Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is a worthwhile visiting place in Beijing. It is much bigger than the Forbidden City and smaller than the Summer Palace with an area of about 2,700,000 square meters. The Temple was built in 1420 A.D. during the Ming Dynasty to offer sacrifice to Heaven. As Chinese emperors called themselves 'The Son of Heaven' ,they dared not to build their own dwelling,'Forbidden City' bigger than a dwelling for Heaven.

The Temple of Heaven is enclosed with a long wall. The northern part within the wall is semicircular symbolizing the heavens and the southern part is square symbolizing the earth. The northern part is higher than the southern part. This design shows that the heaven is high and the earth is low and the design reflected an ancient Chinese thought of 'The heaven is round and the earth is square'.

The Temple is divided by two enclosed walls into inner part and outer part. The main buildings of the Temple lie at the south and north ends of the middle axis line of the inner part. The most magnificent buildings are The Circular Mound Altar (Yuanqiutan), Imperial Vault of Heaven (Huangqiongyu) and Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (Qiniandian) from south to north. Also, there are some additional buildings like Three Echo Stones and Echo Wall.Almost all of the buildings are connected by a wide bridge called Vermilion Steps Bridge (Danbiqiao) or called Sacred Way.

The Circular Altar has three layered terraces with white marble. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 A.D. - 1911 A.D.), the emperors would offer sacrifice to Heaven on the day of the Winter Solstice every year. This ceremony was to thank Heaven and hope everything would be good in the future. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest is a big palace with round roof and three layers of eaves. Inside the Hall are 28 huge posts. The four posts along the inner circle represent four seasons-spring, summer, autumn and winter; the 12 posts along the middle circle represent the 12 months; and 12 posts along the outer circle represent 12 Shichen (Shichen is a means of counting time in ancient
China. One Shichen in the past equaled two hours and a whole day was divided into 12 Shichens). The roof is covered with black, yellow and green colored glaze representing the heavens, the earth and everything on earth. The Hall has a base named Altar for Grain Prayers which is made of three layers of white marble and has a height of six meters. Another important building in Temple of Heaven is Imperial Vault of Heaven. If you look at it from far away, you will find that the Vault is like a blue umbrella with gold head. The structure of it is like that of Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, but smaller in size. The structure was made of bricks and timber. The Vault was used to place memorial tablets of Gods. White marble railings surround the vault.

The Vermilion Steps Bridge connects the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest and the Imperial Vault of Heaven. The south end of the Bridge is lower than its north end. The emperors in the past believed that they could go to heaven through this Bridge, which is why this bridge is also called Sacred Way. A Yu Route and a Wang Route are on two sides of the Sacred Way. The former one is only for the emperors to walk on and the later one is for the princes and the high officials to pass. Three Echo Stones is outside of the gate of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. If you speak facing the Vault while standing on the first stone, you will hear one echo; standing on the second and then the third stone, you will hear two and three echoes respectively.

Another interesting and famous place for you to visit is called Echo Wall owning special feature. The wall encloses the Imperial Vault of Heaven. Its perimeter is 193 meters. If you and your friend stand at the east and the west roots of the wall respectively and you whisper a word, then your friend will hear clearly what you say. Isn't it interesting? The phenomenon utilizes the theory of sound wave. Besides carefully designed buildings, there are also some other scenes that you can enjoy like Nine-Dragon Cypress. It got its name from branches which look like nine dragons wind with each other. It was said that the cypress was planted more than 500 years ago. Really, a grandfather tree!


More Beijing Attractions...
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Lumbini Sacred Destination-(The Birth Place of Lord Budha)

Lumbini is a Buddhist pilgrimage site located at the Nepalese town of Kapilavastu, district Rupandehi, near the Indian border. Lumbini is one of four Buddhist pilgrimage sites based on major events in the life of Gautama Buddha. It is the place where Queen Mayadevi is said to have given birth to Siddhartha Gautama, who in turn, as the Buddha Gautama, gave birth to the Buddhist tradition.According to Buddhist tradition, Maya Devi gave birth to the Buddha on her way to her parent's home . Feeling the onset of labor pains, she grabbed hold of the branches of a shade tree and gave birth to Siddharta Gautama, the future Buddha. The Buddha is said to have announced, "This is my final rebirth" as he entered the world. Buddhist tradition also has it that he walked immediately after his birth and took seven steps, under each of which a lotus flower bloomed. Lumbini is in the foothills of the Himalaya. Lumbini has a number of temples, including the Mayadevi temple. Also here is the Puskarini or Holy Pond - where the Buddha's mother took the ritual dip prior to his birth and where he, too, had his first bath - as well as the remains of Kapilvastu palace. At other sites near Lumbini, earlier Buddhas were, according to tradition, born, achieved ultimate awakening and finally relinquished earthly form. Lumbini was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Pilgrimage Attractions of Lumbini:
The Ashokan Pillar - Discovered by the now famous German archaeolgist Dr. Fuhrer, the pillar is the first epigraphic evidence relating to the life history of Lord Buddha and is also the most visible landmark of the garden. The historic importance of the pillar is evidenced by the inscription engraved in the pillar (in Brahmi script). It is said that the great Indian Emperor Ashok visited the site in the twentieth year of is ascendancy to the throne and as a homage to the birthplace,erected the pillar.
Maya Devi Temple- The most important temple at Lumbini is the Maya Devi Temple, which enshrines the traditional site of the Buddha's birth.It a small pagoda-like structure, the image shows MayaDevi , mother of the Lord. Supporting herself by holding on with her right hand to a branch of Sal tree, with newly born infant Buddha standing upright on a lotus pedestal on an oval halo. Two other celestial figures are depicted in an act of pouring water and lotuses bestowed from heaven.
Puskarni-The Sacred Pool: South of the Ashokan Pillar, there is the famous sacred pool- 'Puskarni' believed to be the same sacred pool in which Maya Devi took a holy dip just before giving birth to the Lord and also where infant Buddha was given his first purification bath.
The Buddhist temple: The monastery-of the Buddhist temple is built inside the surrounding complex of Lumbini in the manner of modern Buddhist shrines in Nepal. The prayer hall contains a large image of Buddha. Medieval style murals decorate the walls.

Taj Mahal

A marvel in white.... Taj is the epitome of love. The grandeur called the Taj is perhaps the most photographed, filmed, described and sketched building of the world. Taj Mahal is where fantasy coincides with reality in perfect harmony. An inspiration for innumerous artists over the centuries, the Taj is an ode to love. An epitome of love the world has ever seen which no monument in the world can match. The splendour and the beauty of this pleasant edifice brings one back to experience the magic of this majestic structure. The beauty of the Taj is in its simplicity. It is rare that a person would not fall in love with the pure and simple beauty in white.
Emperor Shahajehan had built many an architectural marvels in his career, but Taj Mahal is the zenith. The world heritage site and the seventh architectural wonder of the world, Taj Mahal is different from the rest. The emperor loved his wife Mumtaz dearly. When in 1631, his wife died giving birth to their 14th child; Shahajehan lost the charm to live. It was then he decided to build a mausoleum for his beloved which the world would remember. And indeed Taj Mahal mesmerizes everyone who visits it.
Shahajehan employed best artisans and architects to work on the masterpiece. Finally, 22 years later, with 20,000 workers toiling day and night stood the world’s most beautiful monument, and was called the Taj Mahal.
It is said that the world is divided in two parts, people who have seen the Taj and those who have not, such is the glory of this great monument. The subtle beauty of the Taj is the main reason that tourists from all over the world come here, again and again.
The structure of Taj Mahal adheres to the Indo Islamic architecture, which flourished in India during the medieval period. It is said that the structure was based primarily on the structure of Humayun’s tomb in Delhi, which was culminated in precision with the building of the Taj.
The mammoth entrance gate built in red sandstone is a beautiful inscribed with texts from the Koran. They are beautifully written in absolutely uniform size from whichever angle you see them. After passing the gate you enter in to the exquisitely laid gardens with symmetrical designs and fountains built in red sandstone with the majestic Taj standing nearly thousand feet away.
The Taj stands atop a plinth with four minarets in each corner. The central dome is huge supported by four smaller domes. The elegantly carved arches and the floral designs, not only intricate, but in perfect symmetry is the highlight of Taj. The exquisite tracery looks more like lace than actual carvings. Earlier precious and semi-precious stones were laid inside the floral designs, a very typical form of craftsmanship known as the pietra dura.
Inside the cenotaph are the two dummy tombs of Shahajehan and his wife Mumtaz; the original ones are in the basement just beneath these. The tombs studded with various precious gems like the Sapphire, Ruby et al were the natural target for grave robbers. The interiors of the chamber have fine floral motifs on in its walls with various shades of marble stones. The most moving feature is the tragic prayer of the emperor which is carved in perfect calligraphy on the tomb which asks for help from the almighty and says, ‘Help us, O Lord, to bear that which we can not bear!’
The Taj overlooks the Yamuna and on a quiet day one can hear the water flowing by. As it stands on a raised platform with the blue sky as its backdrop, it gives an impression of a palace floating in the air. The Taj never looks the same at any time and from any angle. The colour of the Taj changes with every change that takes place in the sky. The golden pink Taj at dawn turns into dazzling white at noon. Giving way to the sultry orange at sunset is the milky blue at night. Viewing the Taj on Full moon nights is a blissful experience. The Taj seems to be bathing in the moon light with its fine designs getting illuminated further. The reflections of the Taj in the water pond in front of it or in the Yamuna waters in the back are some of the breath taking views. And actually the life after the Taj is different with a feeling of fulfillment with no blemishes, a feeling of ecstasy having experienced a beautiful monument, a feeling of contentment having viewed the flawless magnificent edifice.
Situated in the city of Agra, the nearest airport is Delhi. A joint trip to Delhi and Jaipur along with Agra, gives you the famous Golden Triangle trip of India.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Beijijng Summer Palace

Situated in the western outskirts of Haidian District, the Summer Palace is 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from central Beijing. Having the largest royal park and being well preserved, it was designated, in 1960 by the State Council, as a Key Cultural Relics Protection Site of China. Containing examples of the ancient arts, it also has graceful landscapes and magnificent constructions. The Summer Palace is the archetypal Chinese garden, and is ranked amongst the most noted and classical gardens of the world. In 1998, it was listed as one of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Constructed in the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), during the succeeding reign of feudal emperors; it was extended continuously. By the time of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it had become a luxurious royal garden providing royal families with rest and entertainment. Originally called 'Qingyi Garden' (Garden of Clear Ripples), it was know as one of the famous 'three hills and five gardens' (Longevity Hill, Jade Spring Mountain, and Fragrant Hill; Garden of Clear Ripples, Garden of Everlasting Spring, Garden of Perfection and Brightness, Garden of Tranquility and Brightness, and Garden of Tranquility and Pleasure). Like most of the gardens of Beijing, it could not elude the rampages of the Anglo-French allied force and was destroyed by fire. In 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi embezzled navy funds to reconstruct it for her own benefit, changing its name to Summer Palace (Yiheyuan). She spent most of her later years there, dealing with state affairs and entertaining. In 1900, it suffered again, being ransacked by the Eight-Power Allied Force. After the success of the 1911 Revolution, it was opened to the public.
Composed mainly of Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, The Summer Palace occupies an area of 294 hectares (726.5 acres), three quarters of which is water. Guided by nature, artists designed the gardens exquisitely so that visitors would see marvelous views and be amazed by perfect examples of refined craftwork using the finest materials.

Centered on the Tower of Buddhist Incense (Foxiangge) the Summer Palace consists of over 3,000 structures including pavilions, towers, bridges, and corridors. The Summer Palace can be divided into four parts: the court area, front-hill area, front-lake area, and rear-hill and back-lake area.

Front-Hill Area: this area is the most magnificent area in the Summer Palace with the most constructions. Its layout is quite distinctive because of the central axis from the yard of Kunming Lake to the hilltop, on which important buildings are positioned including Gate of Dispelling Clouds, Hall of Dispelling Clouds, Hall of Moral Glory, Tower of Buddhist Incense, the Hall of the Sea of Wisdom, etc.

Rear-Hill and Back-Lake Area: although the constructions are fewer here, it has a unique landscape, with dense green trees, and winding paths. Visitors can feel a rare tranquility, and elegance. This area includes scenic spots such as Kunming Lake and Back Lake , which presents a tranquil beauty, Garden of Harmonious Interest , built by imitating the layout of Southern China's classical gardens, and Suzhou Market Street, endowed with a strong flavor of the water town Suzhou.

Court Area: this is where Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu met officials, conducted state affairs and rested. Entering the East Palace Gate, visitors may see the main palace buildings: the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity served as the office of the Emperor, the Hall of Jade Ripples where Guangxu lived, the Hall of Joyful Longevity, Cixi's residence, the Garden of Virtue and Harmony where Cixi was entertained, Yiyun House , where once lived the Empress Longyu, and Long Gallery, which measures the longest in Chinese gardens.

Front Lake Area: covering a larger part of the Summer Palace, opens up the vista of the lake. A breeze fluttering, waves gleam and willows kiss the ripples of the vast water. In this comfortable area there are the Eastern Bank and Western Bank, Seventeen-Arch Bridge, Nanhu Island, the largest island in Summer Palace, Bronze Ox, an imposing statue beside the lake, and Marble Boat, built in western style with elaborate decorations . On the western bank float six distinct bridges amongst which the Jade-Belt Bridge is the most beautiful.
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The Holiest Hindu Temple

Pasupatinath temple is one of the most famous temples of Nepal.Its astonishing architectural beauty , stands as a symbol of faith, religion, culture and tradition.Regarded as the most sacred temple of Hindu Lord Shiva in the world, Pashupatinath Temple's existence dates back to 400 A.D.The temple is situated 5 kilometer east of Kathmandu heart, on the banks of sacred Bagmati River. Being one of the most important Hindu temples, this is a center of annual pilgrimage. The richly-ornamented pagoda houses the sacred linga or phallic symbol of Lord Shiva.The two level roofs are of copper with gold covering. It has four main doors, all covered with silver sheets. The western door has a statue of large bull or Nandi, again covered in gold. The struts under the roofs, dating from the late 17th century, are decorated with wood carvings of members of Shiva's family such as Parvati, Ganesh, Kumar or the Yoginis, as well as Hanuman, Rama, Sita, Lakshman and other gods and goddesses from the Ramayana.Pashaputi Temple's extensive grounds include many other old and important temples, shrines and statues. South of the temple is Chadeshvar, an inscribed Licchavi linga from the 7th century, and north of the temple is a 9th-century temple of Brahma. On the south side of Pashupati temple is the Dharmashila, a stone where sacred oaths are taken, and pillars with statues of various Shah kings.In the northeast corner of the temple courtyard is the small pagoda temple of Vasuki, the King of the Nagas. Vasuki has the form of a Naga (snake) from the waist upwards, while the lower parts are an intricate tangle of snakes' bodies. According to local belief, Vasuki took up residence here in order to protect Pashupati. One can often see devotees circumambulating and worshipping Vasuki before entering the main sanctum. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to pay homage to this temple, that is also known as 'The Temple of Living Beings'.The Pasupatinath area has contained numerous temples, stupa, monasteries, images and inscriptions.The temple is listed in UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site list.
Legends:There are many legends describing as to how the temple of Lord Pashupatinath came to existence here. Some of them are :-
The Cow Legend: Legend says that Lord Shiva once took the form of an antelope and sported unkown in the forest on Bagmati river's east bank. The gods later caught up with him, and grabbing him by the horn, forced him to resume his divine form. The broken horn was worshipped as a linga but overtime it was buried and lost. Centuries later an astonished herdsmen found one of his cows showering the earth with milk. Digging deep at the site, he discovered the divine linga of Pashupatinath.
The Linchchhavi Legend: According to Gopalraj Vamsavali, the oldest ever chronicle in Nepal, this temple was built by Supus Padeva, a Linchchhavi King, who according to the stone inscription erected by Jayadeva 11 in the courtyard of Pashupatinath in 753 AD, happened to be the ruler 39 generations before Manadeva (464-505 AD).
The Devalaya Legend:Another chronicle states that Pashupatinath Temple was in the form of Linga shaped Devalaya before Supus Padeva constructed a five storey temple of Pashupatinath in this place. As the time passed, the need for reparing and renovating this temple arose. It is learnt that this temple was reconsturcted by a mediaeval King named Shivadeva (1099-1126 AD). It was renovated by Ananta Malla adding a roof to it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Forbidden City

Lying at the center of Beijing, the Forbidden City, called Gu Gong in Chinese, was the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Now known as the Palace Museum, it is to the north of Tiananmen Square. Rectangular in shape, it is the world's largest palace complex and covers 74 hectares. Surrounded by a six meter deep moat and a ten meter high wall are 9,999 rooms. The wall has a gate on each side. Opposite the Tiananmen Gate, to the north is the Gate of Divine Might (Shenwumen), which faces Jingshan Park. The distance between these two gates is 960 meters, while the distance between the gates in the east and west walls is 750 meters. There are unique and delicately structured towers on each of the four corners of the curtain wall. These afford views over both the palace and the city outside.

The Forbidden City is divided into two parts. The southern section, or the Outer Court was where the emperor exercised his supreme power over the nation. The northern section, or the Inner Court was where he lived with his royal family. Until 1924 when the last emperor of China was driven from the Inner Court, fourteen emperors of the Ming dynasty and ten emperors of the Qing dynasty had reigned here. Having been the imperial palace for some five centuries, it houses numerous rare treasures and curiosities. Listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987, the Palace Museum is now one of the most popular tourist attractions world-wide.

Construction of the palace complex began in 1407, the 5th year of the Yongle reign of the third emperor of the Ming dynasty. It was completed fourteen years later in 1420. It was said that a million workers including one hundred thousand artisans were driven into the long-term hard labor. Stone needed was quarried from Fangshan, a suburb of Beijing. It was said a well was dug every fifty meters along the road in order to pour water onto the road in winter to slide huge stones on ice into the city. Huge amounts of timber and other materials were freighted from faraway provinces. Ancient Chinese people displayed their very considerable skills in building the Forbidden City. Take the grand red city wall for example. It has an 8.6 meters wide base reducing to 6.66 meters wide at the top. The angular shape of the wall totally frustrates attempts to climb it. The bricks were made from white lime and glutinous rice while the cement is made from glutinous rice and egg whites. These incredible materials make the wall extraordinarily strong.

Since yellow is the symbol of the royal family, it is the dominant color in the Forbidden City. Roofs are built with yellow glazed tiles; decorations in the palace are painted yellow; even the bricks on the ground are made yellow by a special process. However, there is one exception. Wenyuange, the royal library, has a black roof. The reason is that it was believed black represented water then and could extinguish fire.

Nowadays, the Forbidden City, or the Palace Museum is open to tourists from home and abroad. Splendid painted decoration on these royal architectural wonders, the grand and deluxe halls, with their surprisingly magnificent treasures will certainly satisfy 'modern civilians'.
The Forbidden City is the best preserved imperial palace in China and the largest ancient palatial structure in the world.
It is recognized as one of the most important five palaces in the world (the other four are the Palace of Versailles in France, Buckingham Palace in the UK, the White House in the US and the Kremlin in Russia). The splendid architecture of the Forbidden City represents the essence and culmination of traditional Chinese architectural accomplishment.
In 1961 the Forbidden City was listed as one of the important historical monuments under the special preservation by the Chinese central government and, in 1987, it was nominated as World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. The Palace Museum is a real treasure house of Chinese cultural and historical relics.
The Forbidden City, situated in the very heart of Beijing, was home to 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The construction of the grand palace started in the fourth year of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty (1406), and ended in 1420. In ancient times, the emperor claimed to be the son of Heaven, and therefore Heaven’s supreme power was bestowed upon him. The emperors’ residence on earth was built as a replica of the Purple Palace where God was thought to live in Heaven. Such a divine place was certainly forbidden to ordinary people and that is why the Forbidden City is so named.
The Forbidden City covers an area of about 72 hectares with a total floor space of approximately 150, 000 square meters. It consists of 90 palaces and courtyards, 980 buildings and 8,704 rooms. To represent the supreme power of the emperor given from God, and the place where he lived being the center of the world, all the gates, palace and other structures of the Forbidden City were arranged about the south-north central axis of Beijing.

Adventure Tour Of Nepal

Nepal is the adventure travel centre of Southern Asia. Its hallmark,is the majestic snow - capped Himalaya, home to eight of the world`s 8,000 meter peaks.This magical mountainous kingdom sits high on the spine of the World’s most famous mountain range. Wherever you trek in Nepal, you can guarantee it will be nothing less than spectacular. Trekking in Nepal will take you through a country that has captured the imagination of mountaineers and explorers for more than 100 years. While trekking you will see the great diversity of Nepal.Nerve tingling scenery, a complex culture and some of the best walking trails in the world.Mount Everest is the main spotlight.The Everest trail takes you through the Sherpa heartland with awe-inspiring views. Trekkers up for the ultimate challenge aim for Everest Base Camp located on the rugged Kumbhu Glacier, and at the foot of the world’s tallest peak. The very organic rhythm of foot travel is a wonderful way to explore and make meaningful contact with this extraordinary country. Along with a multitude of birds and animals, temples and monasteries, you will also encounter many small mountain villages. The objective of trekking is not just the particular destination, but also the journey itself. You travel at a modest pace, observing nature, rural communities, and spectacular mountain panoramas.
The natural wealth of the Nepal has remained unique,and fascinating for natural lovers. Nepal not only offer glorious mountain trekking but it also has a fine selection of national parks.A large variety of wildlife can be seen in Nepal. Nepal has 16 national parks, wildlife reserves and conservation areas, occupying 16 percent of its total geographical area. Nepal offers you the chance to enter the jungle and view some of the rarest and most endangered wildlife on earth.Jungle safari is very exciting experience.The Royal Chitwan National Park, and the Royal Bardia National Park, are some of most famous wildlife sanctuaries. The best time to visit Royal Chitwan National Park, and Bardia National Park is from October through March, when the temperature averages 25 degrees Celsius. In the jungle you can experience, elephant back safaris, bush walking, bird watching, canoeing, recreation activities and cultural programs, depending on which park you choose to go to. Most jungle safari consists of canoe rides on the jungle rivers, nature walks. Here one can see wildlife such as the swamp deer, musk deer, black buck, blue bull, the Royal Bengal Tiger, gharial and marsh mugger crocodile and the last of a breed of Asiatic wild buffalo. Parks and Reserves are also rich in bird species with a variety of babbles and orioles, koels and drongos, peacocks and floricans, and a multitude of wintering wildfowl.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Xi'an Terra Cotta Warriors

Terra Cotta Pit No.1 was discovered accidentally by local villagers in March 1974 when drilling for wells on a piece of barren land. They found some fragments of terracotta warriors and many bronze weapons, which received great attention from the relevant departments. The State Administration of Cultural Heritage sent a team of archaeologists and conservation experts to make field investigation and organized Shaanxi archaeologists to start a full-scale excavation of the site.

In order to protect the find, a large arched hall with a steel frame was built above the pit in 1976. Covering an area of 19,136 square yards, the hall has provided the pit with good ventilation and daylight conditions. In addition, it is burglarproof and fireproof and has temperature and humidity monitoring systems.

Inside the hall, Terra Cotta Pit No.1 is an east-west rectangular pit, measuring 252 yards long, 68 yards wide and 16 feet deep. There are five sloping entrances on both the eastern and western sides. Two side doors are installed on the northern and southern sides. Every three yards, there is a puddle wall, which separates the underground army into different columns. The walls were fortified with wooden columns, earth and reeds while the floor was covered with black bricks. Now visitors see the puddle walls were lower than the terracotta warriors, and it is because once the Pit 1 was taken in water which caused partial collapse of the walls.

There are over 6,000 terra cotta warriors and horses in Pit 1, of which 1,000 have been unearthed. They are marshaled into a well-organized battle array composed of the infantry and cavalry. The vanguard includes 210 foot soldiers divided equally into three lines. The cavalry and war chariot follow close in line, forming the main body of the battle formation. The foot soldiers are alternated with the chariots drawn by horses, lined into 38 columns. On both the northern and southern sides of the war formation stand 180 warriors which serve as flank guards. The rear guards are on the western end, with two lines facing east and another facing west. Some soldiers are armed with battle robe, and some are equipped with armor.The war formation in Pit No.1 is elaborately set in a line and is posed so to seem prepared for battle at any moment. Every soldier and horse warrior is life-like, recapturing the formidable array of Emperor Qin Shihuang.One can only marvel at the grand artistic ability of the remote Qin Dynasty.

Besides the terracotta warriors and horses, the cultural relic unearthed in the Pit 1 also include the bronze swords, spears, crossbows, arrows and Wugou. Wugou refers to a kind of swords which were produced in Wu State under the order of the King Helu. The edge of Wugou is curved and sharp.

According to the history records, the construction of the terracotta warrior pits were started in 221BC and forced to stop during the peasant uprisings in 209BC. At the end of the Qin Dynasty, Xiangyu set fire to the pit, making the pit collapsed and many terracotta warriors and horses crushed, which is indeed a loss and pity of the great Qin terracotta warriors. The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses are the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century. Work is ongoing at this site, which is around 1.5 kilometers east of Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Mausoleum, Lintong County, Shaanxi Province. It is a sight not to be missed by any visitor to China.Upon ascending the throne at the age of 13 (in 246 BC), Qin Shi Huang, later the first Emperor of all China, had begun to work for his mausoleum. It took 11 years to finish. It is speculated that many buried treasures and sacrificial objects had accompanied the emperor in his afterlife. A group of peasants uncovered some pottery while digging for a well nearby the royal tomb in 1974. It caught the attention of archeologists immediately. They came to Xian in droves to study and to extend the digs. They had established beyond doubt that these artifacts were associated with the Qin Dynasty (211-206 BC).

The State Council authorized to build a museum on site in 1975. When completed, people from far and near came to visit. Xian and the Museum of Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses have become landmarks on all travelers' itinerary.Life size terracotta figures of warriors and horses arranged in battle formations are the star features at the museum. They are replicas of what the imperial guard should look like in those days of pomp and vigor.The museum covers an area of 16,300 square meters, divided into three sections: No. 1 Pit, No. 2 Pit, and No. 3 Pit respectively. They were tagged in the order of their discoveries. No. 1 Pit is the largest, first opened to the public on China's National Day, 1979. There are columns of soldiers at the front, followed by war chariots at the back.No. 2 Pit, found in 1976, is 20 meters northeast of No. 1 Pit. It contained over a thousand warriors and 90 chariots of wood. It was unveiled to the public in 1994.Archeologists came upon No. 3 Pit also in 1976, 25 meters northwest of No. 1 Pit. It looked like to be the command center of the armed forces. It went on display in 1989, with 68 warriors, a war chariot and four horses. Altogether over 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses, chariots, and even weapons have been unearthed from these pits. Most of them have been restored to their former grandeur.The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses is a sensational archeological find of all times. It has put Xian on the map for tourists. It was listed by UNESCO in 1987 as one of the world cultural heritages.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Harbin International Ice Festival

The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival have been held since 1963. It had been interrupted for a number of years during the Cultural Revolution until it was resumed in 1985.
Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province of People's Republic of China, is one of the sources of ice and snow culture in the world. Geographically, it is located in Northeast China under the direct influence of the cold winter wind from Siberia. The average temperature in summer is 21.2 degrees Celsius, -16.8 degrees Celsius in winter. It can be as cold as - 38.1 degrees Celsius in winter. Officially, the festival starts from January 5th and it lasts one month. However often the exhibitions open earlier and last longer, weather permitting. Ice sculpture decoration ranges from the modern technology of lasers to traditional ice lanterns. There are ice lantern park touring activities held in many parks in the city. Winter activities in the festival include Yabuli alpine skiing, winter-swimming in Songhua River, and the ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden. Snow carving and ice and snow recreations are world famous.
The Harbin festival is one of the world's four largest ice and snow festivals, along with Japan's Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada's Quebec City Winter Carnival, and Norway's Ski Festival.The 2007 festival featured the Canadian theme, memoria in m of Canadian doctor Norman Bethune. It also a Guinness Record of the largest snow sculpture: 250 meters long, 28 feet (8.5 m) high, using over 13,000 cubic meters of snow. The composition consisted of two parts: "Niagara Falls" and "Crossing the Bering Strait" (the latter depicting the migration of the First Nations).
Zhaolin Park is a 'must see' during the Harbin Ice Festival because it has a traditional program that shows the most excellent ice lanterns. With water, lights and the natural ice from the Songhua River running through Harbin as the material, the ice lanterns are made by freezing water, piling up ice or snow, then carving, enchasing, decorating, etc. The ice lantern park touring activities have been held here annually since 1963 and is said to be one of the most wonderful 35 tourist attractions in China. There are numerous pieces of ice artworks in the park arranged in groups according to different themes depicting Chinese classic masterworks, European folktales and customs and so on. A great variety of objects such as buildings, gardens, flowers, waterfalls, European-styled churches, lions, tigers, dragons are carved from ice. In the daytime, the ice sculptures are magnificent and verisimilitude. Moreover, with the interspersion of the sparkling colored lights embedded in the sculptures at night, the park becomes a glorious and amazing ice world.
Today, Harbin Ice Festival is not only an exposition of ice and snow art, but also an annual cultural event for international exchange. Every year, there are many ice sculpture experts, artists and fans from America, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Russia, China, etc. gathering in Harbin to participate ice sculpting competitions and to communicate with each other in the ice and snow world. Also, Harbin ice lanterns have been exhibited in most of China's main cities as well as in many countries in Asia, Europe, North America, Africa and Oceania. For more than 40 years, Harbin's natural resource of ice and snow has been fully explored to provide joy and fun for visitors to the city. Now during the festival, many sporting competitions are also popular including ice-skating, sledding and so on. Weddings, parties and other entertainments are now very much a feature of this ice world, adding their own contribution to the celebrations of this great festival of art, culture, sports and tourism.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Adventure Holidays India

Adventure holidays are becoming the choice of today's traveler. India offers wide opportunities in this field because of its rich and varied climates. In northern India, one could experience trekking, mountaineering, gliding, paragliding and many other adventure activities in snow covered peaks of Himachal and Uttaranchal.

In Rajasthan, adventure has a different face. You can experience the heat of desert and sand dunes while on Camel Safaries or Jeep safaris. South India offers water sporting opportunities like boat race, water sports and much more.

If you love wildlife, you can take experience the beauty in dense forest among wild animals in wildlife safaris, jungle safaris and jeep safaris of Uttaranchal and Karnataka. Uttaranchal, the land of holy rivers and there origins offers White water rafting and is hub for various other adventure sports activities like trekking, river rafting and wildlife safari. Garhwal offers some very exciting opportunities for the water sport lover. The Ganga with its frothing and foaming waters throw up a challenge that no rafter on this earth can look away from. The rivers in Uttaranchal are said to offer the best rafting opportunities in world. The hills of North India have all the ingredients for exploit packed with thrills - an unexplored valley, towering peaks, flowing rivers, a splendid combination of flora & fauna, snow-capped mountains and vast tracts of virgin snow.

Karanataka, another state in India unfolds its many surprises that seem to have been created just for the adventure holidays seekers and nature lovers. Verdant forest, unexplored hill ranges and deep blue water are peculiar features which describes adventurous tours in Karanataka in the form of Rock climbing, Aerosports, Water Sports, White water Rafting, coracling, canoeing, kayaking and windsurfing.

The beauty of Kashmir attracts many tourists to this "Paradise on Earth". Apart from the enthusiastic nature lovers, the high peaks of the Himalayas attract thousands of adventure sports lovers to the state. Adventure holidays in Kashmir are increasingly attracting Indian and overseas lovers of the outdoors.

Kashmir is one of the major attractions for the tourists for enjoying holidays. A range of options exist in the valley for the adventure loving visitors. There are some places in the valley where the adventure sports facilities are available like Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Pahalgam, Drass, etc. The mountain ranges as well as the gushing rivers of the valley provide abundant opportunities for adventure travel in Kashmir.

Other states of India are also encouraging adventure tours and tourism and several adventure tour parks and camps are being organized for a traveler seeking adventure tours.

Nepal Festivals

Nepal is not only the land of mountains; it is also the land of festivals. The rich cultural heritage of Nepal is best expressed in the many large and small festivals that occur throughout the year.The best part about the festivals in Nepal is that all the events are celebrated with the same enjoyment and galore the way it used to be hundreds of years ago when people had no other source of entertainment.There are many kinds of festivals: some honor certain Hindu and Buddhist gods or goddesses, some recreate important events from ancient mythology and epic literature, some mark important times in the agricultural calendar.
Teej: This is a Hindu married woman’s day for her man. This festival is celebrated in August/September. Women clad in beautiful red saris with shining potes (glass beads), singing and dancing is the sight almost everywhere in Nepal during the festival of Teej. On this day women observe a fast and pray Lord Shiva for the long, healthy and prosperous life of their husbands and their families. The unmarried women also observe this festival with unabated zeal with the hope that they will get to marry good husbands. From early dawn, women queue up in the multiple lines in Pashupatinath to offer their prayers to Lord Shiva.
Gaijatra: The festival of "Gai Jatra" (the procession of cows) which is one of the most popular festivals, is generally celebrated in the Nepalese month of Bhadra (August-September).This festival has its roots in the belief that the god of death, Yamaraj, must be feared and hence worshipped.
Tihar: This festival of lights that falls between October/November is the second biggest festival . This festival lasts for five days and people worship Laxmi – the Goddess of Wealth. All the houses are cleaned and decorated with the belief that Goddess Laxmi will enter the house that is the cleanest and people lit candles, oil lamps and other lights and the whole place looks illuminating. During the five days, crows, dogs and cows are worshipped and honored with vermilion, garland and delicious food for what they have done in the lives of humans. Crows are regarded as the messenger that brought news even during the times when there were no postmen and no postal services. Dogs are the most obedient animals who guard the house . Cow is also a symbol of wealth in Hinduism and she is also the national animal of Nepal. During Tihar, the Newari community in Nepal also observes Mha puja – a ritual of worshipping one’s own body and life. On this very day, the Newari New Year which is also known as Nepal Sambat begins. The festival ends with Bhai Tika – brothers’ day when his sisters worship him for his long and healthy life to safeguard the lives of his sisters. This is also a gambling time in Nepal as gambling is not illegal during this festival.
Holi: This is the special day of playing the liquid color and dust colour(cinnabar) among the people. The Jubilance observes, splash and smear the colour among each other jubilantly. Nepal Government offers special holiday to this day. The nooks and corners of the metropolis look drenched with colours. Revelers mostly the youngsters walk in the street making groups by playing the colour and all of them look very farce. Also they walk joyously singing the songs and dancing as well in the street. Even the foreigners too join in this group to celebrate the festival. Grand Falgun Purnima fairs take place in most of the reputed junctions of Nepal where thousands of people assemble there on these days to celebrate the festival. But in the southern part of Nepal at Tarai, this festival is observed on the next day after the Hillians’ celebration. There is a very interesting ancient legend regarding to this festival.
Dashain:Dashain is the longest and the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese of all caste and creed throughout the country. The fifteen days of celebration occurs during the bright lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon.
Bagh Jatra: The Bagh Jatra of Pokhara is another cultural baggage brought by Newars from Kathmandu, celebrated in early august. The festival has been celebrated in Pokhara for about 150 years.
Tamu Dhee: Tamu Dhee (also known as Trahonte) is a Gurung holiday (august). Ceremonies are performed to purge the neighborhood of evil spirits and to safeguard one's farm and farm animals from hostile elements. The festival can be observed in Pokhara.

Favourite Travel Links

My Favourite Travl Websites
1. http://www.itopc.org/ : Website of Indian Tour Operators Promotion Council