Friday, July 16, 2010

The Jade Museum and Ming Tombs

Since we have so many people in our group, we hired a tour bus to take us to the Great Wall. We have about 30 students from GT and there are like 5 students from NUS (the National University of Singapore) that came to Tsinghua with us to take classes. Of course, tours like these have to stop off at a few touristy places where they want you to spend your money. So on the way to the great wall, we stopped at some Jade Museum. This post will be the first of 3 posts from our Great Wall trip.

We walked through some exhibits of pretty fancy pieces of jade. It wasn't really like a museum, more like 3 rooms with jade exhibits.

And they showed us the raw jadeite rock.

Apparently there are different shades of jade, from the bright green to a pale green, and other colors like orange and purple as well.

There was a room where some workers were carving the raw jade slabs into figurines. I kind of felt like I was at the zoo, watching these guys through a glass wall. It was cool to see them shaping the rock in such detail though.

Like can you imagine carving a dragon like this? That is crazy! This dragon was probably about 8 inches long.

They make little decorative balls out of jade too, with smaller balls nested inside them. Shirley is holding one like shes in Dragonball-Z. Someone asked me the other day if I remembered that show, as if I'm too old to have watched that and Pokemon haha... I think they forgot I'm asian (^_^)

Then we walked into a showroom where they sold very impressive pieces of jade... like this statue which is life-sized (and a bit scary).

And if you want to buy a few lions for your front porch, you can get them here. Or a great big battleship for your living room.

Then we walked to the gift shop at the end, where they sold jade bracelets and necklaces from glass cases like a jewelry store. All of it was very expensive though, they were asking ridiculous prices like $2500rmb for a bracelet (about $350 usd) so none of us bought anything. But Nik was really excited about their hats.

After the Jade Museum, the bus took us to the Ming Tombs. We drove for about an hour away from downtown Beijing. On the way, we passed quite a few of these gate things along the side of the road. I vaguely remember learning something about these gates in our history class, like they are supposed to serve as a landing point for the sun goddess' son when he returns to earth? Don't take my words for it though, I might have mixed that up with Japanese history.

The Ming tombs are the final resting place of a few of the old Chinese emperors. I think the particular tombs that were open to the public were the one of the 13th Ming emperor. The emperors were buried underground in their tombs with their wives and lots of tribute like jewelery. If the empress died before her husband the emperor, she was buried first. If the empress died after the emperor, then she joined him in the tomb later.

Even the ticket booth was intricately decorated. However, this may have been done after the tombs became such a tourist attraction.

This is the entrance to the tombs, where they collect tickets at turnstiles in the little arches.

I just really liked this guy's outfit, rocking the pajama pants and lime green wifebeater. If only he had a man-purse.

Here is half of our whole group at the tombs (while waiting for the other bus of people from our group to get there). Our tour guide is the petite asian girl in the middle, carrying the rainbow flag. About 3 minutes after we took this picture, I realized we should have turned around and taken it with the red gate in the background... oops.

So Christine and I took a picture in front of the gate.

This was engraved into the staircase, for multiple flights of stairs. Our tour guide said that the dragon was for the man, and the phoenix was for the lady.

Shirley and I sat at the mini elephant tables. I am not sure why they are there but they were definitely made for people under 5'5".

The we walked to the tombs, which they called the Underground Palace. The tombs were 27 meters underground, so we walked down quite a few flights of stairs.

Here is the floorplan of the tomb that we visited. I think there are 3 chambers for the 3 emperors that are buried together in this tomb. Our tour guide said something about the emperors all dying with in a few years of each other, and the workers were too lazy to build another tomb so they just buried them all together.

There was a hole in the stone here, where people were throwing money like it was a fountain. I am not quite sure what the significance of it is, maybe the sign in chinese says why?

These are replicas of the coffins used to bury the emperor and his wives.

People throw money in here too. Maybe its lucky or a sign of respect?

They also built thrones for the emperor and empresses in the tombs.

Here is the exit of the tomb. We climbed a lot of stairs to the top, and somehow we went from being 27 meters underground to being like 3 stories above ground.

The view from the top of the tomb was so green.

Coming down from the tomb was interesting. Notice the two flat parts in the middle of the staircase? That's apparently how they make staircases handicap accessible. All I know is that I would be terrified to be going down a staircase like that if I was in a wheelchair, hopefully someone would grab the handlebars on the back of the wheelchair!

I have no idea what this is for, but it looks cool and everyone was taking pictures by it so I did too... my shorts tan is getting terrible.

And then we hopped back on the bus and drove to the Great Wall. So my next post will be part 2 for the Great Wall pictures!


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