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Beijing and beyond (the third and last installment)

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(Now with all the photos!!!)

The Beijing Zoo is somewhere I have always wanted to visit, due to the fact that I have never seen a Panda before, and I have always been a fan of bears. Beijing zoo is huge, I wouldn't say it was the nicest zoo I have ever visited, there appears to be new investment, so some animals have modern and well designed habitats, while others seem to be rather cramped by U.K. standards. Arguably it was another black and White animal that was the most entertaining at the zoo. The Penguins put on a great impromptu display, playfully swimming around and seemed very content, which I enjoyed. In the aquarium, the highlight, apart from catching the end of an impressive dolphin display was the Beluga whales. These huge white mammals are very playful, maybe three times bigger than a dolphin, and looking like a cross between that and a whale. They appear to have a constant smile on their face which adds to their charm and character, and one carried on playing with it's foam toys most of the time we watched it!

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One of the most important of the zoo inhabitants we saved for last. The Panda. They were very cute, and although not the most active, fascinating to watch wrestling with their bamboo, particularly the youngsters!

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The next day we went to Lama temple (Yonghe Temple) which is situated at the end of our road and was just about visible over the high wall closing it off. The temple is primarily used by Tibetan Buddhists, and is considered one of their most important religious sites. We had been recommended that it was well worth a visit, as it's home to the largest standing Budda in the world made out of a solid piece sandalwood. The temple is very much a working temple with Buddhists praying and lighting incense sticks, which gave the place a very sensory experience. 

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The Temple of Heaven was another Ming Dynasty creation, there is an important balance in Chinese culture between opposites, this is reflected in the Feng Shui culture and the famous chinese YingYang (or Ying & Yang). The Temple of Heaven, was a place to pray for good harvests. It was built in a way that echoed the idea in ancient and still modern Chinese culture, that the square represents Earth, and the Circle represents Heaven. The temple is unique from the others we have seen in Beijing as it's circular, set in a large walled square. To represent the Chinese beliefs. In the grounds of the Temple of Heaven Chinese people played cards, bat and ball games, played instruments and a group of people wrote Chinese characters with massive sponge calligraphy brushes in water on the black paving slabs that take you up to the temple which was great to watch.

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The last few days were spent relaxing and we only ventured out to see the Summer Palace in the north of the city. We actually didn't make it, turning up at the old summer palace which is now a ruin, after the English and France destroyed it during the Second Opium War in 1860 in revenge for the torture and deaths of some British envoys, a Times journalist and their group of British and Indian Troopers by the Royal Prince. When it was ordered to be destroyed the troops looted the palace, and these actions are still criticised today!

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The next stop on the trip is to Xi'an which is home to the Terracotta Army, which should be interesting! However, the 13 hour train ride without a bed doesn't fill me with as much enthusiasm!    

Posted by Christian25 23:01 Archived in China Tagged travel_china_beijing_travelling

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