Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Drum Performance at The Drum Tower: Rythmic Combination of Music and Chinese History

                     I find the Chinese way of drum beating fascinating , there's something about it that conveys a different message, unlike other drum beating performances in other parts of the world that sound merely celebratory. When I learned that there's a drum performance at Beijing's Drum Tower I thought it would be worth my time. I decided to spend my last afternoon in Beijing at the imposing tower in the northern part of the city , in Dongcheng District to be exact.

               As early as in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220) in China, telling the time by drum played an important role in helping people live and work when there was no other way to keep track of the time. As a result, drum towers were built in almost every city throughout the country . The capital city's Drum Tower is a prominent structure.It is a two-storey building that is 48 meters high. The first floor is now used as an office,that's what a lady told us when we entered a room in the ground floor thinking that it was another exhibition hall.Actually, only the second floor contains the drums. Originally, there was one big drum and 24 smaller drums displayed on the second floor, but only the big drum remains.


               I had a limited time.I scheduled the visit to the drum tower few hours before my return flight to Manila so I had to rush.Good thing the tower was just a walking distance from the subway station.When I got to the ticket booth I was told that the next performance would be at 4:15PM. I hastily climbed the tower through the stairs and I tell you it's not for the physically impaired.The steps are incredibly steep and treacherous. I only had like two minutes to catch my breath before the performance would start.The drummers were already falling in line preparing for their entrance.I was surprised that the drummers were  teenagers.I think there were two girls in the group.Every visitor was quite but obviously excited.One of the drummers started to hit the biggest drum first. He started beating it slowly until the rest of the drummers followed suit by beating the smaller drums. After few minutes they started beating the drums fast.
The show turned out to be well-choreographed. It wasn't just a mere beating of drums.It was also like a rythmic combination of music and chinese history that we were watching and listening to.
The drummers were mesmerizing to watch. You can see their  intense passion for it. I was fascinated by their precise movements. Their hands moved rapidly and fluidly across the drums’ surface creating different sounds. It was definitely worth the 15 yuan that I paid for the ticket. I highly recommend this for those who plan to visit Beijing.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Qianmen , Another Glimpse Into the Old Life in Beijing

        While doing my research for my trip to Beijing I came across photos of a street lined with buildings that resembled old chinese structures. I found out that it is an old mercantile centre of shops in Beijing. Qianmen runs from Jianlou (the Archery Tower) of Zhengyangmen in the north to Tiantan Park in the south.  The street is lined with buildings whose architecture resembles the buildings in the late Qing Dynasty 1644 --- 1911(although I doubt if the buildings are the original structures since there were a lot of demolition that took place in the area before the Olympics).These nice structures are still used as restaurants ,and now some are souvenir stores and shops that house international brands.

       For those who love to shop they can squeeze in a few hours of shopping in their "sightseeing time" as it's easy to drop by at Qianmen.It is near the famous Beijing landmarks and tourist spots like Tian'amen square, Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven. The prices in the shops of Qianmen seemed to be more expensive though compared to the other shopping area of Beijing. There were shops in the Wangfujing area where I bought some souvenirs and a scarf from and the asking prices were lower than the ones in Qianmen.If you couldn't afford to shop at Qianmen you could just marvel at the nice buildings that would make you feel like you've time traveled back to the 17th century. You will also enjoy checking out the interesting and colorful knick knacks inside the souvenir shops.
        Aside from the shops another good reason to visit Qianmen is the gate in Beijing's historic city wall called Zhengyangmen ( Qianmen is actually the colloquial name for Zhengyangmen). 
Zhengyangmen was first built in 1419 .It's consisted of the gatehouse proper and an archery tower. The gate guarded the direct entry into the imperial city. I wanted to go up to the imposing tower but a lady told me that tourists were not allowed ( at least that's how I read her hand gestures). I envied the kids who were waving at everyone below , I wondered how they had gotten up there.The city's first railway station, known as the Qianmen Station, was built just outside the gate.                              

Railway Museum