Mukden Palace, the Shenyang Imperial Palace

The Mukden Palace is located at No. 171, Shenyang Road, Shenhe District in Shenyang City. It is the only existing royal palace in China outside of the Forbidden City in Beijing. It can be divided into three sections-the eastern section, the middle section and the western section. Each section boasts of unique characteristics. Besides the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Mukden Palace, namely the Shenyang Forbidden City, is the only other existing palace complex in China. Within its walls much is revealed about the early Qing Dynasty. It was listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 2004 as an extension of the Forbidden City and is now the most popular and renowned tourist attraction in Shenyang.

The eastern section of Shenyang Imperial Palace contains the very impressive Hall of Great Affairs (Da Zheng Dian). Here emperors ascended the throne, enacted imperial edicts, and welcomed victorious generals and soldiers. A group of pavilions, known as the Ten Kings Pavilion, stand to its east and west. They formerly served as the place where emperors and leaders from the eight banners (Ba Qi) settled national affairs.

This architectural style of the Mukden Palace is unique. The style of the buildings, which displays an amalgamation of Han, Manchu and Mongolian cultures, all originated from the shape of a nomadic tent. The eastern section of the palace is representative of the whole palace.

The middle section starts from the Da Qing Gate, with Chong Zheng Dian (Jin Luan Dian), the Phoenix Tower and Qingning Palace arranged on a central axis from south to north. Chong Zheng Dian is the place where Abahai held court. It is the most important building in the Mukden Palace. The Phoenix Tower, a three-storied building, was the highest structure in the whole city at that time. Qingning Palace was the bedchamber for Abahai and his concubines.

The western section was constructed by order of Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799). Its main structure is the Wen Su Pavilion. In front of this, there are the Opera Stage and Jiayin Hall and behind it is the Yang Xi Room. The Wen Su Pavilion, which contains the Complete Collection of Four Treasures, has a black roof because black was considered to represent water which could be used to extinguish a fire to protect the priceless books contained inside.

Xibaipo Village, the Headquarters of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army

Xibaipo is a village located in the middle of Pingshan County of Shijiazhuang City, Hebei Province. It got the name Xibaipo, literally a slope with cypresses, from verdant cypresses on a hillside behind the village. Covering an area of around 16,440 square meters (4 acres), it once served as the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCCPC), Central Working Committee and Chinese People’s Liberation Army. In Xibaipo Village, the Central Committee and Chairman Mao commanded three major campaigns including Liaoshen, Pingjin and Huaihai Campaigns during the Chinese civil war (1946-1949) against the Kuomingtang, convened the Second Plenary Session of the Seventh Central Committee and National Land Conference. On March 23th, 1949, the headquarters were moved to Beijing.

After years of development, Xibaipo Village has become a patriotism base as well as a popular tourist site. The main attractions are the Former Site of CCCPC, the Memorial Hall, the Garden of Monuments, the National Security Education Hall, the Sculpture Garden of Former Chinese Leaders, the Anti-corruption Education Hall and the Youth Garden, among which the first three are definitely worth a visit.

Originally, the Former Site of CCCPC was located in the east of the Xibaipo Village. However, Gangnan Reservoir was built near the village in 1958. Therefore, another new village patterned on the original one was built on a hill near the reservoir in 1971, so is the current site. Until now, 196 rooms with a total floor space of around 2,760 square meters (3,300 square yards) have been rebuilt, such as the former residences of former Chinese leaders including Chairman Mao, Zhu De, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Ren Bishi and Dong Biwu, Command Room of the Central Military Commission, the Site of the Second Plenary Session of the Seventh CCCPC, the air-raid shelter.

The Memorial Hall was built to the southwest of the Former Site of CCCPC in 1977. It was opened to the public in May of 1978, housing more than 2,000 pieces of revolutionary relics. Some precious ones are Chairman Mao’s desk, Liu Shaoqi’s document case, Zhu De’s metal chair and Dong Biwu’s walking stick.

The Garden of Monuments was expanded from the Garden of Stone Inscriptions constructed in 1997. To commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of Chinese Communist Party in 2011, the Garden of Stone Inscriptions was enlarged and renamed as the Garden of Monuments. There is a giant black marble slab inscribed with more than 560 pieces of calligraphy works of Chinese former leaders and generals, well-known national calligraphers and social celebrities. The central monument is made of a 8.7-meter (28.5-foot) tall triangular marble slab with the inscriptions of the former Chinese leaders (Chairman Mao, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin).

Zhaozhou Bridge, One of the Most Famous Bridges in China

Zhaozhou Bridge is about 25km (15.53 miles) from the southeast of Shijiazhuang City, and it was designed by renowned constructor Li Chun.

Zhaozhou Bridge is the earliest and best-preserved open-spandrel stone arch bridge now in existence. The name was bestowed by Emperor Zhezong of the Song Dynasty (1085-1100 A.D.), meaning ensuring people safe lives and aiding people. Designated by the State Council as being among China’s foremost protected monuments in 1961, Zhaozhou Bridge was also selected by the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) as the twelfth “milestone of international civil engineering” and a bronze monument was presented by the ASCE.

The first view of the Park that jumps to the eye is the archaic door to the mountain.

Zhaozhou Bridge stands out as a shining pearl set among the interspersed pavilions, the green grass and the majestic pines. The bridge is restored, but you can still see the relics of the old bridge, which are “national treasures”, in the exhibition room. In addition, there are also showrooms with an introduction to the surrounding environment and culture and a model designed for the expansion of Zhaozhou Bridge Park in future. If the whim hits you, you can row a boat on the blue-green water; Meanwhile, you can also have a taste of tea, read the legends of this bridge and get to know the influences of a bridge to the culture of a nation. You can also sit under the pavilions or the trees for comfortable and sweet dreams.

With a total length of 64m (211 feet), a span of 37m (121 feet) and a height of 7m (24 feet), the Zhaozhou Bridge is a single-arch stone bridge that has the longest span and history. The bridge is sophisticated yet elegantly constructed. Taking in the whole view, you will find it a single-arch bridge. However, it is actually a vertical combination of 28 arches. The two smaller spans in the shoulders of the bridge is an innovation in the history of the bridge construction, giving the stone bridge a fairly pretty design. Why is the Zhaozhou Bridge famous? Zhaozhou Bridge has its own architectural features: the greatness of the span and the smoothness of the arc not only cut the use of stone material but also facilitate travel. The two small spans in the two shoulders increase the drainage area to ease the flow of water, cut the use of stone material, lighten the bridge, and enhance the stability. The vertical combination building method makes every arch an independent body so that it would be convenient and economical for construction and restoration.

The sculptures on the bridge, such as the dragons, flowers and etc, are powerful, elegant, vivid and profound, demonstrating the artistic style and the essence of the Sui sculpture. As important as the Eiffel Tower and the Panama Canal, this bridge is honored as ‘the first well-known stone bridge in ancient China.’

Rishengchang Former Bank, One of the Earliest Exchange Shops in China

The Rishengchang Former Bank (Rishengchang literally meaning sunrise prosperity), one of the earliest exchange shops in China, is located on West Street in Pingyao Ancient City, Shanxi Province. The rectangular compound faces north and is 65 meters (71 yards) long and 20 meters (22 yards) wide. In total it occupies over 1,300 square meters (approximately a third of an acre). It was established in 1823 during the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). At that time it had over 35 branches in China’s major cities. In December 1995, Shanxi Provincial Government listed it as a Provincial Key Cultural Relic under the Reservation and it is now the Chinese Exchange Shop Museum.

In the Qing Dynasty, China’s currency was silver. If merchants had to carry a large number of coins, there were obvious problems in safety and convenience. The exchange shop provided a convenient option, so the bill of Exchange began to be used and created an early form of bank. Cash deposited in one branch can be paid in the form of notes in another branch, which is a safe way to transfer funds from one merchant to another without time and distance restrictions. Nisheng Changyuan bank has won the reputation of “connecting the world with foreign exchange”, which means that silver and paper money can be circulated all over the country. Before the establishment of modern banking system, Rishengchang bank had a great impact on China’s economy in 108 years from its opening to its final bankruptcy. Due to the great influence of Rishengchang on the development of China’s banking industry, it has become a place of considerable interest to tourists in recent years.

The shop is within a compound with three courtyards. In the front of the compound, five rooms facing the street served as the gate of Rishengchang Former Bank. The board with the name of the shop hangs in central position above the five rooms. Passing through these rooms, you will come to the first courtyard in which four cashier’s offices are situated on either side of the passage that runs along the axis of the compound. In the second courtyard, the three south facing halls were used for the exchange business.

In the second courtyard there are also rooms which housed the staff who worked in the exchange shop, while the second storey served as store rooms. The third courtyard served as accommodation for the senior staff and due to its location away from the noise of the road also provided a resting place for important customers. For security, a net made from metal thread was fixed over the top of the whole compound. Small bells were hung on the net to sound a warning if intruders tried to enter the premises.

Pingyao Ancient Ming-Qing Street, Wall Street of China

Pingyao Ancient City was established in the centre of Shanxi Province, and is well-known for the Local Resident Houses of the famous Jin (short name of Shanxi)  Merchants who indulged in business and then returned many years later when they were quite rich. At this sight, we usually can’t help wondering ‘How has a prospering business like this existed in Pingyao’. Here, on the Ancient Ming-Qing Street, the called ‘Wall Street of China’ and where Liang’s Compound is located, we’ll find an answer.

Ancient Ming-Qing Street was the noisiest centre of business at that time. The street is not very wide, with various kinds of shops orderly arranged along the road. These shops were all built with bricks and stones completely in the style of Ming and Qing architecture, which are all the prototypes of the aged buildings and quite different from the imitation works now. In the granite thresholds of each decent house, two lines of deep trails left by the running-over carriages can still be found, which provides evidence of the former bustle of business and also the pride held for them in the old days.

Pingyao had been the focus of trade and lead the national finance for decades since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). On the main streets of South Avenue, West Avenue and East Avenue, various shops, firms and banks are scattered, along with a wide range of businesses, including a teashop, cloth shop, salt shop, silk shop, general merchandise shop, hockshop, exchange shop among others. West Avenue, where the known nowadays as the ‘Countryside Grandfather’ of sundry Chinese banks, Rishengchang Former Bank is located, was called ‘the First Financial Street of Great Qing (1644-1911)’.

Nowadays, many shops on the Ancient Ming-Qing Street have been rebuilt to be used as museums or restaurant. For example, Baichuantong Exchange Shop now displays furniture, calligraphy, household utensils and other articles of the previous housemasters. Yonglonghao Exchange Shop has been rebuilt as the national lacquer museum and Yunjincheng Chinese Medicine Shop as Pingyao Traditional Famous Food Restaurant.

Walking to the centre of the Ancient Ming-Qing Street, you can see a tall pavilion building. Here almost all the businesses in this city were concentrated back then. This building, also called City Building, along with the City Wall, has become witnesses to the long history of this ancient city in the people’s eyes. A well is hidden in the southeast of the building, the color of its water is said to be closest to gold. Hence the building is also called ‘Golden Well Building’. The spot had entered into the directory of Twelve Sceneries of Pingyao in the Qing Dynasty and this area is also listed as a key spot now under provincial cultural protection.

Entering the Ancient Ming-Qing Street, you can not only feel the atmosphere of the flourishing businesses formerly established but also appreciate the really ancient building designs. Don’t pass by the chance to properly taste some of the delicious food available in Pingyao, such as noodles made as dishes, savory beefs as well as the uniquely fragrant and dainty ‘Wantuo’. With so many interesting and historical attractions to visit and divine concoctions to sample, this area is sure to make a lasting impression on you once you venture here.

Epidemic Situation Report in Guilin & Guangxi

By China Expedition Tours, Source from Guangxi Health Commission

Released time: Feb 20, 2020

During the period from 0:00 to 24:00 on February 19, 1 new confirmed cases of pneumonia were found in Fangchenggang, Guangxi.

At present, 245 confirmed cases and 87 discharged cases have been reported (11 new cases on February 19). There are 3 severe cases, 8 critical cases. No new death case on February 19.

In total, 54 cases were confirmed in Nanning, 24 in Liuzhou, 31 in Guilin, 5 in Wuzhou, 44 in Beihai, 19 in Fangchenggang, 8 in Qinzhou, 8 in Guigang , 11 in Yulin, 3 in Baise, 4 in Hezhou, 23 in Hechi and 11 in Laibin.

147 close contacts have been traced on February 19 and 1381 cases are still under medical observation.

Tiger Hill, the Surging Sea Hill in Suzhou

Tiger Hill, known also as Surging Sea Hill, is a large hillock covering about 3.5 acres and only 118 feet in height. Climbing it, you will find a number of historical sites some of which can be traced back over 2,500 years to the founding of Suzhou. Although the hill is relatively small it has rich history. These are just some of the highlights of what to be found there.

In 496 BC during the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC-476 BC), He Lu, King of the Wu State perished during the war fought against the Yue State. His son buried him on the hill and three days after the funeral a white tiger came and sat upon the grave as though guarding it. From that time on it has been known as Tiger Hill.

The pagoda stands on the hill’s summit and is the Pagoda of the Yunyan Temple. As the oldest pagoda in the vicinity of Suzhou it has come to be a symbol of the city and has the distinction of being China’s Leaning Tower. Built during the Northern Song Dynasty (959-961), it is a seven-storey octagonal tower following the style of the timber pagodas built during the early Tang Dynasty (618-907). It is 158 feet high and for the past four hundred years has leant 3.59 degrees to the northwest.

King He Lu was a zealous collector of rare swords and it is said that he tested them upon this stone. The crevice thus made in the rock is the only evidence of the existence of these swords, as it is believed that they were buried beneath the Sword Pool as funerary objects. Another mystery that surrounds the tomb is the whereabouts of the remains of the 1,000 workers who built it and who were put to death upon completion of the task.

Built in the tenth year of the reign of Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the villa is a masterpiece of the splendid gardens for which Suzhou is so famous. As the only garden without lakes or pools in Suzhou, the villa distinguishes itself from others. It was constructed according to the outline of the hill with exquisite pavilions, paths, and decorated by luxuriant woods and flowers. The Verdant Mountain Villa was designed so that it embraced the natural vistas and views from the halls and porches, which are the most pleasing to the eye.

The ancient art of bonsai tree growing originated in China and there are hundreds of magnificent specimens on display at this villa. Many of the specimens you can see have been awarded prizes in prestigious bonsai competitions. The miniature replicas of full-sized gardens are sure to amaze you and will give an insight into the skill and artistry of Chinese master gardeners that has been handed down from long ago.

There can be little doubt that Tiger Hill is a wonderful sight with its leaning pagoda, waterfalls and landscaped paths. It is hard to believe that it was man made to be the cemetery of king but this is yet another part of the wonder in China, a land that will never cease to amaze and enthral the visitor with its heritage.

Epidemic Situation Report in Guilin & Guangxi

By China Expedition Tours, Source from Guangxi Health Commission

Released time: Feb 19, 2020

During the period from 0:00 to 24:00 on February 18, 2 new confirmed cases of pneumonia were found in Guangxi, including 1 in Yulin and 1 in Hechi.

At present, 244 confirmed cases and 76 discharged cases have been reported (18 new cases on February 18). There are 2 severe cases, 8 critical cases. No new death case on February 18.

In total, 54 cases were confirmed in Nanning, 24 in Liuzhou, 31 in Guilin, 5 in Wuzhou, 44 in Beihai, 18 in Fangchenggang, 8 in Qinzhou, 8 in Guigang , 11 in Yulin, 3 in Baise, 4 in Hezhou, 23 in Hechi and 11 in Laibin.

At present, 15406 close contacts have been traced and 1478 cases are still under medical observation.

Shantang Street, the Seven-Li Shantang in Suzhou

Shantang Street, an ancient riverside pedestrian road in northwest Suzhou, Jiangsu, is very popular with tourists. From Changmen Gate (the west gate of the ancient city) in the downtown, it winds northwest on the northern bank of the Shantang River, and ends at scenic Tiger Hill. It extends about 2.2 miles (seven li), hence the name ‘Seven-Li Shantang’.

Shantang Street can be sectioned into two by Bantang Bridge. The east part, from Duseng Bridge in Changmen, is built up with houses and shops; while the west part, from the Tiger Hill, is natural landscape. The entire block features typical characteristics of south China in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. The clear river meanders along under small arched bridges interspersed with wooden boats adrift, passing numerous old residences and shops on the bustling street. All the above is a picturesque rendering of a beautiful ancient water town in south China. It is ideally a place to stroll, try all kinds of local snacks and pick up souvenirs. You should go boating to take in the street scene from a different angle. When night falls and the red lanterns glimmer below the eaves, it becomes hard to resist.

The old street sector is about 360 meters long. Although it fills only one tenth of the length, it has the essence of the Shantang block and is called the ‘miniature of the old Suzhou’ and the ‘window of Jiangsu culture’. It was a commodities hub, where merchants conducted business and community staged folk activities. It was one of the most eventful streets in Ming and Qing Dynasties. Qing Emperor Qianlong liked the Shantang Street very much. When he toured Suzhou in 1762, he left words to praise the wonderful scene.

Nowadays the street reflects prosperity of both the present and the bygone era, with numerous shops and commercial guild halls. Tourists can try various snack shops with time-honored brands, including Caizhizhai, Wufangzhai and Qianshengyuan. There are also many specialty shops selling featured souvenirs like wood engravings, stones carvings and embroideries. There are eight side bridges on the riverbanks and seven bridges spanning across the river, and the most famous one is Tonggui Bridge, a single arch stone bridge. It is 21 yards long and 2.5 yards wide. Looking like a half moon, the arch of bridge and its shadow in the water form a perfect circle. The bridge is not unique, but it is the most photographed. It is worth a boating trip to experience the life of ancient residents there.

Epidemic Situation Report in Guilin & Guangxi

By China Expedition Tours, Source from Guangxi Health Commission

Released time: Feb 18, 2020

During the period from 0:00 to 24:00 on February 17, 4 new confirmed cases of pneumonia were found in Guangxi, including 3 in Nanning and 1 in Beihai.

At present, 242 confirmed cases and 58 discharged cases have been reported. There are 3 severe cases, 7 critical cases. No new death case on February 17.

In total, 54 cases were confirmed in Nanning, 24 in Liuzhou, 31 in Guilin, 5 in Wuzhou, 44 in Beihai, 18 in Fangchenggang, 8 in Qinzhou, 8 in Guigang , 10 in Yulin, 3 in Baise, 4 in Hezhou, 22 in Hechi and 11 in Laibin.

At present, 15106 close contacts have been traced and 1719 cases are still under medical observation.