ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “History

FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎), Sapporo (札幌), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.25

Day 11 (1/2).

Maybe it was the city’s grid road system, or the influence of Massachusetts Professor William Clark who came to set up Sapporo Agricultural College and whose teaching “boys, be ambitious” has become a motto for not just Sapporo but the entire Hokkaido, or the pioneer heritage developed in the 19th century when Japanese came to settle on this northern island of native Ainu, or an ambience generated by the many Western buildings in Downtown Sapporo, Sapporo does to a certain extent resemble the United States of America.  Looking at some of the city’s most well known buildings, such as the Clock Tower (時計台) and the Former Hokkaido Government Office (北海道庁旧本庁舎), a strong sense of Western touches reveal a pristine version of the American dream enrooted in the Japanese soil over half a century before the end of WWII.

It was the last day of our Hokkaido journey.  We had half day of time before leaving for the airport.  Leaving behind our luggage at Cross Hotel, we headed two blocks west to the forecourt of the Former Hokkaido Government Office.  Nicknamed the “red brick building”, the American Neo-Baroque building has housed the seat of Hokkaido’s government for over 80 years.  Through its display of artefacts and old photographs, the Former Hokkaido Government Office is a popular attraction for tourists to get a brief understanding of Hokkaido’s history.

DSC_6494The famous Sapporo Clock Tower reminded us of the American Midwest.

DSC_6588Nicknamed the “red brick building”, the American Neo-Baroque building has housed the seat of Hokkaido’s government for over 80 years.

IMG_1003The building has gone through a few renovations throughout history until the current red brick appearance.

DSC_6594Inside the building, the beautiful wooden staircase is one of the biggest features of the architecture.

DSC_6598The wooden details of the stair at the Former Hokkaido Government Office.

DSC_6600Not the most ornate wooden stair, the building interior reveals a certain simplicity and rawness of the pioneer era.

DSC_6602The building was the seat of Hokkaido for over 80 years.

IMG_8070For us, old photographs in the building which told the pioneer story of Sapporo were perhaps the most interesting display.

IMG_1007The “pioneer” train carriage was once filled with the dreams and stories of the early Japanese pioneers in the nation’s wild wild west.

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Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)


KAT HING WAI WALLED VILLAGE (吉慶圍), Kam Tin (錦田), Hong Kong

The moat, blue brick defense wall and guard towers of the 500-year-old Kat Hing Wai Walled Village (吉慶圍) remind visitors that villagers in the New Territories were once living in the danger of rival clans, bandits and the most important of all, pirates.  For self protection, many villages in the Ming and Qing Dynasties constructed defensive walls around their homes.  Walled villages mushroomed in the New Territories, creating walled compounds for specific family clans.  In the 20th century, many villages demolished their walls or had them partially removed, while most houses have been replaced with modern homes.  With a relatively well preserved moat and wall, Kat Hing Wai is actually quite a rarity.  Measured roughly 100m x 90m, Kat Hing Wai is one of the better preserved walled villages in Hong Kong.  Built during the era of Ming Cheunghua Emperor (1464 – 1487) with the 5m defensive wall constructed in the 17th century, Kat Hing Wai was a close knitted community of the Tang clan.

DSC_1890Outside Kat Hing Wai Walled Village, a small part of the original moat has been preserved.

DSC_1885For security reason, only a small opening serves as the entrance for the walled village.

DSC_1879Most houses in the walled village have been replaced by modern houses.

DSC_1789The central lane leads to the temple hall.

DSC_1792There were a wooden desk and a religious altar in the temple hall.

DSC_1803The altar table contained a built-in incense container.

DSC_1807Antique ritual tools could be found on the altar table.

DSC_1799The temple hall opens directly towards the only entrance of the walled village.

DSC_1817We didn’t see anyone during our brief visit of the walled village.

DSC_1821Almost all buildings have been replaced by modern buildings.  The original character of the walled village has been somewhat diminished in the modern era.

DSC_1837Some older houses still had traditional banners on their outer walls.  These banners usually advocate good fortune for the entire family.

DSC_1835“Kar”, the Chinese character for family, illustrates the importance of family bonding in a traditional walled village.

DSC_1842When looked closely, traditional touches could still be seen at certain houses in Kat Hing Wai.

DSC_1841In the past, the four cannon towers were the tallest structures in the village.

DSC_1895Today, the defensive structures of the walled village have been undermined by modern buildings.  Even the well known Kat Hing Wai Walled Village has no exception.  This is the harsh reality of contemporary Hong Kong.


DAY 8 (5/5): FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2018.12.01

Out of all structures in Fatehpur Sikri, the most imposing building is undoubtedly Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque).  Completed in 1571, Akbar’s impressive grand mosque houses the white marble tomb of Sufi saint Shaikh Salim Chishti, and the spectacular 54m tall Buland Darwaza (Victory Gate).  One of the biggest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid of Fatehpur Sikri features a series of chhatris, elevated dome shaped pavilions purely for decoration.  We came just in time to make a brief visit at the mosque before sunset.

IMG_2085From the former royal palaces, we entered the mosque via the Shahi Darwaza (King’s Gate).  At the gate, we took off our shoes and left them with the shoe keeper along with a small fee.

DSC_2438Beyond the Shahi Darwaza, we arrived at a huge open courtyard.

DSC_2466The gigantic Buland Darwaza (Victoria Gate) was built as a victory arch to commemorate Akbar’s conquest of Gujarat.

DSC_2445At 55m from the outside, the Buland Darwaza (Victoria Gate) is considered the tallest gate in the world.

IMG_2111At the back, the Buland Darwaza stepped down to a more human scale towards the  main courtyard.

IMG_2087Opposite to Buland Darwaza stands the elegant white marble tomb of Shaikh Salim Chisti and the red sandstone assembly hall Jamat Khana.

IMG_2092 The Tomb of Shaikh Salim Chisti is considered one of the finest example of Mughal architecture.

IMG_2098The marble cenotaph is popular with Islam worshipers.  Shaikh Salim Chisti was a Sufi saint who blessed Emperor Akbar with his son before he was born.

IMG_2103Worshipers studied religious text at the outer corridor of the cenotaph.  Photography was not allowed inside the cenotaph.

DSC_2456The tomb building is covered all four sides with beautiful lattice.

DSC_2462Showing the direction of Mecca, the central mihrab is covered by a dome.

DSC_2465We paid a brief visit to the interior of the main mosque building.

IMG_2121Splendid marble inlay in geometric patterns cover most of the interior walls.

DSC_2467The principal mihrab situates beneath the great dome of the mosque.

DSC_2477Worshipers gathered at the front porch of the assembly hall Jamat Khana.

IMG_2127There are a number of tombs in the courtyard.

IMG_2086As the sun set below the magnificent sandstone chhatris, it was time for us to return to the parking lot and finished our day’s journey to Agra.

IMG_2156At around 8pm, we finally arrived at Taj Ganj, the district immediately south of majestic Taj Mahal in Agra.  After checking in at our simple guesthouse near the West Gate, we headed out for a quick bite.  We would need to rest for the night and get up early the next day to line up for the sunrise entry into the Taj Mahal before 6am.

 

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Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi


DAY 3 (1/2): POTALA PALACE (ཕོ་བྲང་པོ་ཏ་ལ་ 布達拉宮), Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.18

We arrived at the central gate of the Potala at around 9am.  We excitedly looked up at the magnificent icon of Lhasa as we entered the palace ground beyond the first security checkpoint.  We found our way towards the main ramp that ascend up to the Potala.  Before climbing up, we made a brief stop at a small museum that housed a decent collection of treasures from the palace.  Despite its interesting exhibit, we didn’t stay long as we wouldn’t want to miss our time slot for the palace visit.  The walk up the main ramp looked easier than it actually was.  Because of the 3700m altitude, the climb up the main ramp to the Potala may prove challenging to many tourists who haven’t completely acclimatized to the Tibetan highlands.  We took our time walking up to the ticket office near the top palace level.   After all the effort of pre-booking and climbing, we finally got a real admission ticket for the Potala.  A flight of steps led us up a colourful passage to a open courtyard known as Deyang Shar.  After a brief break at Deyang Shar, we walk to the far side of the courtyard and followed other tourists and tour guides up a small set of triple stairs into the White Palace.  The Deyang Shar was the final spot of our visit that we were allowed to take photographs.

The first room we arrived at was the throne room of the Dalai Lamas.  Walking into the former throne room felt like entering into a scene of Scorsese’s movie Kundun.  The visit continued to a series of Dalai Lamas’ former reception rooms, meditation room, study room, etc.  After the Dalai Lama’s living quarter in the White Palace, we continued our visit to the Red Palace from the top (3rd floor) down.  On our way down the floors and through the chapels and assembly halls, we passed by impressive statues, golden chortens of former Dalai Lamas, mysterious chapels such as Chapel Arya, one of the oldest structures in the Potala built by King Songtsen Gampo.  If not the noisy tourists and their rude tour guides were virtually everywhere in the visitor route, our Potala visit would be much more pleasant.  One of the highlights was the 12.6m chorten of the 5th Dalai Lama.  Gilded with 3.7 kg of gold, the chorten of the 5th Dalai Lama was significantly larger than the other chortens displayed in Chapel of the Holy Born.

In 7th century, King Songtsen Gampo erected his royal palace on the Marpo Ri (Red Hill).   A thousand years later, construction of the Potala’s White Palace (Kharpo Podrang) began in 1645 under the order of the 5th Dalai Lama.  In late 17th century, the larger Red Palace (Marpo Podrang) was also built to house the funeral chorten of the 5th Dalai Lama.  Since then, the Potala has become the residence and final resting place of the Dalai Lamas.  In modern days, the Potala was largely spared from the destructing forces of the Red Army during the Cultural Revolution.  Extensive renovations took place in the 1990s to restore the palace.  Since then, the Potala has been turned into an open air museum that attracts thousands of visitors everyday.

The palace visit took us about 2 hours.  We exited the Potala from its back entrance.  A prominent walkway zigzagged down the Marpo Ri, leading us to the kora path of pilgrims that surrounded the base of the Potala.  We followed the kora path and entered the Zongjiao Lukang Park (宗角祿康公園) north of the palace.  Large groups of park users were dancing at different open areas in the park under loud music.  We strolled for a bit in the park and then moved on to find a small noodle eatery for lunch.

01Unlike the mysterious night scene, the morning view of the Potala was splendid and elegant.

02During our visit, we only had access to small parts of the White and Red Palace.

03Despite the access and photography restrictions, a visit to the Potala is still a must-do for most tourists in Lhasa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo reach the ticket office of the Potala, walking up the main ramp is the second major challenge for many tourists (the first challenge being getting up early to queue for the pre-booking.

05From the main ramp, we could clearly see the Potala Square (布達拉宮廣場) beyond Beijing Road.

06After an exhausting climb to the top, we finally reached the entrance gate and the ticket office.

07From the entrance gate, we could see the beautiful landscape outside of the city of Lhasa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mural of the heavenly guards and other mythical figures caught the attention of every visitors passed through the entrance gate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe entrance door was beautifully decorated with colourful details.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the entrance gate, we passed through a flight of colourful stair up to the entrance courtyard of the White Palace called Deyang Shar.

11The Deyang Shar is a pleasant courtyard that serves as the entrance for the White Palace, and the courtyard is also the last spot where visitors are allowed to take photographs during their Potala visit.

12The visit of the Potala for all tourists begins with the White Palace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the Deyang Shar, groups of tourists began their palace visit via a steep stair.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the visit we exited the Potala at the back side of the palace.

15We walked down a pleasant walkway down the Marpo Ri.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe walkway led us down to the kora path of pilgrims that surrounded the base of the Potala.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlong the kora path there were small shrines for pilgrims.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear the Zongjiao Lukang Park, we passed by a popular shrine frequented by pilgrims.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe followed the kora path and entered the Zongjiao Lukang Park (宗角祿康公園) north of the palace.

20We strolled for a bit in Zongjiao Lukang Park and then moved on to find a small noodle eatery nearby for lunch.

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More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet

 

 


DAY 1 (3/6): TOKYO NATIONAL MUSEUM (東京国立博物館), Ueno Park (上野公園), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.14

After the magnificent lunch bento at Innsyoutei, we followed the main path further into Ueno Park to reach the museum clusters.  Here one can find the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, National Museum of Nature and Science, National Museum of Wester Art, as well as the largest of them all, the Tokyo National Museum.  Established in 1872, the Tokyo National Museum (東京国立博物館) is the oldest and largest Japanese museum.  We didn’t plan to see everything.  We were a little tired from the flight, so we took it easy to explore the museum complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Tokyo National Museum is consisted of several buildings: Honkan, Toyokan, Heiseikan, Hyokeikan, etc.  We started with Honkan, the main museum hall.  This present Honkan was designed by Watanabe Jin. The building was completed in 1938 to replace its predecessor designed by British architect Josiah Conder.  The former building was severely damaged in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

02There are two main levels in the Honkan.  We walked up the grand staircase to the upper level to begin our visit.

03Beautiful amours of samurai and shogunate were some of the most impressive artefacts in the museum.

04The “Fujin and Raijin”or the Wind and Thunder God by Ogata Korin reminded us our visit to Kyoto’s Kenninji Temple (建仁寺), the original location of the screen.  At Kenninji, we saw a replica of the famous screen.

05The Yaksha Generals (12 Heavenly Generals) is one of the most impressive display in the historical sculpture collection.

06Architectural drawings by British architects from the 19th century reveal the popularity of Western culture in Japan during the Meiji Period.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHistorical photograph of a Japanese samurai taken in 1862.

08At Honkan, there is a room opens to the garden behind the museum.  The room is decorated with exquisite mosaic and plastered motifs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA traditional telephone matches well with the historical decor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA garden of traditional pavilion and reflective pool provided some fresh air during our museum visit.  Unfortunately the pavilion was inaccessible from the museum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApart from sculptures, paintings and photographs, historical textiles and garments also provided us a glimpse of the old Japan.

12The museum shop at Honkan is beautiful designed.  A gentle passageway ramps up to the upper mezzanine.  Along the ramp stands a low wall of book display.

13After Honkan, we walked to the adjacent Toyokan Building.  Toyokan houses a few levels of artifacts and artworks from Asia and the Middle East.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Chinese and Korean exhibits reveal the close linkage between the cultures of the Far East.

15The Toyokan also contains some interesting pieces from Egypt and the Near East.  After visiting Honkan and Toyokan, we had a little more understanding on the heritage of Japan, and felt it was time to check out the other museums in Ueno Park.  So we exited the Tokyo National Museum, passed by a gigantic model of a blue whale in front of the National Museum of Nature and Science and headed towards the National Museum of Western Art.

 


DAY 2 (1/6): MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.04

There is perhaps no better place in Kyoto to take a morning stroll than the area of Southern Higashiyama, in the historical alleyways between Yasaka Jinja (八坂神社) and Kiyomizu-dera Temple (清水寺).  The bus dropped us off at the street intersection of Higashioji Dori (東大路通) and Shijo Dori (四条通).  We picked up a box of sushi from Lawson convenience store for breakfast, then crossed the road to enter Yasaka Shrine from its west gate.  Yasaka Jinja is one of the most popular shrines in Kyoto, especially when the most famous festival in Japan, Gion Matsuri, takes place annually in July for over a thousand years.  Though in the early morning that we visited, there were only a handful of worshipers and tourists around.  Like many Shinto shrines, Yasaka was like a park dotted with pavilions and shrines.  The most prominent feature in Yasaka was the central pavilion of lanterns with donor names written on them.  Exiting the shrine from its south gate, we headed south in the direction of Kiyomizu-dera, intending to return to this iconic temple for a daytime visit.  Soon we reached the entrance of a traditional stone paved alleyway known as Ishibei Koji (石塀小路).  Flanked both sides by historical timber homes, restaurants and ryokans, the alleyway exemplified what Medieval Kyoto might be like.  We were delighted to have the lane all by ourselves.  After making a few turns in Ishibei Koji, we exited the alleyway at the other end, standing just a stone throw away from two other greatly preserved historical alleyways, Ninenzaka (二年坂) and Sannenzaka (三年坂).

From Ishibei Koji, we continued to walk south on Nene-no-michi Lane (ねねの道), the historical stone paved street in front of the park of Kodaiji Temple.  Soon we arrived at the picturesque Ninenzaka (二年坂).  Timber townhouses known as machiya (町屋) were beautifully preserved along this heritage lane.  Telephone cables which were normally suspended in mid air from street poles to street poles were nowhere to be seen.  It was still early, shops had yet opened their doors and there were hardly any other tourists.  We took our time to soak up the historical atmosphere.  When we reached Yasaka Dori (八坂通), we made a short detour down to take a daytime photo of the Yasaka Pagoda of Hokanji Temple (法観寺 八坂の塔).  Heading back uphill and we soon arrived at Sannenzaka (三年坂), another atmospheric lane with steps that led us to Matsubara Dori (松原通), the last bit of road that would take us back to the entrance of the most iconic temple in Japan, Kiyomizu-dera Temple (清水寺).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArriving at the intersection of Higashioji Dori (東大路通) and Shijo Dori (四条通).

03The west gate of Yasaka Jinja (八坂神社)

04We also passed by smaller shrines in the complex.

06There were hardly anyone around at the main court of the complex.

dsc_1815Traditional lanterns written with donor’s name.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWalking along a lane with orange fence and lanterns and autumn foliage.

08Two ladies walking uphill towards Maruyama Park (円山公園).

09Vending machine and the iconic Yasaka Pagoda in a distance.

10Poster regarding the night visits at Kiyomizu-dera.

11At IIshibei Koji, we had to keep quiet while walking through the stone paved lane.

12Temple houses at IIshibei Koji.

13Temple houses at IIshibei Koji.

14A tiny shrine by a manhole at Nene-no-Michi Lane.

15Magnificent timber machiya along Sannenzaka.

16Approaching the steps of Sannenzaka.

dsc_1866Roadside shrine at Sannenzaka.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe stepped part of Ninenzaka.

19Yasaka Pagoda as seen from Kamimachi (八坂通).

20Walking uphill at Sannenzaka.

dsc_1886Approaching the steps of Sannenzaka.

18.JPGLooking back down Sannenzaka from the steps.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan

 

 

 


DAY 1 (4/6): KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.03

The sun was low when we get off at Kinkakuji-mae bus stop, giving everything a bit of a yellow tone.  The path leading into the ground of Kinkakuji (金閣寺) was crowded with visitors from local and abroad.  After a few hectic minutes queuing in front of the ticket office, we finally got our admission tickets.  It wouldn’t be long before Kinkakuji closing its doors at sunset (around 4:30pm).  We wasted no time and walked into the temple ground, which was a large Zen Buddhist garden around a large reflective pool known as the Kyōko-chi (鏡湖池), or Mirror Pond.  All visitors entering the garden immediately gathered by the pond to take photos of the fascinating Kinkakuji building.  Covered with gold-leaf coating, the 3-storey Kinkakuji, which literally means the Golden Pavilion, stood proudly by the opposite shore and glittered under the western sun.  Since late 14th century the building was considered as an icon of architectural beauty in Japan.  Its beauty was so overwhelmingly powerful, prompting a mentally disordered novice monk to burn down the building in an early summer morning of 1950.  Built in 1955, the present Golden Pavilion building is a reconstruction of the 14th century original.  Author Yukio Mishima’s (三島 由紀夫) masterpiece “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (金閣寺)” was loosely based on this tragic incident.  I first learnt about Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion from his famous novel.

After a few minutes taking photos by the pond, we followed the designated path to walk towards the Golden Pavilion.  The building was not open for the public and we could only admire the architecture from outside.  Behind the pavilion, the garden path continued up a hill over to another tranquil water pond, the Anmintaku Pond, where a mini stone pagoda was erected on a small island.  After another short walk we were almost at the garden exit.  Before reaching the souvenir shops, we passed by the Fudo Hall where visitors paid their respect to Fudo Myoo (不動明王), also known as Acala Dharmapala, one of the five wisdom kings and protectors of Buddhism.  Because of the crowds, touring Kinkakuji wasn’t the most pleasant experience we had in Kyoto, but the visual beauty of the Golden Pavilion was still overwhelming.  Unlike Ninnaji Temple where we spent a considerable amount of time delightfully exploring the verandas, courtyards and gardens, we didn’t stay long at Kinkakuji.  In fact, the biggest surprise of the visit was our first glance of the Golden Pavilion and its perfect reflection in the Mirror Pond near the garden entrance.  Nonetheless, the iconic beauty of Kinkakuji under the golden afternoon sun is an irresistible sight for any first time visitor to Kyoto, including us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom Ninnaji Temple, we decided to take the bus to Kinkakuji Temple in order to save time.  If we chose to walk it would probably take us about half an hour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATourists gathered in front of Mirror Pond to take pictures of the Golden Pavilion.

03Kinkakuji, or the Golden Pavilion, shimmered under the late afternoon sun.

04The reflection of the Golden Pavilion in peaceful Mirror Pond was near perfect.

05Close up of the reflection of the Golden Pavilion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApproaching the Golden Pavilion from the waterfront path.

07The Golden Pavilion is topped with a bronze phoenix.

08The small stone pavilion at Anmintaku Pond.

09Even the Fudo Hall near the exit was packed with visitors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was almost sunset when we left Kinkakuji.  Because of the fine weather, we decided to continue with our Kyoto tour with temple night visits despite we were both tired from the red-eye flight.  Our next destination was Kitano Tenmangu (北野天滿宮), one of the few temples in Kyoto where the fall colour was still at its peak.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan

 


DAY 1 (3/6): NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.03

Some bloggers mention Ninnaji Temple (仁和寺) is their favorite temple in Kyoto.  It is not a small feat for any Kyoto temple to become someone’s favorite given the city has over 1600 temples.  We had high expectations for Ninnaji before the trip and was delighted to check out this head temple of the Omuro school of the Shingong Sect of Buddhism on our first day.  Following street signage, it was an easy 15-minute walk from Ryoanji to Ninnaji.  The air was cool and refreshing in the northwestern foothills of Kyoto.  The occasional vivid autumn leaves along the way made our walk even more pleasant.  Founded in AD 888 by Emperor Uda, Ninnaji Temple maintained its close connection with the imperial family until Meji Restoration in the 19th century.  For a thousand years the temple’s abbot had always been served by someone in the imperial family .  Today most surviving buildings date back to the 17th century.

Ninnaji Temple is consisted of two main parts: Garan (伽藍) and Goren (御殿).  The monumental main gate Nio-mon Gate (二王門) is one of the three famous gates in Kyoto, representing the magnificent timber skills and sense of beauty of ancient craftsmen.  We started our visit at the Goren (御殿) just behind the ticket office.  After taking off our shoes, we entered the Goren through a zigzag covered walkway, which ended at a peaceful dry zen garden known as the Dantei (南庭), or the South Garden.  The pebbles and sand were arranged in rows across a large area, with the beautiful Chokushi-mon Gate (勅使門) and the Nio-mon Gate as prominent visual focuses in the background.  The tranquil atmosphere of Dantei prompted us to stay for a short while to enjoy the pleasant moment.  Following the covered verandas, we walked around Dantei to admire the traditional wall paintings inside prayer rooms along the way.  The paintings on the golden walls in the Shinden (宸殿), the main hall, revealed an imperial touch in the design as if the interior of an imperial palace.  After another turn we reached a completely different garden, the Hokutei (北庭), the North Garden.  The main focus of Hokutei was a serene reflecting pool, reflecting the autumn foliage and the Five-Storey Pagoda in the Garan further in the background.  Just a few minutes before we were admiring the abstract dry landscape of Dantei, where sand and pebbles metaphorize the sea, rocks as islands and trees as forests.  A few minutes later we had entered a lush world of greenery and water in the Hokutei.

After the Goren, we walked over to Chu-mon Gate (中門) into the much larger Garan (伽藍).  The entire Goren area was like a park, with several buildings scattered over in the area.  We first headed over to the Gojunoto (五重塔), or the Five-storey Pagoda, an elegant tower visible from many places in Ninnaji.  Behind the pagoda, we arrived at  Kusho Myojin Shrine (九所明神), a peaceful Shinto shrine under the shade of trees.  After clapping, praying and bowing in front of the shrine, we continued to wander around Garan.  Next came Kyozo Sutra Hall (経蔵), a squarish timber building used to store the Buddhist scriptures.  Back to the central area, we reached the largest building in Garan, the Kondo (金堂), or the Golden Hall, and the orange painted Syoro (鐘楼).  None of these buildings were open, but it was the poetic atmosphere of these historical buildings in the natural setting that we enjoyed the most.  Before leaving, we had a quick visit of the Miedo (御影堂), a Buddhist hall dedicated to Kukai (弘法大師) – the famous 8th century Buddhist monk who studied Buddhism in Xian of China and founded Shingon Buddhism in Japan.  After a thorough visit of Goren and Garan, we walked through the monumental  Nio-mon Gate once again, leaving Ninnaji slightly after 3pm.  Because of the time of year the sun was already quite low, and it felt like late afternoon.  We decided to quickly take the bus a few stops northwards to probably the most popular attraction in Kyoto, the Kinkakuji (金閣寺), or the Golden Pavilion.  

01It was a pleasant 15-minute walk from Ryoanji Temple to Ninnaji Temple.

04We walked past beautiful autumn maples along the way.

02We finally reached the monumental Nio-mon Gate, the main gate of Ninnaji Temple.

03The timber structure of the Nio-mon Gate is a beautiful piece of architecture.

05After getting the admission tickets, we entered the Goren (御殿) via a stone path flanked by the dry landscape of pebble and sand.

06We took off our shoes and entered a zigzag covered walkway to enter the main buildings of Goren (御殿).

08The Dantei (南庭), South Garden, of Goren (御殿) is a peaceful dry landscape of pebbles and sand, with the Chokushi-mon Gate (勅使門) and Nio-mon Gate (二王門) as background.

10We followed the covered verandas to circle around the buildings of Goren (御殿).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe dry landscape of Dantei (南庭) could be appreciated at different angles along the way.

11An intimate pavilion just outside the timber veranda.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe golden interiors of the Shinden (宸殿) reveals a sense of imperial aesthetics.

13The “wet” landscape of Hokutei (北庭) provided a stark contrast from the dry landscape of the Dantei (南庭).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun was already getting low when we wandered around Ninnaji Temple.

14The Chu-mon Gate (中門) led us into the much larger Garan (伽藍) area.

15The old statue of a Buddhist Guardian at one side of the Chu-mon Gate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Gojunoto (五重塔) in the Garan (伽藍) as seen from below.

17bUnder the tree shades, the Kusho Myojin Shrine (九所明神) looked peaceful.

16The squarish Kyozo Sutra Hall (経蔵) was a decent one-storey timber building with a big roof.

dsc_1233The Kondo (金堂), or the main hall in Garan in the park setting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe maple colour near the Kondo (金堂) were its peak.

20The orange Bell Tower adjacent to the Kondo.

19Autumn foliage in front of the Bell Tower.

dsc_1266The Miedo (御影堂) was the last building we visited in Ninnaji Temple.

18Before leaving Ninnaji, we passed by the maple leaves under the roof of the Kondo one last time.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 1 (2/6): RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.03

We first learnt about Ryoanji Temple and its world renowned garden of zen dry landscape or Japanese rock garden, karesansui (枯山水), back in our university years from the lectures in our class ARCH 249 – The Art and Architecture of the East.  Since then, we had longed for visiting this legendary zen garden.  Our chance had come at midday in a fine late autumn day.  The Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple is situated within a garden compound, consisting of a water pond, woodlands, gardens, pavilions, and the main building complex where the Abbot’s Chamber, Tearoom, Buddhist Hall, and the famous zen garden can be found.

It was a short walk from the San-mon (山門), or the main entrance, to the main building complex.  We took our time to admire the magnificent autumn foliage along the way.  Once inside the main building, we took off our shoes and purchased admission tickets.  First came a dim exhibition hall showcasing artefacts, calligraphy, and artworks related to the temple.  Beyond the exhibition hall was the bright wooden veranda where most visitors gathered.  On one side of the veranda was the Hojo (方丈), or Abbot’s Chamber, while on the other side lay the famous zen garden: 15 rocks of various sizes abstractly arranged in a 248 s.m area of dry pebbles.  Since the 15th century, there were various interpretations regarding the design and meaning behind the rocks, from symbolism of ancient Chinese mythologies to representation of traditional character.  It is open for everyone’s imagination and interpretation.  We sat down at the veranda to contemplate the rocks and pebbles.  The garden was too crowded with visitors for any decent meditation or tranquil moment in heart.  Against the centuries-old oil-earthen wall and the autumn foliage beyond, the garden still captured our eyes visually despite the undesirable midday sun.

After putting back on our shoes, we followed another path that meandered through a small woodland of amazing autumn foliage, passed by Yudofu (西源院) – a traditional restaurant serving tofu meals, and strolled along Kyoyochi (鏡容池), or Mirror Pond, where we enjoyed a picturesque scene of reflections, water plants and autumn foliage.  Before setting off for our next destination, we had a quick skewer of sweet rice balls near the entrance of Ryoanji.

01A sense of autumn immediately beyond the San-mon (山門) or the main gate of Ryoanji.

02An illustration of the Ryoanji Temple compound with the famous rock garden at the centre back location in front of the orange roof Abbot’s Chamber.

03We were just in time to see the last bit of amazing autumn foliage of Kyoto.

04Tree-lined path leading to the Chokushi-Mon Gate (勅使門).

05Steps leading to Chokushi-Mon Gate (勅使門).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike many temples in Kyoto, we had to take off our shoes before entering the temple building of Ryoanji.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATraditional illustration of the rock garden, which is believed to be constructed in the 15th century.  Who was the original designer remains unknown.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first view of Ryoanji rock garden under the unforgiving midday sun.  It would be much better off if it was overcast and gone with the shadows.

10Rock clusters, moss, pebble patterns, earthen walls and red foliage coincided to form a harmonious imagery.

11Patterns of the pebbles are carefully maintained by temple staff,  a daily duty for Zen Buddhist monks in the past.

12The timber floor decking and supporting members were soft and warm to walk on and appealing for touch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATimber details of the eaves and column.

14Interior of Hojo (方丈), Abbot’s Chamber, in which the centre point should be the ideal viewing spot of the entire rock garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe timber veranda continued to wrap around the courtyards into the temple sections not open to public.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA wonderful pine tree against autumn foliage in front of the main temple building.

17A side door of the rock garden remained closed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way out we walked through a small woodland of magnificent colours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe autumn foliage in Kyoto is quite different than the ones we used to see in North America, in terms of leaf sizes and colour ranges.

dsc_1000Yudofu (西源院) – a traditional restaurant serving tofu meals.

dsc_1014Duck and autumn foliage at Kyoyochi (鏡容池), Mirror Pond.

dsc_1027Despite the amount of visitors alongside, it was a nice walk along the Mirror Pond.

dsc_1032After a pleasant visit of Ryoanji, we were ready to see the other temples in the area.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM (陝西歷史博物館), Xian, China

Back from the Han Yang Ling Mausoleum, we continued our historical journey at the provincial history museum of Shaanxi.  There was a long queue at the gate for people to collect the free admission tickets (4000 daily).  We skipped the wait by buying a ticket to the special exhibition of “Treasures of Great Tang Dynasty”, which we wouldn’t want to miss anyway.  We entered the museum building which was designed to mimic the traditional architecture of the Tang Dynasty.

We started our visit with the special exhibition of Tang treasures unearthed from Hejia Village (何家村) of Xian.  Known as the Hejia Village Hoard (何家村唐代窖藏), the 1000+ treasures ranged from gold and silver wares, coins, jade items, agate wares, crystals, etc.  These treasures were carefully stored in clay pots roughly 65cm tall, hidden underground sometime after AD 732 during the An–Shi Rebellion (安史之亂) when Tang China was engulfed in a nasty civil war.  As the east terminus of the Silk Road, the treasures of Changan (now Xian) revealed the degree of cultural exchanges in the Chinese capital during Tang, when goldsmiths and silversmiths from Central Asia such as the Sassanian Empire (now Iraq and Iran) came to Changan and brought with them the world’s most advanced metal crafting skills.  The treasures from the hoard were mainly made domestically with a mixture of techniques and styles from both within China and other places along the Silk Road.  It was an impressive collection and indeed, a very fortunate case for Chinese archaeology that these items could survive the Cultural Revolution when the collection was first unearthed.

We then moved on to the museum’s permanent collections.  We quickly walked through the prehistoric exhibits, and focused on the bronze items from the Shang Dynasty 商朝 (1600-1046 BC) and Zhou Dynasty 周朝 (1046-256 BC), Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty 秦朝 (221-206 BC), treasures of the Han Dynasty 漢朝 (206 BC- AD 290), and more artefacts from the Tang Dynasty 唐朝 (AD 618-907).  In this post we have included selected photos of the magnificent artefacts from the Shaanxi History Museum.

dsc_7874The Main exhibition hall of Shaanxi History Museum was inspired by Tang architecture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASmall gold dragons (赤金走龍), Hejia Village Hoard.

dsc_7878Gilt Silver Plate with Double Foxes in Shape of Double Peaches (鎏金雙狐紋雙桃形銀盤), Hejia Village Hoard, is inspired by Persian influences in style and technique, combined local references of good fortune: peaches and foxes (foxes and a few other animals were also considered a reference to good fortune in Tang China).

dsc_7879Gilt Silver Plate with Phoneix (鎏金鳳鳥紋六曲銀盤), Hejia Village Hoard

dsc_7882Silver Vessel in Form of Nomadic Leather Flask Depicting a Dancing Horse  (舞馬銜杯仿皮囊式銀壺), Hejia Village Hoard.  Another piece of silver ware reflected the influences from the nomadic tribes of Central Asia.

dsc_7902Gold Bowl with Design of Lotus and Mandarin Ducks (鴛鴦蓮瓣紋金碗), Hejia Village Hoard.  A golden bowl for wine.

dsc_7904Agate Cup with Beast Head (獸首瑪瑙杯), Hejia Village Hoard.  A rare piece of Tang treasure with influences from Persia.

dsc_7915Bronze blades and masks for rituals, Late Shang Dynasty (13th-11th Century BC)

dsc_7918Bronze Bianzhong (編鐘) of Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC), an ancient music instrument.

dsc_7928Terracotta Warriors of First Qin Emperor, Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).

dsc_7945The Kneeling Archer, Terracotta Warriors of the First Qin Emperor, Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).

dsc_7946Gilded Incense Burner, Han Dynasty (206 BC- AD 290), depicting a fantasy mountain supported by dragons.  The incense smoke would leak from the gaps like mountain mist.

dsc_7962Oil Lamp depicting a goose with a fish in its mouth, Han Dyansty (206 BC- AD 290).  The smoke from burning the oil would go through the goose’s neck to its body, which was filled with water.

dsc_7973Gilded Bronze Dragon with iron core, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

dsc_7976Tri-coloured Watermelon, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATerracotta figure of Lady, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).  A selection of these terracotta figures revealed the impressive hair, makeup and fashion styles of the Tang Dynasty, which changed every few years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATerracotta figure of Lady, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

dsc_7987Terracotta figures of the Chinese Zodiac, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

dsc_8000Funeral Procession of the Prince Qinjian from the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644).

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM (漢陽陵), Xian, China

In the morning, we hired a taxi to head north of Xian.  Our taxi took the airport highway, passed by a number of new residential developments and coal power plants, and arrived at another popular attraction near Xian, the Han Yang Ling Mausoleum (漢陽陵).  As the capital of 13 dynasties, there are many royal tombs around the area of Xian (formerly known as Changan).  Other than the Mausoleum and his Terracotta Army of the First Qin (秦) Emperor, royal tomb complexes of Han and Tang Emperors are also impressive in scale and significant in historical values.  Belonged to Emperor Jing (漢景帝) of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 9 AD), Han Yang Ling Mausoleum is a major archaeological site to study the Han Dynasty.  There are 86 outer burial pits (22 of which are opened for visitors) around the central mausoleum mount.  Over 50,000 mini terracotta figures were found in the pits along with other valuable artefacts, allowing historians a glimpse what Han China might be like under Emperor Jing.  During his reign in 157 – 141 BC, the Han Dynasty underwent a relatively peaceful period.  Influenced by Taoist beliefs, his policies of non-interference with the people and heavy tax reductions allowed the Han society to rejuvenate itself after years of internal power struggles and civil wars.

After arriving at Han Yang Ling, we walked on the designated boardwalk to have a look at the ruined foundations of the Southern Double Gate Towers (門闕).  The earth foundation structure of the two huge gate towers survived to the present, and is now protected under a huge structure constructed in traditional Chinese style.  The ancient gate towers were gone, but from the interpretative displays and a close look at the remaining foundations, we could imagine the scale of the original structures.  We followed the boardwalk to walk around the mausoleum mount, which had yet been excavated.  Saving the best for the last, we found our way down to the underground museum which brought visitors to have a close encounter with the outer burial pits.  We put on the museum shoe covers and entered the underground world of the tomb.  Inside the museum, we followed a designated route where we could look through the glass floor to the artefacts in the burial pits.  Artefacts seen included mini terracotta human figures, terracotta animals such as pigs, cows, horses, dogs, etc., skeletons of large animals, ancient tea leaves, barley, wooden tools, etc.  It was such a big contrast compared with the Terracotta Army of the First Qin Emperor, who died 69 years before Han Emperor Jing.  The Qin royal tomb was all about presenting the Emperor’s military might and his fear of revenges from his enemies in the underworld.  The Han tomb, on the other hand, was a mausoleum built during a time when China was beginning to enter its first peaceful golden age.  It was a time to celebrate good economy, abundant food, and agricultural advancement.  It was weird to see the thousands of naked arm-less terracotta figures until we realized that their wooden arms and clothing made of fabrics had long perished.

dsc_7774Boardwalk heading to the ruins of the Southern Tower Gate (hidden within the museum constructed as a traditional Chinese building.

dsc_7785Foundation of one of the two Southern Gate Tower.

dsc_7786Looking at the passageway between the foundation of the two Gate Towers.

dsc_7773Stone structure of the burial pit was visible from the plain aboveground.

dsc_7787Boardwalk leading to the foot of the mausoleum mount of Han Emperor Jing.

dsc_7798Walking into the underground museum of Han Yang Ling Mausoleum.

dsc_7801A model of the reconstructed Han Yang Ling Mausoleum.

dsc_7804Interior of the underground museum.

dsc_7807Looking into the burial pit through the glass.

dsc_7814The burial pits were long and linear with rows of artefacts inside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADesignated route with glass floor in the underground museum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStanding above one of the burial pits.

dsc_7821Terracotta livestock and pots in one of the burial pits.

dsc_7835Terracotta human figures at Pit 18.

dsc_7839Partially excavated terracotta figures at Pit 14.

dsc_7844Closer look at the terracotta figures and cows.

dsc_7858Terracotta livestock with pigs, cows, horses, dogs, etc.

DSC_7862.JPGDisplay of the terracotta figures, with the middle one wearing clothing in the Han style.

dsc_7863Thousands of artefacts were unearthed at Han Yang Ling Mausoleum.

 

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY (秦始皇陵兵馬俑), near Xian, China

In the morning, we headed to the main railway station of Xian.  At the station’s  east plaza, there were a number of municipal buses designated for major tourist attractions near the city.  We hopped onto one of the several buses heading to the Terracotta Army (兵馬俑).  The bus ride took roughly an hour to arrive at the parking lot, which was about 15 minutes of walk from the gate of the archaeological site.  On our way to the gate, we passed by an alleyway full of vendors.  An elderly woman selling baby woolen shoes beautifully handcrafted in traditional styles caught our attention.  From the ticket hall it was another 15-minute meandering through a park until reaching the main site, where four exhibition halls housed the most important archaeological discovery in China in the 20th century.  We started from Pit 1, the biggest and most impressive exhibition hall where about 2000 terracotta warriors were on display in rows of excavated ditches.  There were over 6000 warriors in this pit alone.  It was unbelievable that no two warriors have the same face.  At Pit 3 a number of high ranked terracotta generals were unearthed, prompting archaeologists to believe that it was the vault for the commanders.  However the pit had been partially damaged.  We then moved on to Pit 2 that offer close-up encounter with different types of warriors: archers, infantry, chariots, troopers, etc.  The extraordinary details of the warrior’s hairstyles and armour were captivating, leaving us plenty of clues to piece together an impression of what being one of the thousands of warriors protecting the mighty First Qin Emperor (秦始皇)might be like 2200 years ago.  Before leaving, we dared not to miss the “Qin Shi Huang Emperor Tomb Artefact Exhibition Hall”, in which two bronze chariots and horses unearthed near the mausoleum were on display.

We have learnt about the Terracotta Army since early childhood in Hong Kong from books and school.  We had seen an amazing traveling exhibition of the warriors at London’s British Museum back in 2008, but none could compare with seeing the real excavation site of the army.  Discovered in 1974 by a well-digging farmer, the Terracotta Army belongs to the outer part of the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor.  Famous as a cruel tyrant, the First Qin Emperor was also widely recognized for his contributions on unifying China, not only militarily, but also the language, culture, economy and measurement units.  Built between BC 208 to 256, the mausoleum construction began in the first year of his throne when the First Qin Emperor was 13 years old.  The 8000+ terracotta warriors unearthed revealed the high level of sculpting skills and artistic craftsmanship of the Qin Dynasty, as well as the selfish personality of the First Qin Emperor.  Legend had it that the First Qin Emperor had huge fear of mortality.  Not only he sent out travelers to look for the medicine of immortality, he also commissioned a build a terracotta army to safeguard his tomb from his uncounted enemies in the Afterlife.  Ancient texts also described the exquisite construction of the mausoleum, including river streams filled with mercury so they would never dried up.  Before the actual digging of the mausoleum may take place one day in the future, our generation could only imagine the exquisite of the emperor’s underground mausoleum from ancient depictions and archaeological studies of the excavated terracotta army.

dsc_7267Like many railway stations in the country, Xian Railway Station is a huge building.

dsc_7273The old woman making traditional woolen shoes near the parking lot of the Terracotta Army.

dsc_7288Aisles of the Terracotta Army in Pit One.

dsc_7286No visitors were allowed to go down to the aisles, except archaeologists and occasional VIP.

dsc_7307Looking at the warriors, it was hard to imagine all of them were once fully coloured.

dsc_7342Built in 1976, the huge building covering Pit One felt like a railway station.

dsc_7349The terracotta warriors seemed like they were queuing for a train, but in fact, the warriors were facing eastwards and battle-ready to guard the Emperor’s tomb from enemies of the east, namely the six nations that Qin had conquered before unifying China into a single nation.

dsc_7353A number of the terracotta warriors were in different stages of conservation.

dsc_7361Terracotta warriors and horses at Pit 2.

dsc_7437Overview of Pit 2.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScattered pieces of warriors and artefacts at Pit 2.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhotographs of the coloured warriors during excavation.

dsc_7394Several terracotta warriors were displayed in glass boxes at Pit 3.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll of them had different hairstyles, dresses, postures, and faces.

dsc_7407Terracotta statue of an high ranked official.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABelly of the high ranked official.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArcher without the bow.  Some of the weaponry were also on display.

dsc_7414Cavalry and his beautifully carved horse.

dsc_7421The details of the horse’s headpiece was magnificent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACloseup of a warrior’s head showing unique hairstyle of that time.

dsc_7460Two bronze chariots were discovered near the mausoleum.  They are roughly half the size of the real objects.  The chariots were unearthed in 1980 and took archaeologists years to put back together the broken pieces.  These chariots are one of the fifty or so designated artefacts that can never leave the country.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China

 


POON CHOI – A Brief Visit of Ping Shan in Yuen Long, Hong Kong

An unexpected opportunity came up.  I found myself tagging along my cousin to participate in a traditional poon choi dinner at the Tang Ancestral Hall in Ping Shan, a rural area between the new towns of Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai.  Poon choi is a traditional dish originated from the villages of the New Territories.  It was believed that poon choi was invented in late Song Dynasty (late 13th century) when villages in the New Territories gathered their best dishes available together in large wooden washbasins to serve the exile Song emperor and his army.  Today, poon choi is often served in large stainless steel or ceramic bowls for everyone to share around the table.  The food served in poon choi varies, but usually it is a combination of seafood and meat.  Throughout the centuries, poon choi has become a signature dish for communal gatherings and celebrations in many parts of the New Territories.

Despite largely renovated in recent years, the original Tang Ancestral Hall in Ping Shan was built over 700 years ago by the Tang Clan.  Today it is still used regularly by the Tang Clan in Ping Shan for rituals and gatherings.  In 1993, the government established the Ping Shan Heritage Trail to promote tourism in the area.  The trail connects a number of historical sights and an interpretation centre housed in the former Ping Shan Police Station.  The Tang Ancestral Hall is one of the star attractions along the trail.  With an entry courtyard, a central hall for reception, and an inner hall to house the ancestral alter, the Tang Ancestral Hall is a typical example of a traditional ancestral hall, which in ancient times functioned as the social nucleus of a clan village.

Before dinner, we had a chance to stroll around the area.  We walked by Tsui Sing Lau, Hong Kong’s only historical pagoda dating back to 600 years ago, an old well that once served the villagers for over two centuries, and the entrance to Sheung Cheung Wai, a walled village constructed more than 200 years ago.  Despite drastically transformed from the heydays, clan villages and walled communities are still common in rural areas of the New Territories.  Many walled villages, like Sheung Cheung Wai in Ping Shan, were once heavily fortified with high walls and deep moats for self-defense against pirates.  Moats were filled and cannons removed, but many wall enclosures survived to the present day.
ImageWith its 700-year history, the Tang Ancestral Hall is the star attraction of Ping Shan.
ImageDining tables were set up at the semi-open central hall of the Tang Ancestral Hall.
ImageWarmed with a portable gas stove throughout the dinner, the poon choi was the centre piece on the dining table.  The wine-marinated chicken and duck soup on the side were equally impressive.
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The Tang Ancestral Hall has been undergoing major renovations in recent years.  Scaffolding has been set up at the inner hall where the ancestral altar is located.
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Many farmlands in Ping Shan and its surroundings have been converted into parking lots and new housing estates, including the new town of Tin Shui Wai.  The land where Tin Shui Wai occupies was mainly marshland a century ago.  Villagers then converted the marshes into rice paddies and fish ponds.  As the economy changed, most rice paddies and fish ponds were abandoned and the government finally stepped in to transform the land into the new town of Tin Shui Wai in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
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ImageThe Tsui Sing Lau pagoda originally contained 7 storeys.  It was used for the worship of the star constellations for academic achievement.
ImageThe 200-year old well
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Sheung Cheung Wai remains as a example of the traditional walled villages in the New Territories.