Right after the Mao’s Mausoleum, I was supposed to head straight to the Forbidden City. Change of plans.
When I walked out, I saw that imposing gate right in front of the Mausoleum. I walked closer and then read with interest what this gate meant to the city. So I decided to go in and have a look.
Apparently this gate is considered the Front Gate to Beijing in those olden days. Officially, this is called Zhengyangmen but it is more known as Qianmen which mean the Front Gate.
I got the map above from Wikipedia. When Beijing was established as the capital of China, they build a wall around the city to protect itself. The Inner City (in blue) was totally surrounded by a wall and access into the city is through 9 gates. Remember the number nine because it is a number of significance in China in those days. I’ll tell you more about it but just remember the number 9.
The wall stood for almost 600 years.
The sad thing is that about 50 years ago, they … tore down the city walls! It is such a crazy thing to destroy something of such historic significance. But it was in those secretive days of the Communist rule that was bent on destroying the past so that they can look to the future, something called the Cultural Revolution. In place of the walls are now wide ring roads and subway.
The only thing that is left today is Zhengyangmen and a few of the other gates. Despite that the walls are largely no longer in existence, the places where the gates once stood is still know by the name of the gates.
One other thing is that the Chinese considers that the south is the front and the north is the back. So, the main entrance is always the south. That is why the Zhengyanmen is also known as the Qianmen (the front gate). One can consider that this is the gate to the city.
Most of Beijing’s historical attractions are huge and has several entrances. So when you are unsure which entrance to start from, it is often best to start from the south and work your way north because it is where the front entrance is. 🙂
I went into the Zhengyangmen. Entrance is 20 Yuan ($3 Canadian). Next time we get to China, I would want to bring you here. There is a lot to learn here about the historical walls of Beijing. The exhibits here are both in Chinese and in English and so I could follow along.
When I was there, there was a lot of Elementary School children. They were apparently there as part of their school assignment. Each of them took up position in front of the exhibits and asked people if they want to know more about it. They recite from memory the story behind the exhibit.
The kids asked me too and even though I barely understood them, I pretended I understood and told them, “fei chang how” (extremely good job) and “xie xie” (thank you). They were pleased. The first one who asked me, I told her “I don’t understand Chinese” and she was disappointed. So I played along. 🙂
I had a great time there. I wasn’t planning on visiting this place but I was sure glad I did.
Right in front of Zhengyangmen is the arrow tower. This two towers used to be connected at some point before. This tower protects the front Zhengyangman gate as the first line of defense.
Underneath Zhengyangmen is a marker of some sort. This is the marker as the starting point to mark the journey to the rest of China. In a way, this is Mile 0. These men was standing on the front gates of the ancient capital of China.
Before I head to the Forbidden City proper, I decided to go over to Qianmen Street to buy a couple of bottles of drinks. While there I saw a lot of people lining up at the take out window of Quan Ju De. Quan Ju De is the most famous and historical of Peking Duck restaurants in Beijing. Quan Ju De has a lot of outlets all over the city but this particular one is the main and first flagship restaurant.
There must be about 30 people in line and the window was not opened yet. Anyway, I see a lot of places selling Peking Duck in beautiful sealed bags. I guess that is for take away for home. How do you eat that? Do you microwave it or can you eat it just like that?
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You would actually take it home and butcher/slice the duck yourself. Lots of locals would make their own wrappers, with green onion and hoisin. You should try it since you are in Beijing. Definitely worth your time. Love the history lesson you provide too. Pretty accurate from what I remember!
Enjoyed readind your trip & good tips, but bewarned…..read this recent article about the pre-packaged Peking duck in Beijing:-
Fake Duck Another thing to watch out for is fake medicine.At the China and Macau Border,On the Macau side is a Pharmacy with a huge sign saying We sell real medicine which had lines of people.Buy any medicine needs at places like Watsons
When I was in Beijing I brought a bag of Beijing Duck to eat in apt. It turn out was not like it at all. It was salty and use for braising with vegetable . Yet package said Beijing Duck still.
Asie from medications, there has been recent reports of supermarket chains selling fake beef in Shanghai & Guangdong. Also moldy rice bleahed to make rice flour for rice vermicelli. And not forgetting the Taiwan food scandal on Jun 2, 2011. What else is new one wonders??
The worst case of Fakery I know of, My friend in Hangzhou bought a TV set from a truck with Sony on it from people with Sony Uniform and Sony ID supposedly Sony Truck Sale.All Fake including TV which lasted 6 months
The fake goods sale happens everywhere, therefore trust your guts when any deal is to good to be true! The worst hoax I’ve heard of is a fake bank & fake mortgage company working alongside property developers & after down payments are collected, they disappeared into thin air! Then, there is the fake marriage, etc, etc……
I just came back from Beijing for a short trip… if you want to buy some souvenirs for your kids you can get the Beijing Duck Flavoured Pretz from the airport… it’s not cheap though RMB108 for 12 boxes… they have other flavours too like Shark Fin Soup and Mapo Tofu!
Real quiet right now Anyone Home??
gosh… i am starting to miss him
maybe Ben got kidnapped by aliens 🙂
Hehehe… I thought Ben might have been abducted by “Mong-aliens” while searching for the best lamb dish in the Beijing area! We sure miss you a lot Ben. Write home soon.
Well the Great Wall was built to keep out “strange beings” 😉
I’m a bit worried. He’s been quiet for too long.
Anyone knows what’s going on with Ben? Hope everything is alright.
wei wei, ni zai na li arrrrr?
Everything is A-OK. Was just dealing with work, jet lag and also was not feeling well (the weather in Beijing got to me finally). So, I thought I am better off let things slide a little on chowtimes while I give myself the chance to focus my energy on my new exciting project. I’ll be back … tomorrow. 🙂 Yeah, I miss reading your comments. Ben
Hey Ben, good to know you’re A-ok. Had an overhaul myself (mungkin sudah tua la)for over 3 weeks from Jun 10, so it seemed like I didn’t miss much. Still, there’s lots of catching up reading your posts now that I’m home sweet home! Also, I received the laksa shipment and I’ll arrange to pass a couple pkgs to you when time permits. I will email you soon. BTW, sorry to hear about the $200 to get your beloved car back!
Hi HM: Yeah, Suanne gave me an earful for getting the car towed the other day. I swear I was not parking on any fire zone. After all I had been parking at that same street almost everyday. But Suanne did not believe me. The tow company did not believe me. Bwaaaa … no one believes me!! Looking forward to that special shipment of laksa. Oh yum. Ben
whew!….glad everything is OK!
Thank God! Glad to know you are A-OK, please take good care of yourself.
Was worried that something bad might have happened to you cuz it’s so not like you to be absent from Chowtimes for so long!!! Anyhoo, so glad to know you’re ok/recuperating but please you’re resting too bloody long, u got thousands of ppl. waiting for U ya know!!! ;p. Hehehe