Yingjie Museum of Stone Art

A unique museum

The Beijing Yingjie Museum of Stone Art is located in “A.C. Museum Hotel” in A.C. Embassy Hotel on Dongzhimenwai Avenue, pretty close to the well-known Paddy O’Shea bar.

The complete hotel is pretty much like an art museum but the Yingjie Museum of Stone Art is a pretty unique attraction in the basement of the hotel, accessible through an elevator.
It is not well known, which is a pity. The Yingjie Museum of Stone Art is dedicated to art in stones, most straight from Mother Nature. The “paintings” you see are thin slices of natural stones but they look like paintings of forests, rivers and anything according to your imagination.
Near the hotel lobby there is even an “Art Stone Bar”. Nearby more galleries with paintings and other art.

The website mentioned in their leaflet, www.acartmuseum.com,  actually goes to this website, no English. There are many pictures and videos but all in Chinese.

A lot to admire

We were invited to a VIP tour on 14 September 2023 and we were very impressed.
Most of the exhibits are related to natural stones, artwork with inlaid stones, statues, stalagmites, but also paintings (one from a Belgian artist), African art, Chinese antiques, European antique furniture and more.

Even the walls and the floors are pieces of art! Everything is of superb quality and craftmanship.
There is a section not open to the public where repairs are made, among other activities.

Ming City Wall Ruins Park

Walking along the old city wall

As mentioned in a previous post after the Observatory talk, we had lunch and then journey south to the Ming City Wall Ruins Park and walk along the base of the walls with in-depth commentary and historical anecdotes provided by Jim Nobles. The tour of the corner tower was not possible that day due to another event. We started at the east section near the railways station where you can see the inner structure of the massive wall. We then went south turning around the corner tower.
Starting 10:30 AM the tour concluded at Chongwenmen subway station around 5:00 PM. It was another great event by The Royal Asiatic Society of Beijing.

The Beijing Ming City Wall Ruins Park is a park in Beijing with the longest and best preserved section of the Ming Dynasty city wall. The park is located 3 km from the city center and extends east from Chongwenmen to Dongbianmen and then north to near to Beijing Railway Station East Street. The park features a 1.5 km section of the Ming city wall and the Southeast Corner Tower, which are over 550 years old and surrounded by a lovely green park space to the south and east, where people gather to relax and play music.

Map of Beijing’s Ming City walls (Wikipedia)

The city wall from Chongwenmen to the Southeast Corner Tower in the early 1900s overlooking the moat and the Huashi neighborhood. The Corner Tower in 1921, after a gate was opened in the wall for railway tracks when the Beijing–Fengtian Railway was built over the moat outside the wall.

History of the wall

Preserved is a section of the Ming city wall and the Southeast Corner Tower, that once connected Chongwenmen and Dongbianmen, two city gates that have been replaced with roadway intersections. A shorter section of the eastern city wall is separated from the corner tower by a railway out of the Beijing railway station. The Beijing railway station and its rail depots occupy the area immediately north of the park.

The inner city wall was built during the Ming Dynasty in 1419. The Ming city walls stood for nearly 550 years until the early 1960s when most of the gates and walls were torn down to build the Beijing Subway, which runs underneath where the walls stood. The subway’s inner loop line turned into the Inner City at Chongwenmen to stop at the Beijing railway station, and did not need to run beneath a section of the wall at the southeast corner of the Inner City. Of the 40 km of the original wall, only this 1.5 km section was spared.

In the late 1990s, the city government decided convert the remnants of the wall into a park and relocate the small businesses and homes between the foot of the southern city wall and Chongwenmen East Avenue. Construction began in November 2001. Large trees that stood in the courtyards were preserved. To preserve the historical integrity of the fortifications, the authorities solicited donations of Ming era bricks from city residents to use in the restoration. About of one-fifth of 2,000,000 bricks used in the restoration are from the Ming-era.

The Southeast Corner Tower was built from 1436 to 1439 and is a major state-protected historical site. The tower, which rises 29 m in height with 144 archery windows, is the largest corner tower still standing in China. The tower could house 200 soldiers and has ramps for soldiers and horses. Inside the tower is an exhibit on the history of the city’s Ming-era walls. The Red Gate Gallery, a privately managed, non-profit contemporary art gallery opened in 1991 inside the tower and operated for over two decades before moving to the 798 Art Zone.

The inner city wall stood 11.4 m high and were topped with battlements that rose a further 1.9 m. The wall, lined with brick and filled with rammed earth, was 19.8 m thick at the foundation and 16 m at the top. Bastions protruding on the outside face of the wall are locally known as mamian or “horse face”. The bastions were spaced about 80 m apart, allowed archers to fire at attackers from three sides. The restored fortification has 11 bastions on the southern wall and two bastions on the shorter eastern wall. Only the battlements of the corner tower and one bastion has been fully restored.
During its history the city wall was never breached and artillery could not bring it down due to its massive construction. The city was penetrated at the gates.

Also on the park grounds is a restored signal house of the Beijing–Fengtian (Jingfeng) Railway built in 1901.

Beijing Ancient Observatory

The Royal Asiatic Society of Beijing

The Royal Asiatic Society of Beijing organized a journey back in time with a visit to the Beijing Ancient Observatory and Ming City Wall Ruins Park on 14 April 2019.
This the detailed overview as announced in my previous post.
The private tour of the Beijing Ancient Observatory was with commentary by a local expert on the history and the various astronomical devices.
This is the first part, about the observatory. Next post will be about the Ming City Wall Ruins Park.
The Beijing Ancient Observatory is located south of Jianguomen subway Exit C. See the view from the diplomatic apartments near the flyover, where I also lived for a few years in the eighties, see the red building. Some views from the observatory on the Second Ring and Chang’An Avenue.

Built in 1442 during the Ming Dynasty, this observatory is one of the oldest in the world. As the Emperor was considered the “Son of Heaven”, astronomy and the movement of the planets and stars were extremely important to Chinese cosmology. Later it was updated with the help of European Jesuits including Ferdinand Verbiest and Adam Schall von Bell.

The tour

See the pictures of the instruments with some of the explanations. We had a VIP visit to the observatory under a blue sky, followed by a tour of the exhibition halls, exhibits and statues in the courtyard. Some children were also visiting and making drawings of the instruments. See the pictures of the exhibition area.
As an engineer I was amazed by the complexity and ingenuity of the instruments. To be honest, no clue how those worked!
Our Ferdinand Verbiest is prominently displayed.

Recent book

Veerle De Vos wrote a book in Dutch about Ferdinand Verbiest “Ferdinand Verbiest en de ontdekking van China. Alles onder de hemel” published by Pelckmans.

See her interview here.
And her interview on VRT

Impressive industries in Yantai

A day tour

On 19 April 2023 the Foreign Affairs Bureau of Yantai organized a bus to visit some impressive industries in Yantai area. Visits in the morning and in the afternoon the day after the Conference.
I was impressed by the scale and quality of the offices and factories we visited. The bio-medical facilities and other were spread over a huge campus with the most modern buildings and most advanced equipment.
One can wonder what Europe can still do to compete with those.
We did not visit any company with foreign investment. All were pure Chinese, private companies but clearly with very strong government support.

An eye-opener. Yes one can ask if China is still a “developing country”…
In some of the bio-medical facilities a few foreign doctors are employed.
My good friend Michel Humbert was sadly not around, he is the adviser of Yantai but was in Paris that day. About him:
2 June 2022 – Michel Humbert nommé Ambassadeur de l‘amitié du Shandong
18 July 2003 – Frenchman Chez Lui in Yantai

Six companies.

See a more detailed overview of the six companies we visited.

The pictures are in the order of the companies we visited:

  1. Shandong Dongyi Photoelectric Instrument Co., Ltd.
  2. CIMC Raffles
  3. Lu Ye Pharma – BIOasis
  4. Tayho Advanced Materials Group
  5. ZH-BIO
  6. Exhibition Center of Yantai International Bio-medicine Valley

One pharmaceutical company invested in research for over ten years without any income. Now their cancer medicine is mostly sold to the USA with big profit…
In the afternoon visits we traveled far away from the city and crossed immense petrochemical industries with kilometers of pipeline racks along the roads, to reach Tayho company.
The pictures show the very large industrial zones with the most modern buildings.

Yantai International Conference

Big turnout

As reported earlier, I joined the 2023 Conference on International Exchange of Professionals and International Experts’ Tour in Yantai. On 18 April 2023 I was present in the Yantai International Conference to listen to the speeches of the Yantai mayor and vice mayors, among others. Yantai as many other Chinese cities is eager to attract more foreign expertise.
During the morning coffee break a pretty impressive buffet table by the hotel, sadly most of the goodies I had to skip because too much sweet and carbs. Instead I tried to talk with the robot but it did not understand Flemish.
There was a big lunch for the participants, again lots of seafood and interesting dishes. And an interview by local media. (What’s new?)

In the afternoon I gave my short speech on the theme of foreign experts.

Free time

On 19 April we had time to relax. And the fog cleared and we could see the sea and the beach from the hotel.
We walked towards the beach, discovering the very large cemetery along the way, hidden in a forest. The area was littered with rubbish as a few weeks ago on 5 April 2023 there was the Tomb-sweeping Festival (Qingming) () when relatives decorate the tombs. But they can no longer burn the offerings so the wind blows it all over the place. Not sure how the deceased feel about it…

The beach was nearly deserted but very large and quite OK.
On the way back, in front of the hotel. we discovered a small Chinese BBQ place that was fully packed. We got a seat in the basement. Surprisingly they had a large beer collection and I had a (Belgian) Kasteel beer with the plate of goose. pretty tasty.
In my next post I will report on the factories we visited, an eye-opening experience.