections for the army, women, acrobats, lacquer work, jade and bronze. The emperor’s tomb is two miles away from the warriors. The whole area is 56 square meters and only part of it is excavated. They are leaving it for future generations where they hope they will have better technology. When these warriors were discovered, they were completely painted, but when they were exposed to the air, the paint faded immediately.
There are many sites to see in Beijing….
The Great Wall
We went to the Badaling section of the Great Wall, which is the best preserved and most picturesque. Each kingdom had its own section of wall for protection against invasion. The emperor of the Chin Dynasty had the sections of the wall connected totaling 4,000 miles which took about ten years. There was also an outer wall in northern Mongolia, but it was not kept up. They had five soldiers per watch tower in the important sections.
The Sacred Way – the road leading to heaven
The road to the Emperor tomb was lined with stone statues, 12 human figures (including the general, civil officials and meritorious officials) and 24 animals which are lion, camel, elephant, xiezhi (a mythological unicorn), qilin (one of the four “divine animals, the other three are dragon, phoenix and tortoise), and horse. There are 4 of each of these animals: two standing and two squatting and are supposed to change guard at midnight. Lion symbolizes awesome solemnity because of their ferocity. Camel and elephant are meant to suggest the vastness of the territory controlled by the court, because they are dependable transport in desert and tropics. Xiezhi was put there to keep evil spirits away, because it was believed to possess the sixth sense to tell right and wrong. If two men fight, a xiezhi would gore the wicked one. Qilin, an auspicious symbol, was placed on two sides. Horse, as the emperor’s mount, is absolutely indispensable.
You can see the two remaining towers which used to be around Beijing. Then you go through security (being with the Viking River Cruise group, we did not have to go through security) and walk to the square. It is a huge area with the Monument to the People’s Heroes, Mao Zedong Mausoleum, the National Museum of China and Great Hall of the People.
Forbidden City – Winter Palace
I was amazed how large the Forbidden City was. There was the outer pavilion, the middle pavilion and the inner pavilion before you reached the wall to go into the area where the emperor lived. There were the male lion which was playing with a ball and the female lion which plays with the cub to protect the entrance. The emperor was carried in a chair and the people carrying him would walk up the stair and he was suspended over the center area which had carvings of a dragon. You could see the area where the emperor’s bedroom was and where the concubine’s bedrooms were. On the edges of the buildings, the roofs curve upwards to allow more light into the building. The number of carved animals, mythical and real, the more important that building was.
The Summer Palace was eleven miles from the Winter Palace and the emperor, his wife and the concubines would go here to stay from May through September. There is the long hall, half mile long, with paintings all along the way on the beams and ceiling. Then we saw the marble ship where the emperor used to sit and look at the lake. It was a very beautiful and peaceful area.