Forbidden City (紫禁城) was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 by UNESCO. Widely lauded as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world, the huge and sprawling complex at the centre of the city was the home of Ming and Qing Dynasty emperors in China. Built from 1406 to 1420, the palatial city comprises 980 surviving buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms and covers 720,000 square metres!
The world’s largest surviving palace complex, the palace is also widely known as Gugong (故宫) in Mandarin. It now houses the Palace Museum, which probably qualifies as the world’s largest museum too – if you exclude botanic gardens and zoos. This was also where the Last Emperor (1987) directed and produced by acclaimed Italian film maker Bernardo Bertolucci was filmed.
The characteristic red walls and iconic architecture of the Forbidden City is impressive to behold.
Built during the Ming dynasty period by the Yongle (forever happy) Emperor from 1406 to 1420, the Temple of Heaven (天坛) in Beijing is one of the many must-visit historic sites. An internationally acclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Site (1998), it boasts of a complex of different circular buildings interlinked by a grid of corridors, walkways and pavillions. Surrounded by a beautiful sprawling garden, the taoist temple held great significance for both Beijingers and tourists alike.
A map of the Temple of Heaven showing the extreme care made in ensuring that different building areas are linked by straight grid lines. An interesting fact which I learnt was how the various monumental buildings in Beijing were linked by a grid system.
My recent visit to Beijing helped me understand why everybody is talking about China.
The city is sprawling (3 times the size of Singapore), teeming with people and fighting a battle between keeping its Chinese roots and heritage versus becoming an economic superpower in the global stage. While few can argue against the splendour of its historic sites (more of that later), it is the urban cosmopolitan aspect of Beijing and the sheer massiveness of its buildings, roads and complexes which seem to tower everything else.
When we interacted with the native Beijingians, as well as other Chinese citizens who migrated there for work purposes, we can tell that they do not take things for granted. Life isn’t easy in a country of 1.3 billion faced with limited resources, and everybody has to work hard to eke out a living. The monumental structures – both historic and modern – seem to bear witness to the fighting spirit of this city.
Yes, I am back from my Beijing sojourn together with my family. It was unforgettable and memorable.
On the day of our departure on Christmas Eve, we spent about an hour or so wandering Changi Airport Terminal 2 before leaving on our plane. There, we came across an interesting roadshow cum promotion which the airport was running while celebrating the Christmas season.
I thought that it was quite innovative to encourage travellers to spend more at the various retail and F&B outlets at the airport, while providing a Chrismassy feel through the use of experiential marketing techniques. What makes this special is that it took place at an airport rather than a shopping mall. Increasingly though, airports are repositioning themselves as lifestyle destinations – in fact, the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam has a casino and mortuary in it!