Shenyang Things to Do Tips by mke1963 Top 5 Page for this destination
Shenyang Things to Do: 77 reviews and 113 photos
Beiling Park, surrounding the Zhaoling Tomb of Huangtaiji and his empress, only became a park in 1927. Today, the open grassland, pine forests and shimmering lakes create Shenyang's most popular open space. Despite the numbers of visitors, the park remains peaceful, especially in the northern parts and to the sides of the tomb complex.
It is possible to rent boats, and there are a plethora of small stalls selling ice cream, film, snacks: just wade through the trail of litter to the nearest one, and marvel at the empty litter bins.
For the less fit, electric buggies will whisk you up the ceremonial way to the main entrance of the tomb complex: you pass the least interesting part of the park, and don't miss much.
Address: North of city centre
Passing on through the Long'en Gate, one comes into the inner courtyard where the ancestor-worshipping ceremonies were held. Most of the buildings here are comparatively new, being copies of the originals, but the effect is impressive, spoilt again only by unsympathetic vendors in some corners.
The Long'en Pavilion, the key temple is flanked by small pavilions and the tiny Silk Burning Furnace.
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Returning to the Main Red Gateway, pass the clutter of vendors and through the long archway into the outer complex, where cypress and juniper trees create a cooler atmosphere than outside. In front of you the wide ceremonial way is flanked by stone sculptures of real and imaginary beasts, culminaing in the striking tower of the Standing Stele Pavilion. Here a huge ceremonial stele rides on the back of a tortoise: it is difficult to see the script because of the bars and the dim light inside, but it is an impressive monument to Huangtaiji.
Either side of this tower are four small pavilions: the Fruit Pavilion, the Grain Pavilion, the Tea Pavilion and the Washing Pavilion. The latter three contain interesting displays on the tombs and on the lives of the late Jurchen and early Qing emperors. Regrettably, the Fruit Pavilion has been converted into a cheap souvenit stall, where large numbers of staff loll around smoking and drinking tea. This pavilion is a disgrace, not least because they have placed a film stand outside on the ceremonial way, complete with Pepsi umbrella; there is little respect at many sites in China, either for the ancestors nor the authenticity of experience.
Qing text messages
Just before the sacred bridge, three important sets of small monuments flank the scared way: the Dismounting Stelae, where visiting dignitaries were required to dismount from their horses or sedans and continue on foot. Just past the Dismounting Stelae are the Cloud Pillars and the Stone Lions.
The elegant three-arch sacred bridge is worth a close up look, and is a popular place for taking photographs - always a busy look. This is now the UNESCO World Heritage listed site, as the visitor can tell from all the Pepsi umbrellas and Fuji advertising.
Up the few steps is one of the real treasures of the Zhaoling Tombs, the stone archway. Sadly it has deteriorated very badly and now needs supporting by a steel framework, but this doesn't hide the scale or quality of this magnificent entranceway. Across China, one will see wooden gateways and stone gatehouses, but rarely such an elaborate and powerful structure as this gateway. There are more steps up to the Main Red Gateway, more typical of Ming and Qing dynastic military architecture. Either side of these steps are the Animal Slaughtering Pavilion (left) and the Changing Pavilion (right), an important ceremonial building where emperors changed from their daily wear into the appropriate respectful 'ancestor worshipping' robes. It is worth diverting for a few minutes, passing through the Changing Pavilion and into the plain garden behind. In the far corner is a small gap in the wall, where the remains of the washing pavilion cn be found. Beyond and above the walls the sombre green foliage of pines and cypress trees provide a beautiful backdrop to this tranquil spot. Although the washing baths are now covered in plexiglass to prevent further deterioration, it doesn't take much imagination to picture what a nice place it would be to have a bath!
Standing Stele Pavilion
At the northern end of Shenyang's city centre, lies the Beiling Huyuan or Northern Tombs Park, a vast green space with large lakes and behind these, the beautiful and still peaceful Imperial Tomb complex, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2003 (not in 1982 as local guides would have you believe) as an addition to the Ming and Qing Tombs in the Beijing area.
There are two further tomb complexes to the north-east of the city, as well, the Fuling tomb to the east of Shenyang, burial place of that great Jurchen warrior-king Nurhaci, and the Yongling Tombs some 50km east near Fushun, where earlier ancestors are buried.
The Zhaoling Tomb, in Beiling Park, is where Huantaiji (died in 1643) and his wife Empress Xiaoduanwen are both interred under a huge mound' known as the Treasure Mountain. The stunning complex, of 38 buildings, in front of the burial mound was constructed for successors to worship their venerated ancestor, and was constructed between 1643 to 1651.
In true north-eastern fashion, the whole ensemble is oriented from south to north. These tombs were direct architectural and design successors to the Chinese Ming tradition seen in Beijing and elsewhere. Similar plans and architecture can be seen in Seoul and Suwon (and elsewhere in Korea), albeit with sufficient fusion with Korean traditions to have their own Korean style.
As is common in much of China, many of the buildings are reconstructions, faithful copies of the originals. The Danming Hall, for example, was constructed in 1939 after being destroyed by fire in 1936.
Address: North of city centre
The Taimiao ancestral Taoist temple lies partly in and partly outside the Imperial Palace, originally having its own entrance to the street outside (a particularly attractive gateway as well), but is now only accessible from within.
Originally, this temple was part of the Sanguansi, located outside the Fujinmen, but in 1778, Emperor Qianlong decied he wanted to move it into the palace grounds. Unfortunately, there was little space left in the complex, and the temple had to be compressed and put into a far smaller space than would normally be allowed. As a result, there are no ancestor tablets stored in the imperial temple, but instead the east and west wings were used to store and display important succession papers and other religious documentation.
Nowadays, the temple feels cold and unloved, and although it gets a steady stream of visitors, it lacks a spiritual ambience, just as many Taoist temples do these days, sadly.
Directions: [41.7956, 123.4496]
Zhongshan Square lies at the heart of Shenyang and Chairman Mao lies at the heart of Zhongshan Square.
Probably the best-known remaining statue of the former Chinese leader, who died in 1976.
This statue was originally built in 1969, during the Cultural Revolution, but was the focus of dissent in the early 1990s when protesters poured gasoline on it and set the statue alight.
Ignoring the rather predictable pose of the man himself, the statue complex is a remarkable example of Socialist art from the mid 20th Century. It is worth examining the huddled proletariat around the base, all in fierce mood, seemingly pushing forward and outward from the feet of Mao - presumably the precise desired impact.
Given that Shenyangren are predominantly employed in heavy industry, the masculine strength of these figures remains appropriate today.
As symbolically, Mao remains difficult to reach because the constant heavy traffic around the square makes it extremely dangerous to get close to Mao: now as then, one wrong move and you end up flattened.
Address: Zhongshan Square
Directions: [41.7942, 123.4043]
The Wensu Pavilion
Just as the Dazheng Hall on the far eastern axis is especially worth seeing, so the far western axis is worth a detour (although in mid 2005, the theatre was being restored). The first part of the western axis is the theatre, with the Jiayin Hall behind constructed for Emperor Qianlong to watch the performance, while the remainder of the court huddled together in under the roof at the sides.
The Wensu Pavilion was the royal library and is a different architectural style from other buildings. It also has black tiles as with other imperial libraries: fire was an ever-present risk in these royal palaces, and the black roof tiles symbolized water, so acting as an additional talisman against the ravages of fire in a building full of papers and books.
The Wensu Hall was originally built, again by Qianlong, for storing the great Siku Quanshu encyclopedia of Chinese knowledge. Such was Qianlong’s devotion to studying the classics and learning, that each of the three floors of this library has a study, living quarters and a bedroom, to allow him to stay put while he read! It is notable that Qianlong had no qualms about living “in the air like a Western barbarian” here in Shenyang, yet when the Old Summer Palace was built in Beijing, all the apparently two-storey buildings were just one storey, under his strict instructions!
The Wensu Hall is one of the more eclectic buildings in the Imperial Palace, and still one of the quieter parts of the complex.
Directions: Central Shenyang
Education for three generations
The Shenyang Imperial Palace is worthy of exploration of every nook and cranny, and there is much to be learnt about the site and the Qing dynasty from the many exhibitions and displays in many buildings. The storage and kitchen areas in the long thin garden at the very back lead into the back of the three side axes of the palace as well as the main central axis. Apart from the thin line of barracks and court offices to the east of the upper courtyard, there are two lines of residences for the royal family and relatives – one to the east and one to the west. The line on the west is more interesting, and in particular the Chongmo Pavilion where the records of the Qing ancestors were stored. Although these buildings were all used by the empress dowagers and relatives, it is clear that the visiting emperors used certain buildings as libraries, offices and places for having more fun with concubines.
Directions: Central Shenyang
So that's how the roof gets held up!!
Each of the four buildings at the side of the courtyard were named for particular concubines of Huangtaiji. The building in the south-west corner, to the right of the Fenghuang Tower as the visitor emerges through the gateway, is the birthplace of Fulin, the first Qing emperor of China. His mother, Bumubutai, has developed, over the centuries, a bad reputation as a wily old strategist who stooped to murder to assure the future for her offspring. As with many conspiracy theories surrounding powerful Chinese royal women, there seems to be no evidence of anything other than the usual court politics and positioning for power.
The interiors of all these buildings are in very poor condition, with roof beams rotting and wallpaper (original?) suffering from serious damp. However, unusually, the palace has very good explanatory panels and even an exhibition on the conservation of the complex (in the north-eastern building next to the Qingning Hall).
It is possible to leave the upper courtyard into the rear garden, admiring the huge blank wall of a modern shopping wall that overshadows the entire complex. In context, permission to build this mall here is akin to allowing a multi-storey car-park or a six-storey mall 20 metres from Stonehenge or the Acropolis.
Directions: Central Shenyang
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