Thursday, November 29, 2007

BEIJING !....Tian'anmen Square & Great Wall

Today, all of us know Beijing is the capital of China. But it was not always so, both in name and in location. History records that King Wu was the first to locate his capital here between 1045-1057 BC. It was then called Ji. Later the state of YAN [ 473 - 221 BC ]which existed during the Zhou Dynasty renamed it Yanjing. After the Mongols conquered China, Kublai Khan made himself emperor and founded the Yuan Dynasty. He kept the capital here but changed its name to Dadu or Khanbalig. Marco Polo recorded it as Cambulac in his travel journals. But it was renamed Shuntian after the Chinese overpowered the Mongols and re-established their Ming Dynasty. Beijing means " Northern City" same as Peking [ the name used by westerners before 1949 ] . At one time, the city was called Peiping meaning" Northern Peace".

Whatever its name, Beijing had a very, very old history.....690,000 years ! That was when Peking Man first appeared at present day Zhoukoudian, about 48 km S-W of Beijing. It is generally regarded that between 1425 -1650 AD, Beijing was the largest city in the world. A total of 34 emperors, of various dynasties, ruled the country from here.

Photo: Tian'anmen Square [top ] the Biggest central square in the world.

We were simply amazed and swamped by the hugeness of everything around us...sheer mass of people, sheer volume of traffic, gigantic buildings both modern and ancient, myriads of activities and movement, the hustle and bustle of life evident. Everything seems huge and big in China.

Photo: The Great Wall of China....this section where I was at, is the popular Badaling section. If you can climb to the top section of the tower they will present you with a stamped certificate as proof. Was it easy....the climb ? It can be quite tiring if you aim to go higher and further. One thing I had to do was to sit quietly on the parapet that provided a fantastic panoramic view of the ever extending, unending wall and reflect on what took place there. Who were the builders?

How did they build this monolith? What tools did they have then? What resources?

You see....questions and more questions especially when I examined the finer details of the ramparts, wide paths, defensive openings, control rooms, the wide steps......etc.

But my wild guess is that the people living in those times must have been bigger, stronger and fitter than us today. They needed to go up and down these huge steps daily...and for a far longer time. We climbed up and down once ....and felt exhausted!
After taking in the Great Wall, my perspective of our modern skyscrapers and tall buildings has changed forever. Our modern-day building achievements pale into insignificance when put beside the only man-made structure visible from outer space.

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