Brian Salter's Blogs:
Time For China To Introduce A Trades Descriptions Act?

 

Regular blogfans of mine will know that if there is one thing I really hate, it’s the preponderance of copy-and-paste web sites there are around. It’s not just that they copy ideas from others, but even copy entire paragraphs verbatim. And nowhere does that appear to happen more so than here in China.

I was reminded of this recently when passing by one of Beijing’s most eye-catching landmarks, the DeShengMen – 德胜门, or Gate of Virtuous Triumph – which is one of Beijing's few preserved city gates and now stands on the northern 2nd Ring Road.

According to pl.locr.com, worldisround.com, heartofbeijing.blogspot.com, ztopics.com,karolinejohanne.blogspot.com, famouschinese.com and a few others, “In old times, the army would leave Beijing from Xuanwumen and re-enter the city, triumphant, at Deshengmen.”

Not so, argues wikipedia.org, mobilenative.com, beijing-photography.deviantart.com, and hua.umf.maine.edu. “In traditional times, the imperial military would march out of Beijing through Deshengmen, and return through Andingmen, the Gate of Peace and Stability.”

Don’t you think it might be nice just occasionally for someone to actually get off their sit-upons and do some basic research, before copying as fact something they haven’t the faintest clue what they are talking about? Or is that just asking too much in this age of dumbing down, to the point where you cannot believe anything you see in writing any more?

According to kinabaloo.com, XuanWuMen (宣武门) translates as the Gate of Declaration of War, so I guess I’m more inclined to go with their version of events, with the troops returning through DeShengMen – the 'Gate of Virtuous Triumph'. But maybe your favourite blogger is just being too simplistic?

This “fault” of taking things at face value goes way beyond common sense, though. Take Beijing’s Ancient Coin Museum, for instance. You’d think this would be a museum dedicated to showing off coins of the realm with maybe one or two bank notes thrown in for good measure… wouldn’t you? Think again! This is China!

OK… We’ll get back to that little aside in a moment. But back to DeShengMen... Built in 1437, it used to be made up of three structures – the gatehouse, archery tower, and barbican. But in true Beijing fashion, the gatehouse proper was demolished in 1921, and the barbican was severely damaged when the city wall was torn down in 1969 to make way for the second ring road. Today only the archery tower and parts of the barbican remain, relatively well-preserved.

DeShengMen is now a major transportation node with the northern city moat lying to the south side and a bus station and Badaling Expressway on the north side. It’s here that hoards of tourists take the fleets of buses going to the Great Wall at Badaling.

It’s a far cry from what the place looked like 100 years ago during the days of the Republic of China…

And the surrounding area has also changed a tad since then!

But back to that aside … There is an exhibition of ancient coins inside the archery tower (so you see, it wasn’t just my mind wandering off at tangents!). And guess what – it is called the Ancient Coins Museum!

It costs 20 RMB to get in (not 5, 10 or 12 as written up extensively elsewhere); and as I vaguely like coins and have never yet been there, I decide to give it a try. Once through the door, and having parted with a fistful of the readies, I come across a little sign. It’s a map? Well, it says it is; but it seems more intent on telling me the way to the gents’ loo!

The lady on the gate explains in a mixture of rapid Chinese and sign language that although the coin exhibition is straight ahead of me, I should instead turn left and go up the staircase.

And now I discover that this coin museum is actually not just a coin exhibition at all; but also a museum about the ramparts of old Beijing. It’s just that they probably thought that calling it the “Beijing Ancient Coin and City Military Defence Museum” was a touch too long; so they left out the second half and thought that it would make a nice surprise for the unwary visitor.

Of course, if I had done my homework properly before I had left, I would have known this already. But then, what is life without surprises? Articletrader.com sums it up succinctly. (This is a web site that offers articles to others to include in their web sites. But for some unfathomable reason, no one seems to have copy-and-pasted this particular one. I wonder why?)

DeShengMen JianLou situated in mbm1260 meters high above TongWa green, ash ChengTai cut edge double-hipped roof rests the summit, surface broadly seven rooms, after a BaoSha five rooms, the floor stage connects tall 31.9 meters. Foreign three wall fluctuation, a total of four row JianChuang, amounting to 82 holes. Hongwu four years (year) waste yuan dynasty 1371, will build new north walls north walls widened heightening, open the two doors, west gate still called DeShengMen. The north by the stars of xuanwu. Basaltic, so ZhuDao soldiers fought, general through the north troops out of the city. Was named DeShengMen, meaning "virtue", "moral win victory". Since DeShengMen troops encountered battle by arthas: take me AnDingMen respectively, take "swept" and "peace stability" meaning.

Ah, so it too is talking about Xuanwu and AnDingMen too. No wonder there is confusion afoot in the blogosphere…

It is the important gateway to SaiBei matriculating, known as the "army door," said. Ming yongle emperor north signs, qing dynasty emperor kangxi to pacify the zhungaer Dan rebellion, emperor qianlong crackdown on large and small and rebellion all start DeShengMen. During the Ming and qing dynasties, DeShengMen positive intercept from the north of Beijing, the military invasion of the yugoslav capital is the most important position.

Hang on a moment… “Military invasion of the yugoslav capital”??? But there is more…

DeShengMen east wall is placed on a statue cannons, however, this gun not fight with, is a chime use. The daily noon, DeShengMen and Forbidden City at the same time a sound artillery, the city people listen to gun diffculties. However, Beijing person "XuanWuWu gun" but don't say "tecsun afternoon gun", estimate may be Forbidden City kill people total in noon, guns rang head landed, DeShengMen famous than go. DeShengMen WengCheng within the curiosa, should be made in the middle number of a pavilion.

I think I should have stuck with beijingtravelchannel.com, ithraa.com , www.oie.go.th, bengalbreed.com, justlonely.com, atinargentina.com.ar, injaznet.com, hentai-hub.com and a host of others, who all tell me “In addition to learning about coins, a visitor stopping by the museum during the exhibition could get the opportunity of getting an insight into the ancient Beijing city. Ancient door locks, signal cannons too are displayed at the museum since they are with much historical value and cannot be found around the modern city of Beijing any longer.”

I mount the staircase and find myself on top of the parapet leading to the arrow tower and ahead of me are two cannon. Beyond them is an entrance to the arrow tower itself, which I am reliably informed consists of four floors with 82 arrow slits.

I step inside and find I am now in the Deshengmen Gate Exhibition of City Military Defence.

Everywhere there are signs saying photographs are not allowed; but we all know that such signs are only aimed at other people, so I am just lining up my iPhone camera to get a shot of this particularly amazing suit of armour when a Chinese equivalent of Brünhilde mutters horrible oaths at me and signs that photography is NOT ALLOWED.

As she wanders back along the gallery to accost another unfortunate, I take the opportunity to grab a photograph of a photograph of Deshengmen Gate in 1900. But if truth be known, the exhibition isn’t that gripping… or maybe I’m just not fascinated about how much earth was moved to make up a particular section of the battlements around the northern capital.

I wander out of the exhibition room and up another flight of stairs; and find myself in an art gallery. There is a bored looking guy sitting at a desk and his face lights up when he sees a visitor – perhaps even more so as I’m a laowai. I mime to him if it’s OK to look around and he mimes back to me “of course dear fellow. Take your time and enjoy!” I wander along the two walls, feigning interest in some pretty boring pictures – the man’s eyes in turn boring into the back of my neck all the while.

But there is only so much pretence one can keep up for very long, and having got to the end of the second wall of paintings I bid him a fond farewell and step out into the sunshine once again.

Returning the way I had come, I get the distinct impression that I’m approaching the coins section. Why, there’s even a Chinese equivalent of a wishing well where punters are invited to throw their dud coins through the hole in the centre of an oversized coin replica. Sure enough the pit below is full of old mao and fen coins …



The Ancient Coins Museum, which was opened in October 1993, is situated in what is now the reconstructed Zhenwu Temple. Despite it being a coin museum, fully a third of it is devoted to bank notes! But I suspect the exhibition of coins inside the (free entrance) Capital Museum is far bigger than what is on display here anyway.

Some 1,000 coins reflecting the history of China, such as the earliest shell coins from the Yinshang Period, cloth coins, grimace money, coins from every dynasty, and paper money from the Kuomingtang-ruled era are on display here. There are signs prohibiting photography everywhere. But surely they don’t mean me, do they?

I’m particularly taken with a coin depicting the 12 Chinese zodiac animals …

And this being the year of the horse, there is even a mini-display of horse coins…

The coins all come in different shapes and sizes. Some look like swords; some are round and some are square; some have holes through their middles. But by the time I get to the nth cabinet I am already getting a strong feeling of déja-vu …

One of the three display halls in the coin museum is devoted to bank notes. Hang on a moment… that means at most only 40 per cent of the entire museum is devoted to showing off coins!

Another Brünhilde lookalike (or is it the same one in different clothes?) makes threatening gestures along the lines of “oh no, you laowai are all the same! Fancy deliberately flaunting the rules and taking out your iPhone camera to take pictures of our precious coins and banknotes. These signs DO mean you!”

I smile, suitably chastised, and move outside into the sunshine once again, while Brünhilde goes back to muttering to herself about foreigners in general, I suspect. In front of me is a stone stele with inscriptions carved into it. I’m not surprised to read later on that it’s another stele with Emperor Qianlong’s thoughts scribbled on it. He was, after all, a dab hand with the chisel, so rumour has it!

Once again I am grateful to articletrader.com for this elucidation: “Qianlong four years, days without charge, particle drought late qing the emperor to the Ming tombs, to DeShengMen, 2007 is a heavy snow, remove a year, the emperor LongYan big yue summer heat total need for royal poem made "qi snow" tablets 1, have yellow top monuments of the tall building, tablet, make various door of stone incomparable latest said: "tecsun unlikelihood snow".

But who needs the thoughts of Qianlong, when just inches away is a pink magnolia bursting forth in all its glory? Sometimes pictures really do say much more than mere words.