Today we visited two of Beijing’s most beautiful destinations. We started off at the Ming Tombs, a series of thirteen elaborate tombs built for the emperors of the Ming Dynasty. We took a lovely morning stroll down the Sacred Walk, which featured large willow trees and rows of guardian statues. Next we toured the Dingling Tomb, which was built for the thirteenth and final Ming emperor and was finished in 1590. It is the only excavated tomb, since the treasures quickly disintegrate when exposed to fresh air. Chinese archaeologists plan to eventually excavate the remaining tombs, but plan not to do so until the technology exists to adequately preserve their contents.
Following our visit to the tombs, we stopped for a HUGE lunch at a roadside restaurant – our guide Marco ordered for us, and we ended up with what seemed like one of everything (including a platter mainly occupied by a fried fish-head!).
After lunch, we piled back into our bus and drove through the countryside to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. Construction on the Great Wall of China was begun over 2000 years ago, and was continued for hundreds of years. The Mutianyu section of the wall is incredibly well-preserved, and is renowned for its incredible architecture.
Our group spent several hours walking along the Great Wall, which proved to be a challenging, though rewarding, task! Unable to resist our plant nerd urges we took frequent stops to identify the flora. Some of the notable finds were Syringa reticulata (Japanese tree lilac), Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste tree), and several familiar fruit and nut trees, including walnut, chestnut, and wild peach. After an endless staircase, we reached the aptly named Ladder of Heaven, a lookout point high on a mountain ridge.
Tomorrow we head to the Beijing Botanical Garden North for a full day of meetings and garden tours!