During the last nine days of July, 2015, my girlfriend Nina and I went on our first “an adventure of lifetime” trip to China. Now that her kids are grown up and out of the house, and we both near fifty years of age, it’s time for both of us to truly enjoy our lives.
Last year, we set out to go on as many “adventures of a lifetime” as possible. Since we both have previously traveled to parts of Europe and throughout the Americas, we decided to go somewhere exotic, somewhere completely foreign to us.
After watching a PBS Nova program on the Terracotta Warriors a few years back, I knew I would have to go see them for myself one day. And so, China seemed like an obvious first choice my big adventure. Nina easily agreed. And so our adventure began.
The following is a photographic essay of our travels. In Part I, I will cover a couple major attractions in the nation’s capital, Beijing. I’ll also share some of the wonders of Beijing evening street life. In Part II, I will take you with me to see the Terracotta Warriors and visit a few temples and parks. I hope this collection of pictures will help readers appreciate the great beauty offered by a nation that often seems so foreign to most Americans…like myself.
(Nina and I on the Great Wall)
Ever wonder what it would be like to wander the streets of the Forbidden City? Built in 1420 by the Ming dynasty, this place in nearly unimaginable. Within the walls there are 980 buildings covering 180 acres. Construction of the city took 14 years and more than one million workers. An entire day can easily sweep by without seeing all the buildings, let alone what is inside them.
(Just inside the main Meridian Gate of the Forbidden City)
One of the first things a visitor will notice about the Forbidden City are the seemingly endless large courtyards throughout the city. There are actually three main courts and at least six smaller flanking courts.
For nearly 500 years, the Forbidden City served as the emperor’s home and was the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government.
Touching the dragon is believed to bring good fortunes in the coming year.
One interesting and curious feature of the imperial garden within the Forbidden City is the large and small rock formations and statues. Caves are carved into some. Accessible by stairs carved into the rock, a small temple sits atop one such rock formation.
Tall walls divide parts of the city to keep visitors, government officials, family, eunuchs, and concubines apart.
The Northwest corner tower with moat.
One thing universal, no matter where you travel, parents want pictures of their children.
Just outside the walls of the Forbidden City are the buildings representing the new center of political power. Tiananmen Square. The towering walls of the Forbidden City on the north side of the square, the Great Hall of People, the National Museum of China, and the Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall tower around the massive square (the fourth largest public square in the world). Huge monuments to the “heroes of the (1949) revolution” are located near Mao’s mausoleum.
Across from the square, the Chinese army stand guard and raise the flag in front of the out wall of the Forbidden City.
The Great Hall of People is primarily used legislative and ceremonial activities by the Communist Party of China. The Chinese parliament, or the National People’s Congress, uses this building when in full session. The Great Hall is also used for special political events, anniversaries, and memorial services.
The Monument of the People’s Heroes located nearly in the center of the square.
The National Museum of China. The museum is said to house a collection of art, “covering Chinese history from the Yuanmou Man of 1.7 million years ago to the end of the Qing Dynasty (the last imperial dynasty), has a permanent collection of 1,050,000 items, with many precious and rare artifacts not to be found in museums anywhere else in China or the rest of the world.” I missed touring the museum this time, however, next time I’m in Beijing, I plan on going inside.
Sporting an Expats Post t-shirt, I pose in front of Mao’s Mausoleum. Undoubtedly the main event at Tiananmen Square. Extremely long lines formed in front of the building over an hour before it opened and continued throughout the day. Inside, two lines four people wide moved quickly past the crystal coffin contained their beloved Chairman Mao Zedong’s embalmed corpse. Nina and I decided to skip that tour.
Perhaps our visit to China was not during the most apropos time of the year. Spring and fall are commonly considered the best times of the year. While we were there, we learned the months of July and August are commonly called “The Great Heat”.
In the evening, the Chinese people come out in mass. As the temperatures cool, street vendors open up their carts and kiosks for business as pedestrians, rickshaws, and electric motorbikes crowd up the streets and narrow alley ways.
One evening, Nina and I explored an alleyway off Dongdan Dong street. The Dongdan district is very affluent and would feel very familiar to most western tourists. However, one peak into the an alleyway and a whole new world opens up.
Common street food included deep fried snakes, grasshoppers, rats, and scorpions served on wooden skewers.
One evening, we stumbled on a bit of street theater.
Along with her floating moves, this performer entertained us with mesmerizing and somewhat haunting vocals
Sweetened bean curd on Chinese bread.
Muslim food vendors offering meat skewers and pounding out taffy.
Lakeside strolls in the Xicheng district in Beijing.
Rickshaw rides around the lakes.
Commercial shops in the Quinman district.
Qianman district, across from the Front Gate of Tiananman Square.