Naples, Italy

Naples is the most populated city in southern Italy on the Bay of Naples. The first established settlement was by the Greeks in the second millennium BC. Became a major cultural center for both the Greeks and the Romans. Its location on the coast of the Bay of Naples made it a strategic and important trading center in Europe. Due to its continual habitation center, one could find many cultural and artistic samples of the different periods of development in Europe.

Bay of Naples
Beautiful view of the water.
People enjoying the sun and water
“Egg Castle” built during the Roman times had seen all the invasion of Naples. It is on the Peninsula of Megaride.
 Mount Vesuvius from Naples, the volcano’s eruption of 79AD destroyed Pompeii.
 See how the street slope and the building built along the slope.

The largest square in Naples is The Piazza del Plebiscito, a pedestrian square with an occasional outdoor concert venue. It was started in the 19th century by King Murat, Napoleon’s brother-in-law in order to dedicate to the emperor. But with the fall of Napoleon and return of the Bourbon rule, Ferdinand I finish the plan and converted the square to the church and dedicated the church to Saint Francis of Paolo who lived at this site in the 15th century when it was a monastery.

The Church of St. Francis of Paolo like the St Peter’s Basilica has colonnades forming a semicircle around the square. The two equestrian bronze statues in front are of the bourbon Kings, Charles III and Ferdinand IV.

Church of San Francesco diPaola

Opposite the Church of St. Francis of Paolo on the other side of the Piazza del Plebiscito is the Royal Palace of Naples. The construction started in the 17th century by Domenico Fontana not until 1734 King Charles III of Spain made it the Royal Palace. Modification and additions continued until the royal family moved to the Palace in Caserta away from the Bay of Naples and away from the danger of a naval invasion.

The Royal Palace of Naples-In 1888 the facade of 169 meters wide was changed by King Umberto I of Savoy to include niches containing statues of the prominent rulers of the Kingdom of Naples from the 12th century.  
Inside the Royal Palace of Naples, we can see the courtyard, an impressive marble grand stairway walled with large marbles. The color of the room is the natural color of the marbles.

 Flank by both sides to complete the square is the Palace of Salerno because it was the private residence of Prince of Salerno, son of Ferdinando IV, and its mirror image Palace of Prefecture, the residence of the Palace Minister.

Palace of Prefecture
Behind the Palace of Prefecture on the top of Vomero hill is the Castel Sant’Elmo and Certosa di San Martino

The Castel Sant’Elmo is a star shape medieval fortress around 1329 and is in a strategic position to overlook the entire city. The Certosa di San Martino was a Carthusian monastery complex but in the 19th century, it was abandoned. Today it is a museum that displays Spanish and Bourbon artifacts. Most noted is the ” Nativity scene “.

Nearby is a shopping area with lots to eat and drink. Galleria Umberto I is a public shopping and social area with private apartments on the third level designed by Emanuele Rocco using similar elements to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan.

Noted: Impressive lemon sherbert served in the lemon cup, made from the halved lemon rind of the size of a fist, certainly quenched the thirst from the heat.

 

Caserta, Italy

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The Palace of Caserta listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. It was built by the Italian architect Luigi Vanvitelli in the 18th century as a Versailles-like residence for the Bourbon Kings of Naples and Sicily. Inside is 1200 rooms decorated in various styles.

After we enter the gate, we have a choice to go to the famous garden or to visit the inside of the palace.  We decided to go to the garden first since it was a nice day.

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Just imagine, this was where all the horse-driven carriages would enter.

As we go through this paved pathway, a 120 hectares garden is on the other side.  The garden was designed according to the natural landscapes as well as the practicality of daily living.  Due to its size, visitors have a choice of horse-driven carriage rides or bikes for a small fee. We even seen some horse back riders. 

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The promenade leading to the fountains and cascades stretches out approximately three kilometers.

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Water come into the first basin from the mouths of two dolphins and a creature of dolphin’s head with claws sculpture by Gaetano Solomone in 1776-1779 of

The first basin is 470 meters long, 27 meters wide and 3 meters deep.  Its 32,000 cubic meters of water served a duo purpose of providing water and at the same time supply the kitchen with plenty of fish.

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Water feed into this fountain from the base of sculptures by Gaetano Salomone. The center figure is Ceres, goddess of Agriculture and Fertility surrounded by cupids and nymphs presenting a medallion symbolizing the Triskelion of Sicily (Cape Peloro, Cape Pachina, Cape Lilibeo). The right and left statues represented the two rivers of Sicily. The other statues are of imposing Triton. The bronze crown of Ceres and other bronze decorative ornaments were removed during the French occupation for other uses.

 

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Fountain of Aeolus – God of Winds Fountain was not completed as the original design.

 

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Fountain of Venus and Adonis. The sculptures show Venus imploring Adonis not to go to the hunt that claimed his life.

The Fountain of Diana and Acteon.  At the center of the fountain is a large cascade of water of 82 meters high.  The water came from a man made cave at the top of the hill.

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Diana annoyed at Acteon for looking at her nudity

 

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Acteon transforming into a deer by Diana and killed by his own dogs

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                                                                                                    The park includes an English Garden.  It is a  botanic garden with a lot of precious and rare plants growing in the garden.  The English Garden started in 1785 at the request of Queen Maria Carolina of Austria, wife of King Ferdinando IV.  The Garden covers 24 hectares contains water ponds of water lilies, meadows, hills and canals are all man made. All trees and plants were brought from all over the world.  Most noted is the sculpture “Bath of Venus”.

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The reception area has a dominating statue of Hercules. Then led up to the Grand Staircase “Staircase of Honor”.

The construction of the Palace of Caserta (Reggia di Caserta) was started in 1752 by Charles VII of Naples, also Charles III of Spain.  Charles had to abdicate his position to become the King of Spain.  His successor and son, Ferdinand IV  became the King of Naples and Sicily continued with his plan.  The palace is the largest Baroque-style royal residence in the 18th-century model after the Palace of Versailles.

Overlooking the Grand Staircase are marble Statues of Merit, Royal Majesty, and Truth. Then the stairs parts up to the sides to enter the Chapel and the Royal apartments.
The fresco is of Temple of Apollo. The dome 42 meters above the Grand Staircase is fake. Fantastically decorated and masterfully constructed, to hide the musicians who play upon the King’s arrival as if the music from heaven greets the King.
Stairs leading up to the Chapel and the Royal Apartments. The columns and arches resemble the entrance of the temples.
The three out of eight represents the spirit of art by Tommaso Bucciano, in the first anti-chamber

The vault ceiling fresco shows off the weapons of Casa Borbone supported by the virtues, by Domenico Mondo in the first ante-chamber
Some toys for the Royal children.
Cradles of the Princes of Savoy
Telemachus saved by Minerva from Cupid’s dart by Franz Hill
Bourbon Nativity the Family’s great passion, and
whence the Neapolitan tradition of the Nativity originated.


**A side note: Caserta has very good oven-baked piazza that we devour on the train back to
Rome. Did not allow time to take pictures.
Hall of Spring designed by Carlos Vanvitelli for the living quarters of King Ferdinand and Queen Maria Carolina.

Ho Chi Ming City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Ming City (formerly Saigon) is the commercial center of Vietnam as Hanoi is the political center of Vietnam.  Ho Chi Ming City is in the southeast of Vietnam surrounding the Saigon River.  This metropolis city is the most visited in Vietnam.

Ho Chi Ming City Hall
Ho Chi Ming City Hall

 

 

Municipal Theater
The Municipal Theater of Ho Chi Ming City. It was constructed in 1900 by the French during its colonial rule. It is of a typical French architectural style. During the time of North and South Vietnam, it was where the Lower House assemble. Not until 1975 it was again an Opera House and restored in 1995.

 

 

 

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The Central Post Office of Ho Chi Ming City was constructed (1886-1891) during the French occupation in the French Colonial style.

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The spectacular interior of the 19th century Central Post Office, with telephone booth and world time clocks. It is still functional at this time of e-mails and mobile phones!

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In front of the cathedral are a flower garden and a statue of the Virgin Mary which had been reported seen tears in Oct. 2005.

 

Not too far from the Central Post Office is the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon.  Constructed in 1863-1880 and the Bell Towers were added in 1895 makes it 57.6 meters tall, with the addition of the crosses made it 60.5 meters tall.

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The famous delicious Vietnamese coffee is a culture acquired from the French.

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South Vietnamese water puppet show.

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The Thien Hau Temple is a Chinese style temple worshiping MaZhu. First built in 1760 and continually made add-on and repairs.

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Many worshipers inside during the Chinese New Year creating smoking mist with incense burning.

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plaques on the wall depicting the original ties of the temple.

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The beautiful Mekong Rest Stop where we had lunch

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Our delicious Vietnamese lunch

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Along the way to Mekong Delta, we come to Vinh Trang Temple. First, come to be in 1849, then partially destroy through various wars, finally rebuilt and restored in 1907. One of the major Buddhist temples in South Vietnam.

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Shakyamuni Buddha lying posture going into Nirvana is one of the statues in Vinh Trang Temple ground

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Happy Buddha is also there. Greeting everyone there

Amitabha Buddha welcoming everyone. He is also on top of the two gates leading to the ground of Vinh Trang Temple.  One is named the convenient Dharma gate and the other is the gate of pureness.20180218_132024_001-COLLAGE (1)

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The bridge is where Mekong River goes out to sea

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Boat ride in Mekong Delta

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Our delicious meal made of various dishes of rice or rice flour.

 

Nanjing’s Qixia Mountain(棲霞山) Presidential Palace & 1912 Bar Street

Qixia Mountain has a variety of maple trees render it a spectacular place to visit in the autumn when the foliage becomes colorful.

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Entrance to Qixia Mountain Scenic Area where one can buy tickets for the bus to take you around the mountain to various scenic sites or buy tickets to Qixia Temple.

When we arrived at Qixia, the foliage was only starting to turn.  Therefore we just visit the Qixia Temple considered to be the birthplace of the “Three Treatise” school of East Asia Buddhism.  Built-in AD 489 contained a large collection of visual arts associated with Buddhism and continuously add on during different Dynasties.  It was destroyed by Taiping rebellion and restored by the Republic of China.  However, it was ransacked by the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution.

The way to Qixia Temple

gateway into the Qixia Temple

The Pagoda in the middle of the lake is connected to the bank by a Nine Bend Bridge which makes it look like a rainbow.

 

This place has very nice sou-venir shops.  The first site we came to is Mirror Lake. It was created during the Qing Dynasty during Emperor Qianlong’s reign.

Mirror Lake created in 1644-1911

 

 

 

 

 

Going up the slope of Qixia Mountain we come upon the “Thousand Buddha Caves”.  The grotto contains many Buddhist sculptures of art.

Thousand Buddha Cave

The largest is Buddha of immeasurable life is the exact depiction of Buddha of Immeasurable Life in the Southern Dynasty around the year 489 and his attendant Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta bodhisattvas.  This is the oldest statue here which is 1528 years old.

 

 

 

 

Here is a closer look at the  Buddha caves.

Sarira Pagoda is of octagonal shape, 5 stories total 18 meters high. Highly decorated with carvings. Built-in 601 re-built in 945, holds the relics of Buddhas. The pagoda is a little worn but its underground is still in pristine condition.

Pilu Hall (毗卢殿) house a statue of Vairocana Buddha- Primordial Buddha

The Shanmen, the official entrance into the Qixia temple. The three archway is a symbol of entering the three liberation door.

Qixia Temple took in refugees during the Nanking Massacre. Saving 23000 lives from the Japanese.

Presidential Palace

This was the center of government for the Republic of China before 1949

Bar Street of 1912 was where the center of entertainment.  Bring back the nostalgia.  German brewery was new and in fashion.

old German brewery equipment

Where Chinese beer was made and sold

The modern cafe moved in to keep this area viable still.

This restaurant was popular in 1912 and kept the place the same. Even the menu is the same with some new addition.

Our dinner from the Red Restaurant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zhongshan Mountain National Park ( 鐘山 “紫金山” 風景區: 美齡宮,明孝陵,灵谷景區,中山陵,音樂台)

Zhongshan Mountain located in the suburb of eastern Nanjing, also known as the Purple Mountain.  It is one of the small mountains that only consists of 31 square kilometers but contains 200 heritage and scenic sites to visit.  Basically, we can divide into five must-see sites which are the Ming Tombs ( Ming Xiaoling), Linggu Temple, Dr. Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, Mei-ling Palace (actually a villa), Music Stage, Ocean World.  Although shuttle cars are available to take you to different areas because each of these areas covers a lot of grounds making much walking necessary.   Attempts to cover all in one day will be futile.  One must leave something for another day.

Ming Mausoleum construction started in 1381 and end in 1405.  First constructed as the tomb for the Ming emperors but then the capital was moved to Beijing and all the succeeding Ming emperors were buried in the Ming Tomb of Beijing. Moving toward the Ming Mausoleum is a sacred way (神道)guarded by 6 pairs of stone animal statues of the Ming period carvings,  both in standing and sitting position.

This path guarded by standing elephant

 

 

Path guarded by camels.

Samples of the stone statues of other animals below.

The path curved to avoid going through the tomb of Sun Quan of the kingdom of Wu during the period of three kingdoms and others.  The path continued turning onto Wengzhong Way guarded by four pairs of stone figures of ministers and generals.

a pair of stone statue of generals along the Wengzhong way

a stone statue of Ming minis

 

 

The first gate we come to into the Ming Tomb is the Civil and Military Gate. The Emperors enter through the center gate. The right gate is for the Prince and Princess. The left gate is for the Lords and Nobles.

Tablet was erected by Qing Emperor Kangxi extolling the Ming Dynasty.

Then we come to the Tablet Hall, which was renovated by
Qing Emperor Kangxi on his order to protect the Ming Tomb during his visit to pay homage, an action to pacify the rebels of the Ming Dynasty at the time.

Finally, the Ming Tower appears.  Built above a rectangular Citadel has the commanding post of the Ming Mausoleum.  The Southern side has three arch doorways and one each on the other three sides.

The inside is paved with square stone bricks

Inside the Ming Tower

Going up inside the stone Citadel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mei-ling Palace (美齡宮) was the villa built for Soong Mei-ling the first lady and wife of Chiang Kai-Shek, Chairman of the National Government.  The mansion was purposely built as a love nest for the couple and they spend much time there.  The roof has 1000 phoenixes carved on the tiles and there were 34 marble pillars with a phoenix carved on top of it for the 34 birthdays of Madam Soong Mei-Ling.

see these trees planted around the villa and along the ring road

A 2000 square meter mansion has separate offices for secretary of Chang Kai-Shek and Soong Mei-ling as well as live-in quarters for guards and servants.

An aerial view will show the trees form a necklace with the villa as the diamond of the necklace. The mansion was built with a mix of Chinese and Western styles and was also used as a relax official entertaining site.

There is an exhibition of Madame Soong Mei-ling’s paintings with President Chang Kai-Shek’s calligraphy.  Madame Soong Meiling had many accomplishments, mainly associated with seeing China through the most difficult times of early Republic and the time of Japanese aggression as well as World War II.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Mausoleum covers an area of 20 acres. This is the burial site of Dr. Sun Yat-Senn (1866-1925), the “Father of the Republic of China”.   He successfully led the Chinese revolution against the Qing Dynasty which ended the monarchy rules of the past to the modern democratic system for the people.  His doctrine of the “Three Principles of the People”  became the main philosophy guiding the Chinese government. The Mausoleum is closed on Mondays.  We will need revisit at another time.

The Arched gate preceding the Sun Yat-Sen’s Mausoleum inscribed his words “Universal Love”

On top of the stairs is the Mausoleum with inscription “World of Justice” advocated by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen

Seen from the closed gate is the stele inscribed “Here lies the Chairman of Kuomintang, Sun Yat-Sen

 

 

 

 

 

The open-air music stage is nearby the Sun Yat-Sen’s Mausoleum.  It is a stage for musical performances and speeches.

Xuanwu Lake(玄武湖) & Ji Ming Temple (雞鳴寺)of Nanjing, China

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XuanWu Gate, is the main entrance of XuanWu Park.   It is part of the old Nanjing’s city wall built in Ming Dynasty and the gate itself was reconstructed when XuanWu park opened to the public.

XuanWu Park used to be a royal park where emperors and his entourages hunt and have outings.  At other times it was a training ground for soldiers to enact fighting on the water.  Only after China became a republic that it was open to the public as a park.  It is the largest park with an enclosed lake on the ground in JianSu province.  XuanWu Lake comprises five islands connected by arch bridges.  The park always has many activities  and exhibitions going on and is a must visit attraction all year round.  20191110_150809-effects-collage

JiMing Temple borders the XuanWu Park on its southeastern side connected to the old Nanjing city wall. It is one of the oldest temple in Nanjing.  The original temple was build in 527 during the Liang Dynasty.  Since then, it was destroyed and reconstructed many times at different periods.  JiMing literal definition means the crowing rooster. Legend has it that there was once a poisonous centipede in the mountain of  JinHua,  embanking XuanWu Lake harming nearby people and animals. The Jade Emperor in heaven send the crowing rooster to control the devious centipede.  Even thou the crowing frightened the centipede, it did not impede its action.  The brave rooster sought to combat the centipede.  After a fierce fight, the centipede died but the rooster was badly poisoned by the centipede died too.  The people named the temple JiMing to commemorate the rooster.

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south-side of the Old Nanjing City Wall built in Ming Dynasty.

The temple for Kwan Yin Bodhisattva of Compassion _
Kwan Yin temple, Bodhisattva of Compassion

 

Nanjing, China “Confucius Temple & Qin Huai Area”

Nanjing, China, the ancient city, Jinling, situated at the Yangtze River Delta, and has historically served, on and off, as the governing center of China since the 3rd century to 1949.  It has been an important center of arts, cultures, and educational,  with  these continuous influences made Nanjing the nation’s most civilized city thus winning the 2008 U.N. Habitat Scroll of Honor Award.

 

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The Temple of Confucius, the first philosopher, and educator of China, showing here, his statue with his eight disciples on each side.

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Inside Confucius Temple is where people come to pray for good luck on exams as most scholars since 1034.  The present temple was build in 1984, o n the original site, after it was burned down by the Japanese in 1937.

Not far from here is the Museum of Imperial Exam and Imperial Academy.  Nearby is the Qin Hai River where scholars used to gather in tea houses on its water banks.

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The longest screen in China facing the Confucius Temple.  Where one can hire a boat to float along the Qin Huai River taking in the sight of this ancient marketplace.

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Scenes of the Qin Huai River

Here are a glimpse of the things in the market place.

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With in this area is the old residence of the famous Chinese statesman, philosopher, and poet, naming the “Black  Clothes Lane” whether it was named because during the Three Kingdom Period,  it was the barracks of soldiers who wore black uniform or the nobles at the time prefer to show dignity in black clothes.  During the Tang Dynasty, a poet named Liu Yuxi wrote a poem:  (It goes something like this:

Wild flowers flourish along the Zhuque Bridge                         The sun sets at the end of Wuyi Lane                                           The swallows that had swarm the place                                      Had all flown to normal homes

Another often visited place of the locals when they seek the leisure of times gone by is a walk through Old Gate East.