We took a trip up to the north east for two days to visit a lady whose parents have lived next to Pete in Waterlooville ever since he was born. Denise and her husband Brian are living in Shenyang, whilst Brian helps his company work with their Chinese production plant. They live in the Shangri La hotel so we were pretty excited after roughing around Asia for almost six months. They also have a driver called Mr. Du who turned out to be a bit of legend and bought us some nice tea and a tea set for no reason other than we told him that we liked tea.
The trip to Shenyang Imperial Palace was really interesting.
Very similar to the Beijing forbidden city but a lot smaller. Qing Emperors were Manchu and their ancestral home is in the area that used to be known as Manchuria but became part of China, their culture seems to draw more from Mongolia rather than the Han Chinese but there are aspects of both in abundance. They emigrated from Shenyang to Beijing when they changed the capital from one to the other, then they used Shenyang as a summer house.
There were lots of layers everywhere.
There are three main differences between the two Emperor’s residences, the first is the Emperor’s living area is above the rest of the palace in Shenyang and his work space is below, in Beijing this is opposite, the Ming dynasty actually built the Beijing palace.
The Manchus are people from the mountains and the noblemen would live up the hillside because it was easy to defend. This was replicated in the palace.
There are a set of 24 steps just outside the residence of the Emperor in Shenyang, it represents the lunar calendar of China, twice a month. There’s a plaque above the steps to say that the Qing Emperor has emigrated to Beijing from here.
The second difference is the golden tiles which represent royal colour, but in Shenyang there are green edges to the tiles to represent the green of the mountains.
In the background you can see a building with black tiles and green edges, this was the library. They didn’t paint the roof tiles gold because one thing it signifies is fire and they didn’t want the very important books to be damaged.
The final difference is on the plaques of the temple, the writing on the left is Mongolian, Manchu characters, the writing on the right is Han, Mandarin characters. The character on the left signify the most important to the people that built the temple, in Beijing the Mandarin characters are on the left.
In Beijing we saw Lama temple and the characters from left to right were Tibetan, Mongolian, Mandarin, and another language that looked a bit like Sanskrit.
The guide said that the concubines live in terms of their importance to the Emperor, ones who live on the east are more important than the west, and the north is more important than the south. There were 4 buildings arranged around a central square for the concubines with the Emperor’s living quarters an extra house on the north side.
There were some really different style wooden carvings in the palace, this one looked really old and naturally finished. The significance of it is that it’s supposed to be flying out of the Emperor’s residence as if it was scared.
This one is more imperial than that.
There’s an 8 banner section in the west of the temple which was used ceremoniously for the generals who represented each section of the Emperor’s army. Each general would get his own hut like building in the courtyard, you can see them on the left and right, the central building is for the Emperor.
Visiting this imperial palace really made us understand a lot more of what we’d seen in Beijing so that was a treat.
After the Imperial Palace we went for Shenyang’s finest dumplings, Mr Du ordered us a feast!
This is where we ordered green tea and Mr Du’s face lit up. We started talking about it with him and he said that the next morning he’d take us to go and see his friend that sells tea.
He bought us a travel tea set with some really nice tea, and then conducted a tea ceremony for us in the hotel.
The next morning we went to his friend’s tea stall in the biggest tea market we’ve ever seen! It was 6 floors of tea and everything you need to make it, and drink it.
Here are a few examples of the hardware. These cups are used to infuse the tea in.
The other thing we did in Shenyang was to go to the biggest indoor market in China. That is a difficult thing to comprehend right? It was 5 absolutely massive buildings with a central courtyard and 6 floors.
As you can imagine, you could find absolutely anything you want here and a lot of things you wouldn’t, maybe even some things you didn’t even know you wanted.
Shenyang is not particularly a tourist destination, it’s very industrial and it’s very Chinese as a city. The Imperial Palace was amazing and we had a great time in the city on our short stay.