Zhonglou (the Bell Tower), Beijing

Beijing Bell Tower in Summer

The view of the Bell Tower (钟楼 or Zhonglou) also used to be great from my friend’s deck where I took the photo of the Drum Tower that was my last post. Unfortunately, the city of Beijing recently built a tower for power lines that sits directly between the deck and the Bell Tower. Sort of spoils the view. Alas. This image was taken from ground level.

The Bell Tower sits across a small, open plaza from the Drum Tower. In this late afternoon photo, the sun is low in the sky and tourists have headed back to their hotels. The plaza becomes a comfortable place for neighborhood people to hang out and relax. Talk about sitting in the shadow of history!

The first Bell Tower was built in the 13th century, but the building was destroyed a few years later, as was the second tower built to replace it. The building now standing was completed in 1745 during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing dynasty. Of all the monuments that remain of Beijing’s imperial past, this one may be my favorite.

 

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Gulou (the Drum Tower), Beijing

The Beijing Drum Tower (Gulou) was built in 1272 during the reign of Yuan Dynasty emperor Kublai Khan. It was refurbished by successor dynasties and stands today as a reminder of Beijing's imperial past.

I keep working through the pictures I took on my travels to China and Vietnam. I am not as prolific as some with the camera – my shooting habits are still not a lot different than they were back in the days of film – but I still got back to Thailand with somewhat more than two thousand images I took during the six week trip. I shot the equivalent of 58 rolls of 36 exposure 35mm film, some 1.4 rolls a day on average. About right for me. In any case, after a couple of weeks looking at Vietnam pictures, I have gone back to looking at China images and found some I want to post.

I have a friend in Beijing who is living in a ping fang (平房 or one story house) with a deck on the roof that overlooks Gulou (鼓楼, the Drum Tower). We sipped tea and visited on the deck on a near perfect, early autumn Beijing afternoon. The first drum tower was built in the 13th century during the reign of Kublai Khan of the Yuan dynasty. The building in the photo was originally built in the 15th century by the Ming dynasty Yongle Emperor. The drums inside the building, of which only one remains, were used to announce the official time.

 

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Guozijian, Beijing

Guozijian, Beijing
The old imperial college (guozijian / 国子监) and Beijing’s Confucius temple are along this gorgeous tree-lined street. The site of occasional horn-honking traffic jams, the street is nonetheless reasonably peaceful most of the time. I had peace, quiet, and a truly beautiful, blue-sky Beijing day for my visit. The banner – almost impossible to translate into anything but stilted English – says something like “the sacred locale of the national academy, bringing virtue to the entire world”.

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