Xian’s Top 7 Iconic Landmarks

June 29th, 2015
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

A city’ name card or image symbol is best manifested in its iconic architectural landmarks. These landmarks are the barometer of the city’s economic development and the spiritual hope on it by its residents as well. As one of the most famous ancient cities in China, Xian has its own unique cultural values and its historical sites.

To understand Xian’s landmarks is your first step to get to know Xian on your short Xian tour. Here are the seven you shouldn’t miss on your Xian tour.

1. Big Goose Pagoda (652) and its North Square (2003)
The Big Goose Pagoda is the most important symbol of the ancient city of Xian. It was originally built in 652 in Tang Dynasty ( 619 – 907 ) for Xuan Zang to put the scriptures and statues he had brought back from India.

It is the earliest and largest remaining brick square tower built in Tang Dynasty in China, an iconic Buddhist landmark combining the Indian Buddhist architectural forms with the Chinese Han vernacular building features.  The present pagoda is 64.5 meters high with 7 stories, located inside Da Ci’en Temple south of Xian city center.

Big Goose Pagoda

Big Goose Pagoda

 

Big Goose Pagoda North Square

Big Goose Pagoda North Square

Completed in 2003, the Big Goose Pagoda North Square mainly comprises Asia’s largest Tang Dynasty themed cultural plaza, Asia’ s largest musical fountain square, and Asia’s largest statue square. The construction of the huge cultural square features the Tang culture elements of Big Goose Pagoda and Da Ci’en Temple, combining the elements of the traditional and the modern. The music fountain  starts at 8:00 pm everyday.

2.  Xian Ancient City Wall ( 1274 – 1378 )
Xian Ancient City Wall is rectangle in shape with a perimeter of 14 km, 12 meters high, 18 meters wide at its base and 15 meters wide at its top. The wall has four main gates – East Changle Gate, West Anding Gate, South Yongning Gate and North Anyuan Gate.

The Xian city wall was built on the former imperial city walls of Tang Dynasty ( 619 – 907 ) and the current wall was rebuilt  in 1374 and completed in 1378 with over 600 years.

South Gate to Xian City Wall

South Gate to Xian City Wall

Xian City Wall was constructed in a way centered on a fairly complete defense system with its width longer than its height, standing as firm as a mountain. On the wall top,  chariots and horses could be easily moved. It is the one of the most important city walls ever built in the late Middle Ages and the most well preserved ancient city wall in China.

After consistent repair and protection, the Xian City Wall now offers a good combination of the city wall, city moats and forest belt.  You can walk, even cycle on the wall. Its south gate is the largest with a suspension bridge. Most of the tourists choose the south gate for sightseeing.

3.  Xian Bell Tower (1384)
Xian Bell Tower was originally built in 1384 during Ming Dynasty ( 1368 – 1644 ). It is the largest and most well preserved bell tower among the numerous remaining bell towers in China. It is located in the heart of Xian city, the hub of the four avenues fanning out from the bell tower.

In ancient time, the bell in a bell tower was stricken at dawn and the drum in a drum tower was beat at sunset to indicate the end of the day.

Bell Tower

Bell Tower

The Xian Bell Tower was  built on a square base, a wood and stone structure  with two stories, three eaves and 4 upturned roof corners; it is 8.6 meters high at its base and 36 meters high above the base with a perimeter of 35.5 meters with an area of 1377.4 square meters. Today, the Bell Tower can only be accessed from the entrance on North Avenue. There is a staircase leading to the top of the Bell Tower.

4.  Drum Tower (1380)
To the northwest of the Xian Bell Tower is the Xian Drum Tower. The Drum Tower is located in a busy street which is full of street traders and hawkers. The Drum Tower got its name from the huge drum located within the building.  In ancient time, the bell in a bell tower was stricken at dawn and the drum in a drum tower was beat at sunset to indicate the end of the day.

The Drum Tower is 4 years older than Bell Tower and built in 1380 in Ming Dynasty ( 1368 – 1644 ). It went through two large-scale revamps in Qing Dynasty ( 1644 – 1911 ).

Drum Tower

Drum Tower

Today the Drum tower marks the southern entrance to the city’s Muslim Quarter which is an interesting area to walk around and have a look. You will feel as if you are in a “city within a city” in the Muslim Quarter. Atop the Drum Tower you will have a bird’s eye view of the Muslim Quarters.

5.  Xian People’s Hotel (1953)
My selection of Xian People’s Hotel on the top list is to some extent due to the emotion and nostalgia the local Xian people have over the building. It used to the best hotel in 1950s where the experts from former Soviet Union stayed with a kind of mystery looming in people’s hearts.

Xian People's Hotel

Xian People’s Hotel

The hotel was built in 1953 and revamped in 1985. It is one of the famous large courtyard hotels in China with an construction area of 63800 square meters. The hotel is composed of a group of buildings which feature the combination of Chinese architecture’s simplicity and elegance with the Western delicacy and splendor.

It is scattered with Chinese pavilion-topped buildings surrounded by classical Chinese gardens in a spacious compound.  Today, part of the hotel complex has been turned to Sofitel Xian.

6.  Xian People’s Theatre ( 1954 )
Xian People’s Theatre was originally built in 1954 in order to house the Northwest Art Work Troupe ( Today’s Shaanxi Singing and Dancing Troupe) that had been relocated from Yan’an to Xian.

The building features the mixed Chinese and Western architectural styles, and later it was encluded together with other 36 buildings completed in mainly in Beijing 1950s in the book named ” World Architecture History” published in UK.

Xian People's Theatre

Xian People’s Theatre

Xian People’s Theater is known as the first modern theater in northwest China, hold more than 1000 persons. It is the venue for plenty of dramatic performances. Today, the theater is also converted into a dinner theater with integrated dining and entertainment. Add: No. 41, Beida Jie, Xincheng District, Xi’an.

7.  Tang Paradise (2005)
Completed in 2005, Tang Paradise (大唐芙蓉园)  is the largest culture theme park in the Northwest Region of China. Built and expanded on the former site of Tang Paradise in Tang Dynasty ( 618-907), now it is a model imperial garden to fully demonstrate the Tang Dynasty’s charm and grandeur. The setting, a landscaped 165-acre site surrounding a willow-lined lake, captures something of the look and feel of classical Chinese landscape painting.

Ziyun Tower at Tang Paradise

Ziyun Tower at Tang Paradise

Throughout the Tang Paradise,  there are twelve scenic regions including the attraction of Ziyun Tower Block, Elegant Lady Area, Imperial Banquet Hall, Fanglin Fragrant Garden, Phoenix Theater, Apricot Garden, Lu Yu Teahouse, Tang Marketplace and the Floating-drink at Qujiang Lake.

The Water Film is the main attraction in Tang Paradise. The screen of the water is a film of water, which makes you a wonderful and illusory feeling that you were on the scene in person. When the figures in the movie appear on the screen, it seems that they are flying to the sky or coming down from the heaven. It is indeed a splendid ocular enjoyment.

Open Time: 9:00 am-21:00 pm
Entrance fee: RMB 120 (high season): RMB90 (Low season)
Add: 99 Furong West Road, Qujiang New District, Xian ( to the southeast of Big Goose Pagoda)
How to there
Take Bus 609 from Bell Tower area and get off at the 12th stop of Tang Paradise (大唐芙蓉园)

Add-on
Top 10 Attractions in Xian

Any questions, just drop a line.

Shanghai’s Top 10 Iconic Landmarks

June 26th, 2015
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Each city has its own iconic landmarks which have been lingering in people’s minds either due to their greatness or intriguing stories behind them. Shanghai is a fish-village-turned-metropolitan city dating back to China’s Spring and Autumn period (771 to 476 BC ).

Shanghai architectural landmarks mainly epitomize the colonial buildings set up in the early 1900s and the modern and futuristic architectures constructed in late 1900s and early 2000s, the two main periods for the massive city construction in Shanghai. My Top 10 List largely reflects the best architectural landmarks in these two periods. Hopefully it could serve as a simple guide to your Shanghai tour.

1. The Bund ( Mid-1800s  –  1930s )
The word “Bund” comes from an old Hindi word which means “embankment” and was used by a British company which opened a office there in 1846. The original buildings along the Bund were  the warehouses first built by the opium traders who flocked to China in Mid-nineteenth century to make their money.

The Customs House modeled on Big Ben in London

Built in 1925, the Customs House modeled on Big Ben in London

From Mid-1800s to 1933s, about 50 various buildings of different architectural styles were successively constructed including Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque, Classicism and the Renaissance between the Bund and the present East Zhong Shan Road. The clock tower of the old waterfront Customs House, built  in 1925, is modeled on Big Ben in London, striking the hour with Chairman Mao’s favorite tune.

2.  Shanghai The Paramount 1933
Shanghai The Paramount was a three-story building designed by the architect architect S. J. Young ( 1899-1978) was completed in 1933. The building  was once home to the most popular ballrooms for the wealthy elite in Shanghai.

The structure’s façade adopted America’s modern Avant-garde architectural style, and was regarded as the most trendy architectural design in China and around the world as well, and the “No.01 Oriental Musical Palace” in 1930s.

  Shanghai The Paramount

Shanghai The Paramount

Today Shanghai The Paramount is besieged by contemporary  high-rise buildings, but it still stands out a nostalgic reminder of Shanghai’ glamorous past. Its address: 218 Yuyuan Road in Jing’an, Shanghai (静安区愚园路218号).

3. Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower ( 1991 – 1994 )
Oriental Pear Tower is a TV Tower and an iconic landmark in Shanghai, and located by the side of the west bank of Huangpu River, opposite to the Bund. It is one of the most photographed building on the Pudong Skyline, viewed from the Bund. The construction began in 1991, and the tower was completed in 1994.

 Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower

Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower

With a height of 468 m, the tower has fifteen observatory levels. The lower level at 263 m is the Sightseeing Floor. There is a revolving restaurant at the 267 m level. The tower also houses exhibition facilities, restaurants and a shopping mall.

4. Shanghai World Financial Center (2008)
The Shanghai World Financial Center is the second highest building in mainland China with a total height of 492 m (1,614 ft). The skyscraper is located in the Pudong district, an essential structure on the spectacular Pudong Skyline. It was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox. The tower’s foundation stone was laid on 27 August 1997 and it was declared complete on 17 July 2008.

Shanghai World Financial Center

Shanghai World Financial Center

The supertall building comprises offices, hotels, conference rooms, observation decks, and ground-floor shopping malls. The tower features three separate observation decks -lowest at the 94th floor at 423 m ; the second, on the 97th floor at a height of 439 m ; and the highest, on the 100th floor at 474 m (1,555 ft) high.

5. Jin Mao Tower (1999)
The Jin Mao Tower is located next to Oriental Pearl Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center and Shanghai Tower ( the highest ) in the Lujiazui area of the Pudong district in Shanghai. It is composed of offices and the Shanghai Grand Hyatt Hotel. It is one of the centerpieces of the Pudong skyline at the height of 420.5m. It was designed by the Chicago firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM).  The tower was fully operational in 1999.

Jin Mao Tower

Jin Mao Tower

Jin Mao Building has four entrances, two for the offices, one for the lobby, the last one for the entrance to the 88-floor observation – the skywalk, a 1,520 m2 indoor observation deck with a capacity of over 1,000 people. It offers the panoramic views of Shanghai as well as a topside view below of the atrium of Shanghai Grand Hyatt Hotel inside Jin Mao Tower( occupying the floors from 53 to 87).

The 88-storey observation deck is open from 8:30am to 10:00pm. It’s better to have the tower tour on a bright clear day or one a fine fevening. You will enjoy different views visiting Jin Mao Tower in the daytime or in the evening.

6. Shanghai Tower (2008 – 2015)
The Shanghai Tower is a megatall skyscraper in Lujiazui, Pudong, Shanghai. It is designed by Gensler and owned by a consortium of Chinese state-owned companies. It is the tallest building in China accompanied by the other three  supertall buildings in Pudong – the Jin Mao Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center and Oriental Pearl TV Tower. The megatall structure is  632 metres high with128 stories.

Shanghai Tower is the tallest.

Shanghai Tower is the tallest.

Shanghai Tower is currently the tallest building in China and the second-tallest in the world, surpassed only by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. However, Shenzhen’s 660-metre Ping An Finance Centre will beat the Shanghai Tower as China’s tallest building when it is completed in 2016.

7. China Pavilion at Expo 2010 ( 2010)
The magnificent building of the China Pavilion is the legacy of Expo 2010, officially the Expo 2010 Shanghai China, which was held on both banks of the Huangpu River in Shanghai, from 1 May to 31 October 2010. Known as Oriental Crown, it was the largest national pavilion in the Shanghai Expo and largest on the history of the World Expo. Add: at Pudong New District ( take subway line 8 and get off at the station of China Art Museum (中华艺术宫) and exit from Exit 1 or 3.

China Pavilion

China Pavilion

After the end of the Expo 2010, the building was converted to a museum. Now it houses the China Art Museum, the largest art museum in Asia. The building features the dougong as well as the Chinese ding vessel. The dougong is a traditional wooden bracket used to support large overhanging eaves dating as back as nearly 2,000 years. The ding is a vessel used by Chinese emperors to make offerings to the gods. It symbolizes the union between heaven and earth.

8. Shanghai Museum (1996)
The Shanghai Museum is located on the People’s Square in the Huangpu District of Shanghai. The current building of Shanghai Museum was rebuilt in 1996 though Shanghai Museum’s history can be traced back to 1952 when it was established.  It known as one of China’s first world-class modern museums with a wide collection of over 120,000 pieces, including bronze, ceramics, calligraphy, furniture, jades, ancient coins, paintings, seals, sculptures, minority art and foreign art.

Shanghai Museum

Shanghai Museum

The main building is designed by the local architect Xing Tonghe. It features the shape of an ancient bronze cooking vessel known as a ding. Ding is a vessel used by emperors, reflecting the idea of  “round sky, square earth” as you can find the building has a round top and a square base, a union of Heaven and Earth.

9.  Nanpu Bridge (1991)
The Nanpu Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge, a  sister bridge to the Yangpu Bridge, which also spans over Huangpu River connecting Puxi and Pudong in Shanghai. It was designed by Chinese architects.  It has a main span of 846 meters with an extended bridge over 7500 meters.

Nanpu Bridge

Nanpu Bridge

The bridge has two towers with one on each side and each of them has 22 couple of iron cables to link the main bridge in the shape of a fan. A ship of 50000 tons can pass under the bridge. The bridge accommodates 7 drive lanes – 4 lanes from Puxi to Pudong and 3 lanes from Puxi to Pudong.

 
10. Shanghai Grand Theatre (1998)
Completed in 1998, the Shanghai Grand Theatre is listed as one of the largest and best-equipped automatic stages in the world. The theatre stages the performances of operas, symphonies, chamber music concerts, , musicals, ballets, spoken dramas and various Chinese operas. It is located in the northern part of the People’s Square in Huangpu District, Shanghai.

Shanghai Grand Theatre

Shanghai Grand Theatre

Grand Theatre building is one of Shanghai’s iconic landmark with an area of 2.1 hectares and a total construction area of 70,000 sq. meters. The building was designed by ARTE Charpentier, a famous architecture design company founded by French architect Jean-Marie Charpentier.  When the night falls, the lights around the building transforms its exterior into a crystal palace.

Add-on:
Top 10 Photo Spots in Shanghai

Any questions, just drop a line.

Beijing’s Top 10 Iconic Landmarks

June 20th, 2015
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The earliest settlements in China’s capital can be traced as far back as 1100 BC. As one of the eight ancient capital cities in China, Beijing was designated as capital city for 8 dynasties during a span of over 800 years. Not much remains left of Beijing’s history prior to 1406 when the Yongle Emperor of Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) began to build the Forbidden City in a large scale.

After that time, much of Beijing’s splendid heritage and culture can still be found in the well-preserved architectural landmarks. Each city’s iconic landmarks change with the times. Beijing’s top iconic landmarks feature China’s classical and traditional architectures, modern and postmodernist ones. Here are ten that shouldn’t be missed on your Beijing tour.

1.  The Hall of Super Harmony at Forbidden City  1406
Built in 1406 to 1420, Forbidden City was the imperial palace for Ming and Qing dynasties ( 1420 – 1911) for over 500 years. The complex comprises 980 buildings with 8707 rooms with an area of 180 acres. Listed as a UNESCO site in 1987.

The Hall of Super Harmony at Forbidden City

The Hall of Super Harmony at Forbidden City

The Forbidden City epitomizes the traditional China palatial architecture, which has had great influences on the culture and architectural developments in East Asia. The original Hall of Super Harmony was built in 1406 and was destroyed seven times by fires during the Qing Dynasty and last re-built in 1695–1697.

2.   Tiananmen Tower ( Or Gate of Heavenly Peace )  1417
Built in 1417, Tiananmen Tower was an important gate to enter the Forbidden City. Now it is a famous monument on the northern edge of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, a national symbol of China.

A closer look at Tiananmen Tower

A closer look at Tiananmen Tower

The gate building is 66 meters long and 37 meters wide and 32 meters high with imperial roof decorations. It is accessible with an entrance fee 20 yuan for an panoramic view of Tiananmen Square. Two giant stone lions stand in front of the gate, supposed to protect against evil spirits in China culture. Two decorative stone columns known as Huabiao also stand in front of the tower building.

3. Prayer Hall at Temple of Heaven 1420
Built 1420,  Temple of Heaven was an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing during Ming and Qing dynasties. It was a complex of religious buildings where the emperors in Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies for prayer to Heaven for good harvest.

Prayer Hall at Temple of Heaven

Prayer Hall at Temple of Heaven

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest is an important landmark and symbol in Beijing. It is one of the three main buildings in Temple of Heaven. It is a massive circular building, 36 meters in perimeter,  38 meters tall, built on three layers of marble stone base. It was the place the Emperor prayed for good harvest. The building is a total woooden structure without a single nail, a masterpiece of China architecture and  a UNESCO site in 1998.

4.  Grand Hall of the People 1959
The Grand Hall of the People is located on the western edge of Tiananmen Square. It is used for legislative similar to the parliament in the west as well as for ceremonial activities by the PRC and the Communist Party of China. It is the meeting place for the national session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and  the National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

Grand Hall of the People

Grand Hall of the People

Built in 1959 in 10 months by volunteers,  it was one of the “Ten Great Constructions” of that time completed for the 10th Anniversary of the PRC. The building covers 171,800 square meters of floor space, it is 356 meters long and 206.5 meter wide.  At the eaves of the main gate hangs the national emblem of the PRC.

5. Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution 1960
Built in October 1958 and ended in 1960, it was one of the  “Ten Great Constructions” of that time completed for the 10th Anniversary of the PRC.  The Military Museum  is home to the restored military equipment from the history of the People’s Liberation Army, up to and including modern-day machinery.

 Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution

Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution

The museum has four floors composed of ten halls with the largest being the Hall of Weapons. Currently, the museum is  free for entrance, though visitors must show identification and must go through the security bag checks. The museum is accessible by Line 1 of the Beijing Subway at the Military Museum Station.

6.  Bird’s Net ( National Stadium ) 2008
The Beijing National Stadium, also known as Bird’s Nest,  is the legacy of the sucessful 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, which has left a deep impression on people’s mind around the world.

Bird's Net ( National Stadium )

Bird’s Net ( National Stadium )

It is a stunning landmark building featuring the world’s largest steel structure with 26km of unwrapped steel used. innovative structure was designed by Herzog & De Meuron Architekten, Arup Sport and the China Architecture Design and Research Group, and has been nicknamed the “bird’s nest” due to the web of twisting steel sections that form the roof. It can house 91,000 visitors.

7. CCTV Headquarters  2008
The new China Central Television ( CCTV ) is designed by Arup and constructed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren of OMA. It started to build in 2004 and was operational in 2008.

The main building of CCTV Headquarters is a 44-story skyscraper 234 meters high located  on East Third Ring Road in Beijing’s Central Business Center area. It is not a traditional building,  but a loop of six horizontal and vertical sections.

 CCTV Headquarters  2008

CCTV Headquarters 2008

As a graceful and sturdy sculpture-style edifice, the planned new CCTV building doesn’t not only represent the new image of Beijing, but also express, in the language of architecture, the importance and the cultural nature of the TV industry.

8.  National Center of Performing Arts 2007
Located on the west of the Grand Hall of the People, it was designed by French architect Paul Andreu. Construction started in December 2001 and the inaugural concert was held in December 2007.  The total cost for its construction is said to be over RMB 3 billion. The theatre has total 5473 seats with each seat costing about half million!

National Center of Performing Arts Night View

National Center of Performing Arts Night View

The exterior of the theater is a titanium accented glass dome that is completely surrounded by a man-made lake. It just likes like an egg cut half. Inside there are 4 major performing halls: The Opera Hall in the middle is used for operas, ballet, and dances with seats 2416; the Music Hall in the east side accommodates 2,017 seats; The Theater Hall in the west side is functioned for Chinese traditional plays and the Beijing opera. with 1040 seats.

Ticketing selling hours
The box office of the National Centre for the Performing Arts is located at the north entrance of centre. It is open between 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day. Entrance Ticket for Visiting only:  30 yuan per person

9.  China World Trade Center Tower III  2010
China World Trade Center Tower III is the tallest skyscraper in Beijing with 81 floors, 4 underground floors, and 30 elevators. It is located in vicinity of Beijing Business District, close to China World Hotel and Dabeiyao. It is the third phase of development of the China World Trade.

China World Trade Center Tower III  2010

China World Trade Center Tower III 2010

The building was completed in 2010. It is an huge complex designed for office and hotel space,with retail at its base. The building also houses a 278-room 5-star hotel. The China World Trade Center complex is located in Beijing’s Central Business District at the junction of the East Third Ring Road and Jianguomen Outer Street ( the east part of Chang’an Avenue).

10.  Galaxy SOHO Beijing  2012
Galaxy SOHO Beijing is a multidimensional miracle in the world among other iconic landmarks in Beijing. Galaxy SOHO has changed the city skyline a bit.

Built 2009-2012,  the Galaxy SOHO Beijing is located on the southwest of Chaoyang Bridge over the East Second Ring Road with a total construction area of 330,000 square meters including office floors of 166,000 square meters and retail floors of 86,000 square meters.

Aerial View of Galaxy SOHO

Aerial View of Galaxy SOHO

Galaxy SOHO is developed by SOHO and designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. It is a new type of office and entertainment complex devoid of corners or abrupt transitions. It is an re-invention of the classical courtyards that produce immersive and enveloping experiences at the heart of Beijing. The four tower-shape buildings are connected dynamically by many bridge with attractive appearance that that gives much imagination. People will get immersed excitedly in the 360-degree architecture in the world.

Any questions,  just drop a line.