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07 January 2008 @ 11:30 am
Two weeks in China: day 5 {Donghyue temple+Ancient Observatory+City Wall Ruins}  
This was the day of the sightseeing spree!! ^__^ Or, it was supposed to be! I forever got lost in Beijing, and this day was no example. Believe my surprise that night when  my friend told me that there were cardinal directions written on every street sign (in chinese, but it's almost the same as the japanese ones, so no problem). I wish that I'd known earlier!! ^^;;

So it turned out that the subway station nearest to where I was staying was closed, so I decided to walk to the next one, which was close to the first temple that I wanted to go to. It was a long and arduous journey, but I was still too scared to try a taxi (cannot speak, what would I do? Thankfull I got over that the next day..). So after getting lost, I ended up at Dongyue temple!

Donguye Temple (according to my travel book):
Hundreds of amazing life-size plaster figures make up the 73 Chiefs Of Departments and 18 Layers of Hell at this Temple of the God of Taishan Mountain. Offerings can be given to deities responsible for anything from the Department of Resurrection to the Department of Fish and Animals. Note the overwhelming number of prayer tags left at the Department of Morality for Officials. The temple is Taoist, but the "departments" are influenced by traditional folk beliefs. Sounds cool, right? On the interesting scale, I would give it a 5 out of 10. Maybe it's because the figures were painted and that made them look like overused children's toys (which would have actually been more interesting), or maybe it's because there were so many that I got bored of looking at them all.. I'm not sure, even to this day.

Afterwards, I wanted to go to Zhihua temple, in the same vicinity. But no matter how many times I looked for it, I couldn't find it!! Supposedly it was in between tons of Hutongs (according to the book.. but I had no idea until later what a Hutong was!), and I never did find it... So I ended up taking the subway to the super-cool Ancient Observatory! Maybe it's because I was going on a weekday in the dead of freezing winter (and omg was it COLD!!), but it was completely deserted <3. Then I took the subway to the City Wall Ruins park, and tried/failed to find the Police museum. It was getting dark (darn winter, it was only 3pm!!) so I decided to call it a  night there..

Dongyue Temple: The problem was.... on the outside, it was NOT labelled in english! I can't read chinese, so I had no idea if it was the right temple.. >.< They're definitely not ready for the Olympics, when Beijing will be overrun with millions of spectators who cannot read/speak chinese either! They're trying to get ready, so hopefully they'll correct this recurring problem. (Even the Forbidden City was not labelled!! It took me forever to find the correct way in, but more about that tomorrow.) Well in any case, I tried to ask and the people taking my entrance fee kind of indicated that I was in the right place. But imagine my surprise/shock when inside there was a complete english explanation, complete with information just for travellers/tourists!! Would it have been too much to ask that they put a sign in english on the ticket booth with the location name as well?? I mean, seriously..

This is what the temple looked like from inside the gates..

A really horrible story: It was very, very cold, and me, not being a cold person, was nearly dying of cold. I would have done anything for a nice, warm sunny day right about then. But despite the cold, I had to go to the bathroom...... so I went into the freezing, but slightly well-kept public restroom (only really dirty instead of monstrously dirty!). But the only non-squat toilet was locked. So I waited, and nobody came out. It turned out that there was nobody in there.... so I used my ticket and jimmied the door and went in, figuring that someone had just locked it and crawled out. Kids do that kind of stuff, though whatever parent would let their kid crawl in the pee all over the floor of these restrooms needs to be reevaluated. Such was my determination to avoid the disgusting squat toilets whenever I could (for good reason!). Of course, as I found out after I'd used it, it turned out that it was broken (didn't flush), so that's why it had been locked... Oh my... But, uh.. all things considered, I still would have done the same thing even if I had known that it was broken beforehand. ^^;; I hate, hate HATE squat toilets! In China, they are far worse than Japan, and in fact the worst ones that I encountered were in public places like the train station and the airports (not Beijing's)! :O But yes, I hunger for real toilets.. and please, toilet paper in the restrooms!

Pretty pretty lamps everywhere! =D

And here are the guardians to the shrine:

Some nice ornamentation..

And the book was right!! So so so soooo many prayer charms!! My god! They're so pretty to look at. I wish that more western religions had things like this, because it really is a concrete example to outsiders of how strongly the worshippers feel, which I think is a really good thing..

And these are what the figures looked like.. I took pictures of a few of my favorites, and then I got really bored and skipped the rest. ^^;; Some of them (though not all) had english explanations, though, which was kind of interesting.

Most of these were from various departments having to do with the punishment for various sins..

Pretty lanterns again! ^^

There were dragons guarding some of the gates..

And in the courtyard, more of those markers on the backs of turtles, or just standing there..

Details of the markers:

And the white horse... There was an explanation for this horse. He's based on a real horse in history, but I can't remember the whole story..

And as I went out, these was this giant abacus! I wish that I could have one like it. :)

At the Ancient Observatory, I was lucky and it was really deserted!! <3<3 I had it all to myself! (of course, it wasn't labelled in english either, but at least it was fairly obvious what it was)

In the observatory, what with the fog (smog) rolling in in the distance, the cold, and the isolation, it felt very ethereal. I could only imagine how it must have been to the people who used these instruments.. It was really amazing.

This sundial was very accurate! Can you tell what time it was when I took these photos? I actually stayed here for quite a while after that, just savoring the feeling of being alone in such a big city..

A glimpse of the courtyard:

Here is a panorama of the courtyard:

And on to the City Wall Ruins park!! Finally, a sightseeing place that was free!! ^^ I wasn't sure if I was going to go here or not, because my tour guide never said if there were actual ruins (I really love old ruins!!), or whether it was just a normal park dedicated to the ancient wall that used to ring the city to protect from invasion. Lucky for me, it was the former!! =^O^= I was so happy! I think this was one of my favorite places.. Sure, it was rather simple, and sure it was overrun with people, but I really, really love ancient ruins, which is exactly what this crumbling wall had become. <3<3

It was huuuuuuge!! I can't really express the size of this wall correctly, except that this was at maximum zoom with a good telephoto lens..

The old must make way for the new, I guess...?

And next... Ti'an'anmen square and the Forbidden City!
Lisalilitufire on January 7th, 2008 02:41 am (UTC)
I'm really enjoying reading these entries - it's a long time since I went to Beijing (1995 iirc) and now I want to go back :)
Hi-chan (火ちゃん)hinoai on January 8th, 2008 02:01 pm (UTC)
I'm glad that you're enjoying, and that I could inspire something in you. ^^ It makes me happy to hear that people are liking the posts, especially since it takes such a long time. ^^
Linstarrbeam on January 7th, 2008 09:05 am (UTC)
Great pictures! I really want to go there now :D
Hi-chan (火ちゃん)hinoai on January 8th, 2008 02:02 pm (UTC)
^__^ I'm glad that you like them! If you're interested, we should travel sometime (maybe not Beijing because this year it's going to be packed from the Olympics), but someplace else. I'm always looking for interested travel partners!
Linstarrbeam on January 8th, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
sure we should do that :D
Nakanishi Ryonbrothersleep on January 7th, 2008 09:28 am (UTC)
China seems awesome.

I don't find it surprising that there aren't many English signs, even at main tourist attractions. I mean, it's still China, and it would kind of ruin the whole way a place looks/feels from the outside if you put a sign in English. It's kinda like walking through beautiful ancient streets in some magical town and then running into a McDonald's sign. :p

I'm not 100% anti globalisation, and I do realise it makes it harder for people who choose to travel alone without any knowledge of the language of the country they visit, but I do believe that authenticity should be kept where it's possible.

Again, the pictures look great! I'm really waiting for the next entry about the trip. ^-^
Hi-chan (火ちゃん)hinoai on January 8th, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I mean, it's China and all. But I really only have Japan to go on, which has signs for most of the main tourist attractions in english, and failing that at least in hiragana, which is a lot less complicated to read than kanji. (I'm really lucky in that I could read enough kanji to get around sometimes though!) But I was thinking that since they're supposedly preparing for having a major international non-chinese-speaking/reading crowd there in a few months, they'd have more english signs up. They've even built a new subway line, which has english announcements, just because of this, and put up entirely new ticket gates at all of the stations, all for the Olympics. If they don't improve, they're really going to have a lot of confused people during the summer.... :/

LOL While I don't think that McDonalds has a really appropriate place next to a nice temple, I don't think that an english name on the ticket booths that are at almost every temple would really hurt things at all. Often they have the prices written out in english, but still no name of what place it is, which defies logic to me. :)
☆チャーリーちゃん☆: TRC-Fay_Sakura_nikori!charlie_chan on January 7th, 2008 05:39 pm (UTC)
ooh i just love your photos! my favorites are the prayer charms and the statues of torture-things. looks like you had a grand time ^^
Hi-chan (火ちゃん)hinoai on January 8th, 2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you!! *hugs*
katesugarfairy: penguinskatesugarfairy on January 8th, 2008 12:07 am (UTC)
Ni hao
Glad to see you liked China.
Sorry we did not get to meet up- in the end my group's schedule was really rather busy, and spur of the moment, so it would have been a bit difficult to meet. Plus no cell phones for our team... and internet was not always easy to get...

Anyway, pics are great- you seem to have seen exactly what I did, but just on different days.

I really enjoyed the Dongyue temple. We had so much fun making jokes about which room we would fit into... I put in a few yuan just to cover my ass in a few of the rooms. You never know which religion is the "correct" one after all... Good to have the bases covered, ne?

Do you think you will go back to China ever again? I really wanted to spend more time in Shanghai. And I do want to go to Hong Kong. So I think I will go back in a few years time.

PS- Beijing is screwed when it comes to the Olympics and English speakers... my cramming rush to get certain phrases down made things a little easier, but it was a struggle to get around at times...
Hi-chan (火ちゃん)hinoai on January 8th, 2008 02:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Ni hao
Yeah, it's too bad that we didn't get a chance to meet up. I really would have loved company in the beginning when I was doing all of my sightseeing myself, but you weren't in the city at that time anyways. ^^;; It turned out that for the latter part of my trip, we actually were stuck in Harbin without an available train ticket back, so I wouldn't have had the time to meet up after all. ;_; Maybe some other time though!!

I definitely will be going back to China. There's so much to see that I haven't seen yet, after all!! Actually, I really want to visit all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, many of which are in China, so it's mandatory. I'm going to learn Chinese too, I've decided. ^^ Actually, I was going to go this summer with a good friend, but we decided to postpone it until 2009 because the Olympics will make everything much more crowded this year. ^^;
Chiakichiaki777 on January 8th, 2008 07:10 am (UTC)
Wow, China has some much more colorful statues compared to other temple art and sculptures. Nice.
Hi-chan (火ちゃん)hinoai on January 8th, 2008 02:11 pm (UTC)
Aren't they pretty? I really like the architecture a lot, it's so gorgeous and colorful. :) I don't really like the painted figures because that makes them look a bit less.. monumental, so to speak, but it's an interesting difference nonetheless.
Idyllkaidyllka on January 15th, 2008 02:11 pm (UTC)
I love ruins too
And some of these figures have so bright colours that it looks hilarious.
Sundials are pretty cool, ne?