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PEKING (Beijing, ‘northern capital’)

Peking…old, proud, secretive.

Juliet Bredon, Peking

Of all the cities of China, Peking has the most history and-despite the wanton vandalism, both ‘official and unofficial, of the past 80 years-the best collection of historical buildings. As a result, it deserves more of the visitor’s time than any other single place in the country. You could see the main sights of Peking in two or three rushed days, but you really need a week to do it properly. Peking has been China’s capital for most of the past 800 years, ever since the Mongols chose it as the headquarters of the Chinese portion of their empire in 1261. Marco Polo, employed by the Mongol emper or Kublai Khan 30 years or so later, spent ten pages of his Travels describing the city, which he said contained ‘such a multitude of houses and of people, both within the walls and without, that no one could count their number.’ The Ming dynasty, which succeeded the Mongols in 1368, first established their capital at Nanking, but the second Ming emperor decided to move back to Peking and there constructed the magnificent Imperial Palace. The Manchus, who conquered China in the seventeenth century , also made Peking their capital, as did the first weak republican governments after the down-fall of the empire in 1911. The Nationalist Party of Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek moved the capital to Nanking in 1928, and renamed Peking as Peiping (northern peace), but the city became the capital once more in 1949 when the Communists established the People’s Republic of China.

Peking is the political heart of the country .Decisions affecting just about every facet of the lives of the 1000 million Chinese are made here by the Communist Party leadership, and the Tiananmen Gate in the centre of the city is the dominant symbol of the People’s Republic. In fact, the whole country , including Tibet in the far west, operates on Peking time. The city has also become an important industrial centre in its own right, and now has a population of over nine million people.

It is a mixture of metropolis and village. The wide avenues and imposing buildings in the centre of Peking contrast strangely with the ramshackle, one-storey houses and winding alley-ways where most people live. Peking can be a very grey city at the best of times, and during the winter, when the green leaves have disappeared and the coal-dust pollution hangs heavy in the air, it becomes even more dreary .Like most north China cities, everything in Peking seems to have a wall round it, which makes it difficult for visitors to get a feel for the lives of the ordinary people. It is pleasant to wander round the back alleys of the city on summer evenings when the local residents flock out of their stifling homes to get some fresh air and talk with neighbours while the kids play about them. But in the winter, the alleys are virtually deserted as people hurry home to get out of the cold as quickly as possible.

The pattern of present-day Peking was established during the reign of the second Ming emperor who had the Palace placed at the centre, surrounded by an Imperial City containing the residences of court officials and government offices. Beyond that was the Tartar City and, to the south of the Palace, the Outer City .Walls were built around the Forbidden City , the Inner City and around the Outer Gty , too, with impressive gates placed at intervals along their lengths. To their eternal shame, in the late 1960s, the Communist government decided to pull down the city walls, and only one or two small sections survive.

The authors of the interesting, but slightly condescending, guide, In Search of Old Peking, published in 1935, warned readers that in some instances they may have problems finding some of the buildings mentioned in the book: ‘This is not the fault of the authors but due to the indifference of the Chinese themselves, more especially of their authorities, towards the historical monuments in which Peking is so rich.’ They spoke of acts of vandalism, ‘such as converting historic palaces into modern restaurants and tea houses; famous temples into barracks and police stations; cutting down ancient cypresses to sell for firewood; defacing age-old walls and tablets with political slogans.’ Unfortunately, this process of indifference and vandalism has continued under Communist rule during the past three decades and more although, to its credit, the present government of Deng Xiaoping has made some effort in recent years to preserve what is left.

A tour of Peking should begin with a visit to TlANANMEN SQUARE in the heart of the city .On 1 October 1949, Mao Tse-tung proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic from Tiananmen Gate (the gate of heavenly peace) where his picture still hangs; ‘The Chinese people,’ he declared, ‘have stood up.’ The square is one of the world’s largest, with an area of 100 acres, and it can accommodate half a million people at once, as it did on several occasions during the Cultural Revolution. However, the square that Mao addressed in 1949 was much smaller: during the 195OS, when the Chinese were heavily under the influence of the Soviets, walls were knocked down and buildings demolished to widen it to its present gargantuan proportions. Consequently, the square and the two massive structures flanking it have a very Stalinist air about them. (To get to the square from the Guanghua or Jianguo ‘Hotels, walk south to Changan Avenue and take a NO.1 bus heading west.)

On the western side of the square is the GREAT HALL OF THE PEOPLE where major political assemblies and meetings are held, while on the eastern side is the MUSEUM OF CHINESE HISTORY AND THE CHINESE REVOLUTION. Both were built in 1959. Between them is MAO’S MAUSOLEUM, an ugly building which looks very much out of place. The present leaders of China undoubtedly regret that it was built, but it would now be rather hard to get rid of it. Inside, Mao’s embalmed body lies in a glass sarcophagus. In front of the mausoleum is the MONUMENT TO THE PEOPLE’S HEROES, a granite obelisk around which crowds calling for an end to the radical policies championed by Mao and his colleagues (the so-called ‘Gang of Four’) demonstrated in April 1976. The number of people who died around the monument when the militia was called in to break up the demonstration has never been revealed.

(Mao’s mausoleum is sometimes open to visitors: enquire at the C1TS office. The Museum of History is open most days; buya ticket at the front gate. There are also tours of the Great Hall of the People on days when meetings are not being held. Check with C1TS for times and tickets.)

TIANANMEN GATE itself was built in the seventeenth century. When an imperial edict was issued, officials would kneel at the foot of the gate, while the edict was lowered down to them in the mouth of a golden phoenix carved out of wood. The gate is the main entrance to the FORBIDDEN CITY, the home of 24 emperors of the Ming and Manchu dynasties from the mid-fourteenth to the early twentieth century. Construction of the Palace began in 1406 and more than one million workmen were employed on the project, completed in 1420. Walking north from Tiananmen Square, you will first pass through Duan Men (main gate), and then come upon the imposing Wumen (meridian gate) which is the real entrance to the Forbidden City. Imperial criminals were always executed in the shadow of this truly ‘forbidding’ tower.

Beyond Wumen is a large courtyard through which flows a canal crossed by a number of beautiful marble bridges. Passing through the Gate of Supreme Harmony, the visitor comes upon the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian), the single most impressive piece of architecture in the Palace. Important ceremonies, such as those to mark the emperor’s birthday or the pronouncement of important edicts, were held here. Next comes the smaller Hall of Central Harmony (Zonghedian) where the emperors rehearsed the ceremonies, and then the Hall of Preserving Harmony in which were held banquets and imperial examinations. These three halls constituted the outer palace. Beyond them, through the Gate of Heavenly Purity, is the inner palace where the emperor and his retinue lived. The area is a huge maze of courtyards and exquisite buildings which is a lot of fun to roam around.

The northeast corner of the Palace is now mostly devoted to museum displays, although the collection is not as interesting as it could be. In 1933, the Nationalist government of Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek had the entire Palace collection of treasures packed in crates and sent south to Shanghai and Nanking for safety in case of a Japanese invasion. From there, the treasures went to Taiwan with the Nationalists in 1949, and are now displayed in the Taipei Palace Museum, much to the ire of the Communists. (A full tour of the Forbidden City can take a day or more; if you just walk straight through from Tiananmen to the back gate, it will take a couple of hours. There are taxis available at the northern entrance, or else take a bus down one of the streets on either side of the Palace, back to Changan Avenue.)

Behind the Forbidden City is COAL HILL, the highest point in Peking, which provides an excellent view of the whole city .It is a man-made mound, constructed to protect the Forbidden City from the cold north winds and from evil spirits. The site of the hill was reportedly once a coal store, hence its name. The last emperor of the Ming dynasty is said to have hanged himself from a tree on the hill in 1643 rather than be captured by the peasant leader Li Zicheng who led the revolt against him.

1 Capital Gymnasium
2 Beijing Zoo
3 Beijing Exhibition Center
4 Bell Tower
5 Drum Tower

6 Temple of the White Pagoda
7 Xidan Market
8 Nationalities Cultural Palace
9 Beijing Post and Telecommunications office
10 Beijing Libary
11 Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution
12 Lu Xun Museum
13 Coal Hill (Jingshan)
14 National Art Gallery
15 Palace Museum (Forbidden City)
16 Tian’ anmen
17 Great Hall of the People
18 Monument to the People’s Heroes
19 Museums of the Chinese Revolution and Chinese History
20 Mao zedong Memorial Hall
21 front Gate (Qianmen)
22 Shopping area for antiques (Liulichang)
23 Beijing Department Store
24 Capital Hospital
25 Worker’s Stadium
26 Friendship Store
27 International Club
28 Temple of Heaven (Tiantan)
30 Museum of Natural History

Just to the right of Tiananmen Gate is the entrance to the PEOPLE’S CULTURAL PALACE, formerly the Tai Miao, or Imperial Temple, used by the imperial family to honour their ancestors. The halls were built in the fifteenth century , although they have been repaired and renovated many times. The spirit tablets of the emperors are gone, but the old cypress trees still grace the courtyards. On the left-hand side of Tiananmen, is the SUN YATSEN PARK named after the leader of the republican groups which overthrew the Manchu dynasty in 1911. In imperial times, the park was the Altar of Land and Grain where, twice a year, the emperor offered sacrifices. To the west of the Forbidden City complex are three lakes, named the NORTH, MIDDLE and SOUTH SEAS where the court used to spend their summers. The lakes were constructed during the Ming dynasty and are fed by canals bringing water from the Western Hills (which are occasionally visible through the smog). The area around the Middle and South Seas (Zhong Nan Hai) is now the headquarters of both the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council, China’s cabinet. During 1979, thousands of poverty-stricken peasants gathered outside the main southern gate to the compound, which faces on to Changan Avenue, pleading for assistance. Such demonstrations are no longer allowed, but are also less necessary due to the relatively liberal agricultural policies now in force.

The North Sea (Beihai) is now a public park. The Mongol emperor Kublai Khan reconstructed an earlier garden on the site and built a magnificent palace, described in glowing terms by Marco Polo, on a hill which is now an island in the lake. The palace collapsed in the sixteenth century after an earthquake and was replaced by a white dagoba, a Buddhist monument, which was rebuilt in 1741 by the emperor Qian Long. There is no entrance to the dagoba, but it is believed to contain Buddhist scriptures and other religious items. The main bridge to the island, just inside the park entrance, dates from the Mongol empire. During and after the Cultural Revolution, the park was closed to the public and only reopened in 1978. It is said to have been used by Mao and his wife Jiang Qing as if it were their private garden. Just outside and to the right of the main south gate to the park is the CIRCULAR CITY, built originally by Kublai Khan. One of the pine trees in the small compound was granted the title of marquis by Emperor Qian Long in thanks for the shade it gave him.

Southeast of the Peking Hotel, the LEGATION QUARTER, the former foreigners’ enclave, is interesting to walk round, and although it has changed immensely since the Communist victory in 1949, many of the old European-style buildings are still standing. In the days before the European powers forced their way into the Chinese empire, the only representatives of foreign states allowed in Peking were those from Burma, Annam (Indo-China), Korea and Mongolia, living in the ‘Four Barbarians’ Hostel’ in what later became the Legation Quarter . The Russians obtained the right to open a church in Peking in 1727 and were given a plot of land just opposite these vassal embassies. In 1860, after the second Opium War, Britain and France forced the Chinese to allow them to open their own legations nearby, and other Western powers, and later Japan, followed suit. The area was besieged by anti-foreigner crowds during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, but the foreign powers used the rebellion as an excuse to strengthen their position in Peking, clearing the quarter of all Chinese houses, and building a wall round it to keep unwanted Chinese out.

The main street, running east to west through the quarter, was called Legation Street (today’s Dongjiao Minxiang, although during the Cultural Revolution it was renamed Anti-Imperialism Road). The Catholic church opposite the former Belgian legation still stands, although the crosses on its steeples were knocked off during the Cultural Revolution. Just across the intersection as you head west is a large compound on the right in which stands a large mansion, rumoured to have been built in the late 1970S for the former Party Chairman Hua Guofeng. But he never lived in it, and it is now the Peking residence of the former Cambodian head-of-state, Prince Sihanouk. The grounds of the former British legation are now mostly occupied by the Ministry of Public Security , and some of the old legation buildings are still visible behind the high walls. An auditorium in the compound was used as the ‘courthouse’ when the ‘Gang of Four’ radicals and a few other leftovers from the Maoist era were put on trial in late 1980. The old French club is the Peking customs house, while the former United States legation and other mansions along East Qianmen Street are now used as foreign guesthouses. The Peking Hospital on the road running between Changan Avenue and the Xiunqiao Hotel, to the west of the Dongdan Park, was once the German Hospital, and is now an exclusive medical centre used by senior party officials. Chou Enlai reportedly died there.

Probably the most stunning piece of architecture in Peking is not the Forbidden City , in spite of its grandeur and size, but the TEMPLE OF REA VEN (Tian Tan) in the south of the city .The round hall which dominates the temple is unique in Chinese architecture and a wonder to behold. It was designed and built during the Ming dynasty, but was virtually destroyed by fire in 1889 after being struck by lightning and had to be completely rebuilt. The large compound in which the temple stands is one of the nicest parks in Peking. To the west of the main altar is the Palace of Abstinence (Chai Gong), where the emperor used to change into his ceremonial attire and fast for a night before performing the annual rites. (The pavilions have now been turned into shops, including one rented by the French fashion designer Pierre Cardin and another by a Japanese department store.) The main altar, called the Qi Nian Dian (Hall of Annual Prayers), was visited by the emperor once a year, on the day of the winter solstice, to pray for good harvests. The last person to perform the rites was General Yuan Shikai, the first president of the republic who planned to declare himself emperor, although he died in 1916 before ascending the throne. There is a long walkway south from the main altar leading to a smaller but similarly designed hall, known as the Huang Qiong Yu (Imperial Vault of the Universe). This is surrounded by a circular wall, and anyone who stands next to a particular point on it is supposed to be able to hear clearly someone whispering at another point. The catch is that there are usually so many tourists whispering at the wall that no one can hear anything. To the south of the smaller hall is a huge circular altar called the Altar of Heaven. The number nine was considered to be the most powerful of the numbers, and the marble blocks that make up the altar are all in combinations of nine. (To get to the Temple of Heaven from the Guanghua or Jianguo Hotels, take a bus along to the Dongdan intersection to the east of the Peking Hotel-then take a NO.106 trolley bus south. The bus eventually turns right, and the park is on the left .)

Other places to visit
WANGFUJING, the main shopping street of central Peking (known in the old days as Morrison Street after the famous London Times correspondent who lived there), runs north-south next to the Peking Hotel. Walking north along the street, you will pass the Xinhua Bookshop on the right, the largest in Peking and probably the whole country. Further up, a number of foreign shops have opened in the past few years, the first of which was a Seiko watch shop. On the left, is the Peking NO.1 Department Store, and on the right, the large Eastwind (Dongfeng) Market. Turn left at the next intersection, and you will arrive at the eastern gate of the Forbidden City .Continue on for one more intersection, and on the left will be a lane once home to some of the highest nobility of the Manchu court, including a Manchu lady who was accepted into the palace as a concubine and went on to become Empress Dowager Ci Xi. At the next major intersection on the left is the PEKING ART GALLERY.

Another interesting street to walk along is NANCHIZI (south pool) which runs along the eastern edge of the Forbidden City (two intersections west of the Peking Hotel). Number 15 used to be the bureau of Reuters News Agency , but the news service was temporarily suspended in 1967 when the then-correspondent Anthony Grey was attacked and imprisoned by Red Guards acting on orders from a particularly radical and xenophobic faction in the Foreign Ministry . They strangled his cat, and kept him in solitary confinement for two years in retaliation for the imprisonment of 13 Communist journalists in Hong Kong.

If you walk west from Tiananmen Square along Changan Avenue, you will pass the main entrance to the Communist Party head- quarters, Zhongnanhai, on the right. Past the next intersection on the right is the Peking telecommunications building, built during the Great Leap Forward of the late 195oS along with the Great Hall of the People and a number of other structures. Just beyond is a length of wall, now shielded by advertising hoardings, which became world famous in late 1978 under the name DEMOCRACY WALL. For a brief period, the Communist Party relaxed its grip and allowed a measure of free speech in China; people wrote posters on every conceivable subject, mostly about Chinese politics, and stuck them on the wall. Soon after it sprang spontaneously to life, strongman Deng Xiaoping declared Democracy Wall to be ‘a good thing’, thereby speeding its development. But it finally became clear that he was simply using the idealism and enthusiasm of the young activists for his political ends, and in December 1980, the crackdown came, the wall was ‘closed’, and many poster-writers were jailed for their views. The debates which took place around Democracy Wall helped to provide ammunition for Deng and his colleagues in the battle to oust former Party chairman Hua Guofeng and other leftists in the leadership. Once they had served their purpose, the Democracy Wall activists were gagged again. Many of them are still in jail.

Southwest of here is a large compound fronting on to West Qian men Street which was once the IMPERIAL ELEPHANT QUARTERS. The area is now occupied by the official New China News Agency .The compound (which is, naturally, closed to outsiders) also contains a hall in which China’s legislature used to meet in the early 1920S.

The OBSERVATORY, to the east of the city, was first constructed by the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan in the thirteenth century on a part of the city wall, and was moved to its present position in the sixteenth century .Most of the astronomical instruments displayed on the terrace were constructed by the Jesuit priest Ferdinand Verbiest on the orders of the emperor Kang Xi in 1674, although one of them is said to have been a present from Louis XIV of France. After the Boxer Rebellion, German troops carried off most of the instruments and had them set up in a park in Potsdam, but they were returned after the First World War, one of the few gains China made from the Treaty of Versailles. The observatory has been closed since the 1950S because of unstable foundations, a condition which led to its partial collapse in 1979. The structure has now been renovated and should open as a tourist attraction in mid-1983. (The observatory is just south of Changan Avenue near one of the foreigners’ compounds. )

The LAMA TEMPLE (Yonghegong) at the northern edge of the old city is a large, beautiful structure reopened in 1980 after a gap of nearly 20 years. It was built in 1694 as a palace for a Manchu prince who eventually became emperor, and his son turned it into a temple in his honour. One of the halls contains an extraordinary statue of the Buddha nearly 60 feet (18.3 metres) tall, carved out of a single sandalwood tree brought from Tibet. Another contains Buddhas in pornographic poses.

Across the road in a small lane is Peking’s CONFUCIUS TEMPLE, now the municipal museum. Like all such places, the temple bears the scars of vandalism, particularly from Red Guards, but it is still in reasonable condition, and the museum exhibition is good. One statue of the Buddha on display was described by a British art expert as being the most beautiful piece of Chinese porcelain he had ever seen. Next door to the Confucius temple is the former HALL OF CLASSICS, now the municipal library , which once ranked as the highest seat of learning in the empire. The exquisite round building in the centre was where the emperor used to give lectures on the Confucian classics. (To get to the Lama Temple area, take a No. 116 bus from Qianmen Gate.)

Other temples and religious buildings worth visiting include: WHITE DAGOBA TEMPLE {Baitasi), more beautiful than the more famous dagoba in Beihai Park. (Take a No.3 trolley bus from the railway station. The dagoba is on the right, to the west of Beihai park. ) GREAT BELL TEMPLE (Dazhongsi), to the east of the Friendship Hotel in the northwest of the city, has a collection of ancient bronze bells in its courtyard. (From Guanghua Hotel, take a No.402 bus heading north, then change to No.302 bus.)

SOURCE OF THE LAW TEMPLE (Fayuansi): this beautiful temple is the headquarters of the China Buddhist Association, and accepts visitors every day except Wednesdays. (Take a NO.10 bus from railway station to Niu fie; walk down the street on the left, south of the mosque.)

WHITE CLOUD TEMPLE and the PAGODA OF HEAVENLY REPOSE: the White Ooud Temple was the most important Taoist temple in China in the old days, but the compound has been occupied by the army for nearly two decades. At last report, it was being renovated. Taoism, China’s only indigenous religion, has not been allowed to resurface in the past few years as have Christianity and Islam. The Pagoda of Heavenly Repose nearby is a beautiful pagoda overshadowed by a huge, dirty smokestack. The juxtaposition of the two makes an interesting photo-graph. (Take a No.307 bus from Qianmen Gate heading west. )

TANZHESI TEMPLE: to the southwest of the city, this was opened to foreigners only recently, and makes a nice day’s outing. Don’t Iniss the stupas below the temple -the monuments built in honour of deceased monks by their disciples. (Tickets for local bus tours can be bought at the kiosk opposite the CITS office. )

NANTANG CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL: on West Qianmen Street, this is the oldest Catholic church in Peking, and the first to reopen after Deng Xiaoping’s return to power in the late 1970S. Foreigners are welcome to take part in Sunday services, which are held in Latin. The Chinese Catholic church, under the supervision of the Communist Party , severed relations with the Vatican in 1957 and has missed out on all the liberalization since.

NIU Jm (Cow Street) MOSQUE: one of Peking’s two Moslem houses of worship, built in an interesting combination of Chinese and IslaInic styles. (Take a NO.10 bus from railway station. )

The PEKING zoo is the best in China and, of course, has a number of giant pandas in its collection. However, they are rather sad-looking animals and their living conditions are not as good as those in some zoos overseas. (Take a No.7 bus from Qianmen Gate.)

The SOVIET EMBASSY compound in the northeast corner of the old city was once a Russian religious mission established in the eighteenth century .It was much enlarged during the 1950S when China and the Soviet Union were good friends, but a Soviet diplomat has said that there is now nothing but a few stones left of the old church. During the Cultural Revolution when the anti-Soviet campaign reached its hysterical height, the Chinese renamed the street leading to the embassy entrance’ Anti-Revisionism Road’ . To the north of the Forbidden City, the DRUM TOWER and BELL TOWER, traditionally found in all self-respecting Chinese cities, are impressive buildings. The Drum Tower was built in 1420, while the smaller Bell Tower to the north was built in 1734. The alley-ways to the southwest of the Drum Tower, leading to a stagnant lake, are interesting to walk round. (Take a NO.204 bus from the railway station. )

A worthwhile place to visit is the REVOLUTIONARY MILITARY MUSEUM on the western extension of Changan Avenue. The exhibits largely deal with the anti-Japanese war and the civil war against the Nationalists, and a couple of the halls are closed to non-Chinese. However, outside in the back courtyard are some old aircraft, including the wrecks of two American U-2 spy planes with Nationalist Chinese markings, shot down in the 1950s. (Take a NO.1 bus along Changan Avenue. Entrance is free, but take your passport with you in case the guards want to see it.)

At the other end of Changan Avenue, just before the Friendship Store, is the INTERNATIONAL CLUB, a complex run by the Chinese government for foreign residents in Peking. There is a mediocre restaurant, and recreation facilities including billiards, table tennis, tennis courts and a swimming pool open in the summer (to enter the swimming pool, you need a health certificate issued by the Capital Hospital). Close by the International Club are two of the three compounds in which foreign residents in Peking are forced to live. There are guards on the gates to stop unauthorised local Chinese from entering.

On the northeastern outskirts of the city are the remains of the old FOREIGNERS’ CEMETERY, transferred from the Legation Quarter in the 195os. The cemetery is now overgrown and most of the headstones have been lost, carried away during the Cultural Revolution by vandals or people wanting to use them as building materials. Foreigners who die in Peking are still sometimes buried there. (Take a No. 402 bus to its terminus, walk across railwayand turn left. )

The GREAT WALL, to the north of the city , is an absolute must for visitors. As the Chinese saying goes, you are not a real man until you have climbed on the Great Wall. Or to quote Dr Samuel Johnson, that eighteenth-century man of letters: the children of a man who had gone to view the Great Wall ‘would at all times be regarded as the children of a man who had gone to view the Great Wall of China.’ Or former American President Richard Nixon: ‘It sure is a great wall.’

The wall, which has a total length of over 3500 miles (5600 kilometres), is a monument to China’s traditional fear of the barbarians to the north. Construction began in the fifth century B.C. when China was divided into rival kingdoms. In the third century B.C., Qin Shi Huang unified China, and also joined up the sections of wall along the northern border to form the first Great Wall. It stretches around one-twentieth of the world’s circumference and is said to be the only man-made object visible from space with the naked eye. The wall has been rebuilt and renovated many times over the past 2000 years, the last major repairs being carried out during the Ming dynasty (1)68-644). Most of the wall was about 25 feet(7.6 metres) high and 19 feet 5.8 metres) wide at the top, with about 25000 towers about two arrow-shots apart so that the guards could cover its entire length. The concept which the wall represents -trying to enclose an entire country with a single man-made barrier-seems fantastic, and there is a continuing debate about whether the wall was, in the end, any use in keeping out the northern barbarians. Despite its existence, many groups of tribesmen over the centuries succeeded in breaking through and subjugating China.

The section of the wall shown to visitors is at Badaling to the north of Peking. Those who have visited this spot know something few others are aware of: the Great Wall is covered in graffiti. Over the years, thousands of Chinese tourists have found it impossible to leave without carving their initials into the brickwork for posterity to see. In the past few decades, the wall has also suffered greatly from vandalism on a much larger scale. Within the greater Peking municipality alone, over half of its length has been torn down over the past ten years, mostly by peasants wanting to use the bricks for building, and the destruction is still continuing.

Most people visiting the Great Wall also make a detour to the MING TOMBS, the banal place of 13 Ming dynasty emperors. The tomb area begins with an impressive marble archway erected in 1540 and, further on, the road is lined with stone animals and statues of officials. Most of the 13 tombs are in a dilapidated state and are virtually ignored by the tourists, but those that have yet to be restored are also the most peaceful and beautiful, and are very popular with foreign residents of Peking as picnic sites in summer. Two of the tombs are open as museums. Changling, the earliest and largest, dates from 1413. The other is Dingling, constructed in the sixteenth century for the emperor Wan Li who gave a party in his own funeral chamber to mark its completion. The tomb was excavated in 1958 and the treasures found inside are now on display. Nearby is the Ming Tombs reservoir, built in 1958 by 400000 workmen in only six months. (The cheapest way to see both the Great Wall and the Ming tombs is to join a local bus tour. Tickets, six yuan each, are sold in a kiosk next to the Xinqiao Hotel, opposite the main CITS office on East Qianmen Street; buses leave from Qianmen Gate. Book your ticket at least one day in advance. There is also a train which runs to the Great Wall every morning, leaving Peking station at 7.40 a.m. -also buy tickets in advance.)

Another excursion is to the northwestern suburbs of Peking to the WESTERN HILLS. The large FRAGRANT HILLS PARK is nice to walk round and is a favourite spot in autumn when the leaves are changing colour. Next to the park is the TEMPLE OF THE AZURE CLOUD, dating from the fourteenth century , best known for its collection of 508 Buddhas, all different. (Local bus tours are available -buy tickets at the kiosk opposite the CITS office. Otherwise, take the underground railway west to the end of the line at Pingguoyuan, then take a No.318 bus to the Fragrant Hills.)

The SUMMER PALACE (Yiheyuan) was built by the Manchu emperors as their playground. British troops who marched on Peking in 1860 during the second Opium War destroyed most of the original palace buildings, and it was rebuilt in 1888 on the orders of the Empress Dowager using funds meant for the construction of a modern Chinese navy .With delicious, if tragic, irony, she commanded that a marble boat be built by the shore of Kunming Lake, the palace’s main focal point, and there it sits still, a ludicrous marble copy of a Mississippi paddle steamer. In 19oo when the foreign powers marched on Peking to relieve the Legation Quarter, under siege from the Boxer rebels, the palace was once again badly damaged. It was finally opened as a public park in 1923, although luckily it was closed for a while during the Cultural Revolution to protect the priceless treasures inside from the iconoclastic fervour of the Red Guards. One of the most interesting buildings is the Hall of Jade Ripples next to the lake shore, where the Empress Dowager placed young Emperor Guangxu under house arrest in 1898 after she discovered a plot to undermine her rule and institute much-needed reforms. Dominating the lake is the Pavilion of the Fragrance of Buddha which, for those who clamber up, provides a charming view of the whole palace area. Behind the hill is a quiet waterway called the Back Lake where people go in summer for picnics.

Near the Summer Palace is the OLD SUMMER PALACE, a once-beautiful collection of buildings, many of them designed by Jesuit priests in a pseudo-Grecian style. Onlya few ruins still remain. The palace was destroyed by British troops in 1860 and was never rebuilt. (From the Fragrant Hills Park, take a No.333 bus heading for the Summer Palace, and get off at the first stop for the Reclining Buddha Temple lWofosiJ. There are local tours to the Summer Palace -tickets available at the kiosk opposite the CITS office, or take a No.332 bus from the zoo.)

One of the furthest excursions possible from Peking is the EAST QING TOMBS, the final resting place of some of the Manchu emperors, about 80 miles (130 kilometres) east of the city. Buried on the site are five emperors, 15 empresses, 100 concubines and one princess. The most impressive of the tombs are those of Emperor Qian Long (1736-1796), and the Empress Dowager who died in 1908. (Local bus tours operate from Qianmen Gate on most days. Buy tickets at the kiosk opposite the CITS office. The bus trip one-way takes four hours which makes for a long day.)

A less interesting excursion is to ZHOUKOUD1AN, the spot 30 miles 48 kilometres) southwest of the city where the remains of Peking Man were discovered in 1929. The bones disappeared during the Second World War when they were smuggled out of China for safe-keeping. During the 1970s, occasional reports as to their location, including a claim that they were buried in the rain forests of Tasmania, turned out to be hoaxes.

Also southwest of Peking but closer to town is the MARCO POLO BRIDGE (Lugou Qiao) which the intrepid Venetian traveller described as ‘the most wonderful and unique bridge in the world’. The balustrades are covered with stone lions and it is said to be impossible to count how many there are: one estimate is 486. The bridge played a role in modern Chinese history as the place where on 7 July 1937, the Japanese engineered an incident (the circumstances of which remain obscure) which they used as an excuse to invade the rest of China.

(Buy tickets at the kiosk opposite CITS for a bus trip which includes both the Peking Man site and the Marco Polo Bridge. Bus leaves from Qianmen Gate. )

City life Like many other Chinese cities, the ground under Peking is honey- combed by a network of air-raid tunnels, mostly dug during the late 1960s when the leadership feared a Soviet invasion. Entrances to the tunnel network are found in virtually all streets and courtyards in the central city area, and theoretically it should provide an escape route for most of the population out to the Western Hills in the event of an attack. I was once shown round the underground dormitories in one section of the network, but was surprised to find there were no beds. ‘We plan to get some,’ said the official. ‘Anyway , it doesn’t look like war is likely this year.’ Sections of the tunnels are shown to tourists and visits can be arranged through CITS.

If you can get up early enough, you will see people all over the city performing the graceful shadowboxing exercises known as taiqiquan. An especially nice place to watch enthusiasts doing these slow-motion callisthenics is the Sun Altar Park (Ritan Gongyuan) directly north of the Friendship Store. The park is also a rendezvous for old men who like to sing Peking opera arias to each other in the morning while their pet birds hop around in bamboo cages nearby.

Roller skating has become a favourite pastime in Peking in recent years, and there are a number of public rinks where skates can be rented. Try the one in the Sun Altar Park.

And after some energetic roller skating, or at any other time, why not sample the pleasures of a Peking bath house? At the Qinghuayuan Bath House on Wangfujing, you can have your nails cut, your hair done, have a massage and a long soak in a hot bath as well, all for next to nothing. (Walk north up Wangfujing and it’s on the left, on the block after the Peking Department Store. ) The Peking Hotel also has a massage service.

Free markets, where peasants can sell their produce directly to the consumer, have been set up all over China since 1979, and there are some very large ones around Peking which are well worth visiting. There’s one on the northeast corner of the Temple of Heaven and another at Beitaiping Zhuang (take a NO.22 bus from Qianmen Gate to the end of the line).

It’s always fun to try to get an idea of what life is like at the top. It is not known where Deng Xiaoping and other top leaders live, and the former residences of Mao Tse-tung and Chou Enlai in the Zhong-nanhai complex to the west of the Forbidden City are not open to the public. However, two residences of former top leaders have been opened recently, which may give some clues to the living quarters of those in command today. The mansion which used to be home to Kang Sheng, Mao’s secret police chief who died in 1974, has been opened as the Bamboo Garden Restaurant (located not far from the Drum Tower to the north of the Forbidden City). Soong Ching Ling, widow of the founder of the Republic of China, Sun Yatsen, lived in a huge mansion near the Back Lake, also near the Drum Tower, which is sometimes open to tourists. Check with CITS.

Bars or pubs are virtually unknown in Peking, but one place which almost rates is the Peace Cafe (Heping Canting), which sells beer and snacks and has an interesting clientele. The cafe became notorious in 1979 as a hang-out of hooligans, black-marketeers and the dissolute children of high officials, and was shut down by the authorities in early 1980. It re-opened again in mid-19B1 with a slightly different atmosphere and a limit of one bottle of beer per customer. (Walk north up Wangfujing, turn right after the East Wind market, and the cafe is a few hundred yards down on the left, outside the entrance to the Peace Hotel.)

In winter, a common Peking pastime is ice skating. Beihai Park in the city proper and the Summer Palace in the northwestern suburbs both have large skate-able lakes and kiosks which rent out skates.

Transport Peking is a relatively easy city to get around. Taxis operate from outside the main hotels and some other points, including the Inter- national Club and the back gate of the Forbidden City , but cannot be hailed on the street.

The buses are very crowded at peak times but, none the less, provide a fast and efficient service. Ticket prices are cheap. Stand near the conductor if you want help on where to get off. A few days on Peking buses will give you new insights into the afterlife of the sardine.

Most people in Peking have bicycles, and the streets are flooded with them all day long. Opposite the Friendship Store is a place that rents bicycles by the day. It’s a great way to get round town in summer, but it has its disadvantages during the winter: apart from the cold, the exertion ‘of peddling” drives the coal-dust pollution deeper into your lungs.

Until the late 1960s, Peking was served by a fleet of three-wheeled pedi-cabs, but they were scrapped during the Cultural Revolution, presumably because they were a reminder of the ‘old society’ .This convenient form of transport, ideally suited to such a flat city as Peking, has been cautiously rehabilitated in the past few years, and a number of pedi-cabs are now available for rent outside the Peking railway station. Beware of over-charging. The Peking underground railway is worth trying. The line runs east-west from the Peking railway station to the western suburbs, and was strictly out of bounds to foreigners until 19&>. An around- the-city line, approximately following the course of the old city walls was built in the late 1970s, and was scheduled to open in 1979. The opening was supposedly delayed only until 19B1, but by early 19Bj, there was still no word on when it would be put into service. Clearly, serious problems of some kind have been encountered. Food Peking has many good restaurants serving food in a variety of different styles. Here is a selection of the most interesting and unusual.

The most famous dish is Peking duck and there must be at least a dozen restaurants which serve it. The largest is called the Peking Roast Duck Restaurant on West Qianmen Street (tel: 334422). Better quality and atmosphere are found in the duck restaurant at 32 Qianmen Street, south of the gate (tel: 751379), and at a small restaurant just off Wangfujing, the main shopping street (tel: 553310). It is always best to book in advance. For cheap duck the way the locals eat it, try the restaurant at 32 Qianmen Street, or the Bianyifang Restaurant across the intersection to the east of the CITS office. Make sure you arrive early. The popular sections usually open at 4.00 p.m. for dinner .

In the winter, Peking people like to eat a Mongolian hot-pot dish called shuangyangrou-thin slices of mutton boiled in a pot on your own brass stove on the table. The dish is available at, among other places, the seventh floor restaurant of the Peking Hotel, or at the Donglaisun Restaurant in the Eastwind Market complex on Wangfu-jing.

Another kind of Mongolian food -barbecued mutton -is available at a couple of good restaurants. The Koarouji near the Drum Tower north of the Forbidden City once played host to former President Richard Nixon. Book a table on the balcony during the summer . Peking’s best vegetarian restaurant is south of the Xidan intersection at 74 Xuanwumen Jie. The vegetarian ‘fish’ and ‘pork’ shreds taste just like the real thing.

The Fangshan Restaurant in the middle of Beihai Park serves food cooked to recipes used in the old imperial kitchens, and is said to have been the favourite restaurant of Mao and his wife. The buildings are all Manchu dynasty, and the prices are high (tel: 442573). Another restaurant with an ‘imperial’ menu is Dongxinglou on Dongzhimen Dajie (tel: 445972), not far from the Soviet embassy. For Sichuan food (lots of hot chillis), try the Sichuan Restaurant (tel: 336356), situated in the residence of Yuan Shikai, the Manchu general and republican China’s first president. It is one of the most beautiful courtyards open to the public in Peking, but can be costly. A cheap alternative is the Xiangshu Restaurant in the Eastwind Market on Wangfujing (walk in the southern gate and up to the first floor of the building at the end).

The Jinyang Restaurant (241 Zhushikou Jie), serving Shanxi food, is one of the best in Peking, and is famous for having been the ‘Black Den’ where former Peking mayor Peng Zhen and his cronies gathered in the days before they were all purged during the Cultural Revolution. The Shanxi-style duck and the onion cakes are especially good.

The Russian Restaurant in the Peking Exhibition Hall next to the zoo is cavernous and the borsch soup edible. It is one of the few Western restaurants open to local Chinese people.

The Xinqiao Hotel has a good Western restaurant on its top floor which serves what are undoubtedly the best chocolate sundaes in China. The Minzu Hotel also has pretty good Western food; try the baked Alaska. They also have something resembling Mexican tacos. For Korean food, which features dog meat, try the Yanji Noodle Restaurant (tel: 662984).

In the middle of the Sun Altar Park near the Friendship Store is a restaurant lovingly called the Jiaoziria by foreign residents after its famous jiaozis-dumplings filled with meat. The spring rolls are good, too. On Dongdaqiao Road, one block east of the Friendship Store, is the Phoenix Restaurant, which has a relaxed, decadent feel to it compared to most Peking restaurants. Western rock music is some- times played over the PA system. These two restaurants are reason- ably cheap and within walking distance of the Guanghua Hotel. Shopping The Peking Friendship Store, China’s largest, has a wide range of tourist items and foodstuffs, including some imported goods (Wrigley’s chewing gum and Mars bars occasionally appear). There are some interesting shops on Wangfujing, the main shopping street, and on the road north of the Xidan intersection (west of Tiananmen Square) . Just south of the Dongdan intersection (east of the Peking Hotel) is the Theatre Shop, an antique store which stocks a lot of knick-knacks, mostly over-priced but some are reasonable. Another excellent place for shopping or browsing used to be Liuli Chang, a street southwest of Tiananmen Square once lined with interesting old houses and an- tique shops. They were almost all knocked down in 1980, and new buildings are being put up to replace them. One shop that has remained open is Rongbao Zhai, which stocks paintings, prints and posters, some of them good value.

Where to stay Peking now has a couple of dozen hotels, many of which were formerly used by officials until being pressed into tourist service when the foreigners started to flood in the late 197os.

The most prestigious is the Peking Hotel, but it does not accept individual tourists who walk in off the street; some tour groups do stay there. Even if you are not staying at the Peking, it is worth visiting. The ground-floor restaurant in the new building serves reasonable food at reasonable prices, and during the summer there is a rooftop cafe open on the top-floor balcony of the western building from which there is a nice view of the Imperial Palace.

Also on Changan Avenue to the east is the Jianguo Hotel, a joint venture between the Chinese authorities and an American/Chinese hotel operator named Clement Chen. China’s only top-class hotel, the Jianguo is an exact copy of the Holiday Inn in Palo Alto, southern California, and is managed by the Peninsula Group in Hong Kong. Its coffee shop serves the best hamburgers in the country , while Char- lie’s Bar, another first for China, has live Western music on Friday and Saturday nights. The Jianguo is also the only hotel in China where it is possible to make a room booking in advance, either by telex or through the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong.

An even classier place to stay is Diaoyutai {Fishing Terrace), a large compound to the west of the city , south of the zoo, where some privileged tourist groups are put; virtually all heads of state visiting China stay there. The beautifully landscaped grounds contain a couple of dozen large guesthouses surrounded by quiet streams, lawns and trees. Guesthouse NO.17 figured in the sensational ‘Gang of Four’ trial when Madame Mao was accused of summoning her fellow radicals there in 1974, allegedly to plot the downfall of Deng Xiaoping.

Many tourist groups are lodged in the Friendship Hotel in the northwest of the city , a huge complex built in the 1950S to house experts from the Soviet Union. The Soviets have now gone, to be replaced mostly by Westerners and some Third World people. The main building is usually occupied by tourists. (To get into town from the Friendship Hotel, take a No.332 bus to the zoo, then a NO.103 trolley .)

At the cheap end of the scale, most budget travellers stay at the Guanghua Hotel on Dong Huan Road. (Take a No.9 bus from the railway station, and get off after it turns left. The hotel is on the right. ) A two-bed room rents for 16 yuan, but the main attraction is that this is one of the main information exchanges on budget China travel.

Other cheap hotels, used mostly by Hong Kong travellers, include the Beiwei Hotel (take a NO.203 bus from the railway station, get off at Beiwei Lu and walk, hotel is on the right), Xuanwumen Hotel on West Qianmen Street opposite the Nantang Catholic cathedral (take a No.9 bus heading west from the railway station) and the Xiangyang Hotel, five minutes’ walk west of the railway station on East Qianmen Street. This last hotel was originally built to house pilgrims coming from the provinces to visit Chairman Mao’s Memorial Hall, but with the change in political climate, the Maoist pilgrims have given way to bourgeois Hong Kong tourists.

Useful Peking telephone numbers

Aeroflot 52-3581
Air France 52-3894
British Airways , 52-3601
CAAC 55-8861
Japan Airlines 52-3457
Lufthansa ; 52-2626
Pakistan Airlines 52-3274
Pan American 52-1756
Philippine Airlines 52-3992
Swissair 52-3284

Beiwei Hotel 33-8631
Friendship Hotel 89-0621
HuaqiaoMansions 55-8851 
Jianguo Hotel 59-5261
Minzu Hotel 66-8541
Peking Hotel 55-2231
Xiangyang Hotel 75-7181
XuanwumenHotel 33-8531

Other telephone numbers
Capital Hospital 55-3731
CITS 75-7181
Public Security Bureau 55-3102

The Public Security Bureau (foreigners section), where you go to get visa extensions and travel permits, is located on Beichizi, a street parallel to, and west of, Wangfujing.

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