Today we toured the Great Wall, but first we toured a different part of Beijing that was opposite of what we visited the day before.
Yesterday, we visited where the emperors lived in the Forbidden City; but today we toured Beijing’s ancient back alleys called Hutongs. These are the homes of commoners, though they are today considered upper middle class or even the upper class.
By the way we are on a tour with the Georgia Institute of Technology, more commonly known as Georgia Tech. There are about 18 of us altogether.
Our host wanted us to see a more traditional way of life that is fast disappearing in Beijing. Because the streets are so narrow, we traveled by rickshaw; but these are called trikeshaws. Rickshaws are no longer used.
In the streets of the Hutongs, many of these families started businesses on the front of their homes or lease out the front to others.
After riding through the streets, we visited in the home of a Beijing family, a university professor who teaches art. His family has owned their home over 100 years. By the way they own their home but not the land it sits on. Only the central government can own the land. Their central government is like our federal government.
The professor’s home is actually three homes around a courtyard. One belongs to his mother-in-law, one belongs to he and his wife, and a third belongs to his son.
While his son is away at University he is using his son’s as an art studio. All of this is centered around a courtyard of many uses.
By the way this is classic Chinese architecture which is based on a bilateral symmetry. The buildings take up the entire property with an open space in the middle. In this property there is a back wall that completes the enclosure.
After lunch, we drove north of the city into the mountains. On the way we passed several of the stadiums built for the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing.
In the mountains is the highlight of our day, our next stop, which was the Great Wall of China. To get there we rode a shuttle bus to the base of the lift and took the cable car on up to the base of the wall.
Did you know that this is the only man-made structure that is visible from outer space? It stretches over 5,500 miles across China, and this is the main event. It is the reason we came to China.
It took them 11 centuries to build the Great Wall, beginning in the fifth century. The part of the wall that we visited was Mu Tian Yu, built in the early 1400s. It is a high, restored portion of the wall.
It was also less crowded. Chuck and I went west and walked on the Great Wall as far as we could in the allotted time. The buildings along the Great Wall are watchtowers.
The views were breathtaking from the Great Wall.