In 2007, just prior to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, I had the opportunity to travel to China for work (and a little recreation). This blog is my attempt at a quick write-up so we can capture the photos from that trip. China is an amazing country and this trip was an amazing experience. I would love to return again if I ever get that opportunity.
Hong Kong, officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (HKSAR), is a metropolitan area and special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China on the eastern Pearl River Delta of the South China Sea. With over 7.5 million residents of various nationalities in a 1,104-square-kilometre (426 sq mi) territory, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places in the world.
Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire after the Qing Empire ceded Hong Kong Island at the end of the First Opium War in 1842. The colony expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 after the Second Opium War and was further extended when Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories in 1898. The whole territory was transferred to China in 1997. As a special administrative region, Hong Kong maintains separate governing and economic systems from that of mainland China under the principle of “one country, two systems”.
Originally a sparsely populated area of farming and fishing villages, the territory has become one of the world’s most significant financial centres and commercial ports. It is the world’s tenth-largest exporter and ninth-largest importer. Hong Kong has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade, and its currency, the Hong Kong dollar, is the eighth most traded currency in the world. Hong Kong is home to the second-highest number of billionaires of any city in the world, the highest number of billionaires of any city in Asia, and the largest concentration of ultra high-net-worth individuals of any city in the world. Although the city has one of the highest per capita incomes per se, severe income inequality exists, as well as a growing housing affordability and shortage crisis among the population.
Hong Kong is a highly developed territory and ranks fourth on the UN Human Development Index. The city has the largest number of skyscrapers of any city in the world, and its residents have some of the highest life expectancies in the world. The dense space led to a developed transportation network with public transport rates exceeding 90 percent. [Wikipedia]
Disneyland, Hong Kong
Hong Kong Disneyland (also known as HK Disneyland or HKDL) is a theme park located on reclaimed land in Penny’s Bay, Lantau Island. It is located inside the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and it is owned and managed by Hong Kong International Theme Parks. It is the largest theme park in Hong Kong, followed by Ocean Park Hong Kong. Hong Kong Disneyland was opened to visitors on Monday, 12 September 2005 at 13:00 HKT. Disney attempted to avoid problems of cultural backlash by incorporating Chinese culture, customs and traditions when designing and building the resort, including adherence to the rules of feng shui. Notably, a bend was put in a walkway near the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort entrance so good qi energy would not flow into the South China Sea.
The park consists of seven themed areas: Main Street, U.S.A., Fantasyland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Grizzly Gulch, Mystic Point, and Toy Story Land. The theme park’s cast members speak Cantonese, English, and Mandarin. Guide maps are printed in traditional and simplified Chinese as well as English.
Since the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland, the theme park has hosted over 25 million guests. According to AECOM and TEA, Hong Kong Disneyland is the 13th most visited theme park in the world in 2013, with 7.4 million visitors.
Majority-owned (53%) by the Hong Kong Government but managed by Disney. Hong Kong Disneyland currently occupies 27.5 hectares (68 acres) and hosts 6 million to 7 million visitors annually. The park capacity will increase to handle up to 10 million visitors annually over a 15-year expansion period. [Wikipedia]
Beijing is the capital of the People’s Republic of China. It is the world’s most populous national capital city, with over 21 million residents within an administrative area of 16,410.5 km2 (6336 sq. mi.). It is located in Northern China, and is governed as a municipality under the direct administration of the State Council with 16 urban, suburban, and rural districts. Beijing is mostly surrounded by Hebei Province with the exception of neighboring Tianjin to the southeast; together, the three divisions form the Jingjinji megalopolis and the national capital region of China.
Beijing is a global city and one of the world’s leading centers for culture, diplomacy and politics, business and economics, education, language, and science and technology. A megacity, Beijing is the second largest Chinese city by urban population after Shanghai and is the nation’s cultural, educational, and political center. It is home to the headquarters of most of China’s largest state-owned companies and houses the largest number of Fortune Global 500 companies in the world, as well as the world’s four biggest financial institutions by total assets. Beijing is the “billionaire capital of the world” with the highest number of billionaires living in the city. It is also a major hub for the national highway, expressway, railway, and high-speed rail networks. The Beijing Capital International Airport has been the second busiest in the world by passenger traffic since 2010, and, as of 2016, the city’s subway network is the busiest and longest in the world. The Beijing Daxing International Airport, a second international airport in Beijing, is the largest single-structure airport terminal in the world. [Wikipedia]
Combining both modern and traditional style architectures, Beijing is one of the oldest cities in the world, with a rich history dating back three millennia. As the last of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, Beijing has been the political center of the country for most of the past eight centuries, and was the largest city in the world by population for much of the second millennium AD. With mountains surrounding the inland city on three sides, in addition to the old inner and outer city walls, Beijing was strategically poised and developed to be the residence of the emperor and thus was the perfect location for the imperial capital. The city is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, parks, gardens, tombs, walls and gates. It has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites—the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Ming Tombs, Zhoukoudian, and parts of the Great Wall and the Grand Canal—all of which are popular tourist locations. Siheyuans, the city’s traditional housing style, and hutongs, the narrow alleys between siheyuans, are major tourist attractions and are common in urban Beijing. [Wikipedia]
The Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven (Chinese: 天坛; pinyin: Tiāntán) is an imperial complex of religious buildings situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for a good harvest. The Temple of Heaven was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and was described as “a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilizations…” as the “symbolic layout and design of the Temple of Heaven had a profound influence on architecture and planning in the Far East over many centuries.” [Wikipedia]
Tiananmen Square or Tian’anmen Square is a city square in the city center of Beijing, China, located near the city’s Central Business District and named after the eponymous Tiananmen (“Gate of Heavenly Peace”) located to its north, which separates it from the Forbidden City. The square contains the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China in the square on October 1, 1949; the anniversary of this event is still observed there. Tiananmen Square size is 765 x 282 meters (215,730 m2 or 53,31 acres). It has great cultural significance as it was the site of several important events in Chinese history. [Wikipedia]
The Forbidden City, Beijing
The Forbidden City is a palace complex in Dongcheng District, Beijing, China, at the center of the Imperial City of Beijing. It is surrounded by numerous opulent imperial gardens and temples including the 22-hectare (54-acre) Zhongshan Park, the sacrificial Imperial Ancestral Temple, the 69-hectare (171-acre) Beihai Park, and the 23-hectare (57-acre) Jingshan Park.
The Forbidden City was constructed from 1406 to 1420, and was the former Chinese imperial palace and winter residence of the Emperor of China from the Ming dynasty (since the Yongle Emperor) to the end of the Qing dynasty, between 1420 and 1924. The Forbidden City served as the home of Chinese emperors and their households and was the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government for over 500 years. Since 1925, the Forbidden City has been under the charge of the Palace Museum, whose extensive collection of artwork and artifacts were built upon the imperial collections of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.
The complex consists of 980 buildings, encompassing 8,886 rooms and covering 720,000 square metres (72 ha). The palace exemplifies the opulence of the residences of the Chinese emperor and the traditional Chinese palatial architecture, and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. It is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. Since 2012, the Forbidden City has seen an average of 14 million visitors annually, and received more than 19 million visitors in 2019. The Forbidden City’s market value has been estimated at US$70 billion, making it both the world’s most valuable palace and the most valuable piece of real estate anywhere in the world.
Some sources describe it as the largest palace in the world still in existence, but other Chinese imperial residences far exceed it in size, namely the 6.1 km2 (610 ha) Zhongnanhai which lies just west of the Forbidden City, the 2.9 km2 (290 ha) Summer Palace in Haidian District, Beijing, and the 5.6 km2 (560 ha) Chengde Mountain Resort in Chengde, Hebei Province. [Wikipedia]
The Great Wall, Beijing
The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications that were built across the historical northern borders of ancient Chinese states and Imperial China as protection against various nomadic groups from the Eurasian Steppe. Several walls were built from as early as the 7th century BC, with selective stretches later joined together by Qin Shi Huang (220–206 BC), the first emperor of China. Little of the Qin wall remains. Later on, many successive dynasties have built and maintained multiple stretches of border walls. The most well-known sections of the wall were built by the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).
Apart from defense, other purposes of the Great Wall have included border controls, allowing the imposition of duties on goods transported along the Silk Road, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration. Furthermore, the defensive characteristics of the Great Wall were enhanced by the construction of watchtowers, troop barracks, garrison stations, signaling capabilities through the means of smoke or fire, and the fact that the path of the Great Wall also served as a transportation corridor.
The frontier walls built by different dynasties have multiple courses. Collectively, they stretch from Liaodong in the east to Lop Lake in the west, from the present-day Sino–Russian border in the north to Tao River (Taohe) in the south; along an arc that roughly delineates the edge of the Mongolian steppe; spanning over 20,000 km (12,000 mi) in total. Today, the defensive system of the Great Wall is generally recognized as one of the most impressive architectural feats in history. [Wikipedia]