Historic Beijing Adventures 2007

In 2007, Patrick and I joined Corinne and Tim on the first of what would be many trips around the world. We visited Beijing, Lhasa, Xian, and Tokyo. This is the first story of our Historic Beijing Adventure. 

A statue of a Chinese Buddhist lion from the Lama Temple in Beijing.
Lions of the Lama Temple. All photos by David Wright Gibson. Full gallery at Wright Gibson Memories.

Travel as a Zen Koan

As we started out on our adventure, we had planned to fly from our respective starting points to Atlanta and then take the same flight to Beijing. Patrick and I immediately had difficulties as we had our flight from OKC-DFW canceled due to a thunderstorm. So we arranged to drive to Dallas, spend the night, and fly early the next morning to Atlanta. Then we would recover our bags and check in for the continuation of our flight from Atlanta. None of this went well. Our flight from Dallas was delayed in landing. Our bags did not come out quickly. A gate agent put us in the wrong line. Other gate agents worked to rectify this situation, but in the end had to reschedule us to fly from Atlanta to Houston to catch a flight from Houston to Paris to spend the night and then fly from Paris to Beijing. Our luggage would arrive a week later. 

A photo of Patrick, Tim, and Corinne walking through a street in Beijing.
Arriving in Beijing is an experience. Now, random food.
All photos by David Wright Gibson.
The full gallery at Wright Gibson Memories.

The monk arrived with a plane ticket to arrive at the temple by Tuesday. 

The gate agent asked for an explanation of Tuesday.

The monk arrived at the temple and bowed to the gate agent. 

Beijing Orientation

In the Fifteenth Century, the city was named Northern Capital by the Ming Dynasty. This was pronounced with as Peking by the southern Chinese when Renaissance explorers came from the west to establish trade by sea. In the 1980s, the government officially adopted the more modern pronunciation to leave us with Beijing. (Wikipedia. Beijing Etymology.)

This gives us an initial taste of the rich history of this city and its people. Many of the sites we visited were built or restored anywhere from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. This time was marked by two major dynasties in the Ming and the Qing (pronounced Ching). The Qing dynasty collapsed in 1911 and there was much instability in the period labeled the Republic of China. This instability contributed to the commencement of the Second Sino-Japanese War that effectively continued into World War II. In 1949 the current era was begun as the puppet government was overthrown to create the current People’s Republic of China. 

As this was one of our first major trips abroad, I confess that I had little awareness of what I was seeing. I will attempt to provide some explanatory notes using Wikipedia as my major source. The photos were all shot with my then-new Nikon D200. You will find the full gallery at our Wright Gibson Memories website.  

The Lama Temple

The Yonghe Temple (Chinese: 雍和宫, “Palace of Peace and Harmony”), also known as the Yonghe Lamasery, or popularly as the Lama Temple, is a temple and monastery of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism located on 12 Yonghegong Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China. The building and artwork of the temple is a combination of Han Chinese and Tibetan styles. This building is one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in China proper. The current abbot is Lama Hu Xuefeng. (Wikipedia. Yonghe Temple.)

The Temple of Heaven

The temple complex was constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor of Ming Dynasty, who was also responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing. It is currently located in Dongcheng Beijing, China. The complex was extended and renamed Temple of Heaven during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor in the 16th century. Jia ging also built three other prominent temples in Beijing, the Temple of the Sun (日壇) in the east, the Temple of Earth (地壇) in the north, and the Temple of Moon (月壇) in the west. The Temple of Heaven was renovated in the 18th century under the Qianlong Emperor. (Wikipedia. Temple of Heaven.)

The Great Wall

We visited the Mutianyu section of The Great Wall. There is a lot to the entirety of this massive fortification project. Some sections are as early as the Seventh Century B.C.E., but most of the extant or visible sections are from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). (Wikipedia. Great Wall of China) 

The Mutianyu section was first built in the mid-6th century during the Northern Qi rule (550-577). At some point, the Ming Imperial Court assigned the supervision of construction to Marshal Xu Da (a.k.a. Zhongshan Wang, Zhongshan, or Xu Zhongshan) who began building over the previous wall. In 1404, a pass was built in the wall. In 1569, the Mutianyu Great Wall was rebuilt and till today most parts of it are well preserved. The Mutianyu Great Wall has the largest construction scale and best quality among all sections of Great Wall. (Wikipedia. Mutianyu.)

The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square

We did visit these remarkable sites. The Night Market was certainly interesting with scorpion skewers and similar interesting treats. We also enjoyed a massage experience at a place near Tiananmen Square. The trip to The Forbidden City was a bit challenging. It was so enormously crowded that we didn’t really take much in. I didn’t take many photos, and the few I took have been lost. Sadly, we lost the photo of the Starbucks inside the Forbidden City. About a year after we visited, we read that the government realized the irony and removed them. 

After all this and several sites I probably forgot (it has been almost 14 years now), we boarded a train for Lhasa. Stay tuned for the next installment! 


  1. Wikipedia contributors, “Beijing,”  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Beijing&oldid=1007832387 (accessed February 20, 2021).
  2. Wikipedia contributors, “Great Wall of China,”  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Great_Wall_of_China&oldid=1007356153(accessed February 20, 2021).
  3. Wikipedia contributors, “Mutianyu,”  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mutianyu&oldid=995494770 (accessed February 20, 2021).
  4. Wikipedia contributors, “Temple of Heaven,”  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Temple_of_Heaven&oldid=1005129031(accessed February 20, 2021).
  5. Wikipedia contributors, “Yonghe Temple,”  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Yonghe_Temple&oldid=1007884885 (accessed February 20, 2021).

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