In the Land of Mao
I have always been very vocal in my dismay of the Chinese government in relation to conflicts in Tibet and other humanitarian matters, China no matter how powerful a nation it has become has always set aside issues on human rights. But even if how hostile my views on China may be, I can’t deny the fact that I have always been amazed with the country’s history on civilization along with it’s magnificent ancient structures plus the inventions of gunpowder and fireworks, paper making, the compass and to everyone’s surprise – the pasta (since pasta has always been synonymous with Italy or so we thought). And as good fortune may have it, I had the chance to visit Beijing, China for a few days last March 2011 with my Maaa and her friends and dealing with the cold (since it was still winter, although it didn’t snow that year) was mostly what we had to battle with the whole time we were there because coming from a tropical country like the Philippines where it was so sunny before we left, an almost 0°C temperature slapped us in the face the moment we got out from the airport at 1am in the morning. And to think I was just wearing a grey tank top over my coat while the cold still managed to sneak in my feet even with my thick socks and Chuck Taylor’s. So we managed to stay at this very affordable family-owned one-storey hostel within the city, it was a very old place reminiscent of those houses in old Chinese movies where they fight kung fu and break all sorts of things, the place was really neat and they even have a cafe in the middle which the guests who were mostly young backpackers from Europe hung out to check their email and other businesses (oh yeah, Facebook is banned in China by the way, much to my companions’ dismay). I definitely preferred staying there than some other swanky hotel which would have never fit in our budget anyway, and did I mention that the cafe had this really cool roof deck which I only got to know of the morning after, I bet it would have been a great hangout place during the summer. The only problem I had during my trip there was that Indica 1, my ancient Canon350D refused to function but good thing I brought with me a Lomo Fisheye and a roll of film, thus I had very few pictures to document my trip to Beijing (thank God for my companions’ functional cameras and their camera phones!).
So we went to see a lot of the tourist attractions that there was to see but I’ll just mainly focus on the ones that are of top interest to me plus the lack of photographs was very disheartening while making this, I could have showed more photos of the different but equally beautiful places there. So first up would be the very famous and definitely one of the ancient wonders of the world, the 2,000 year old Great Wall of China! I just had to tell that the moment that I saw it I had goosebumps all over and it wasn’t because of the cold, it was just so surreal setting foot in one of the places that has awed me since I was young and being a history buff, it was impossible to wipe off the smile in my face.
Well you probably have your facts already about this great structure but let me just pass on to you some few quick facts – 1.) It is true despite all the arguments and controversies, the Great Wall is visible in space but not at all times to the naked eye (think telescopes), 2.) It took more than 20 dynasties to built it (that’s an awful long time!) and 3.) It is the longest fortification ever built, the structure over 6,000km long.
The Ming Tombs was very grand considering that it houses the mausoleums of the 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. It was such a huge and very peaceful place and I had to refrain myself from running around like a kid who had just discovered a new playground but it was very tempting. Although it was very far from being a playground and only 2 tombs are open to the public (with one of it 27 meters under the earth), but it never had the feel of a mausoleum when we entered. I won’t get much into details of the Ming Tombs and the other structures since the internet can well provide you with more accurate and fascinating facts but what I can say is that the entire construction was just splendid!
Another site that we visited was the Temple of Heaven and we only got to stroll around the vicinity outside the temple because there was an additional entrance fee to go to the temple itself although it can be seen from the outside, my companions just weren’t keen on paying another fee. But I can tell that it was very beautiful from afar and how much more if we got to go inside.. .
Since I didn’t arrange this in the order of how we visited the places, we actually went to the Summer Palace before going to the Temple of Heaven and describing the place as beautiful would be an understatement. The Palace was so perfectly gorgeous and grandiose that if it were not for the cold, I never would have wanted to leave the place. They say that the Kunming Lake which overlooked the palace was usually frozen during the winter but that year it didn’t (sign of the changing times huh?), I also had the chance to climb a Cherry Blossom tree to everyone’s amusement, I just had the urge to climb it and I didn’t care much what the Chinese people thought or said to each other when they saw me, I didn’t understand a word that they were saying anyway.
The last and probably the most jaw-droppingly massive and tiring of all the places that we went to was the Forbidden City, I have to say that these ancient Chinese structures wouldn’t have been as amazing if it weren’t for the megalomaniac emperors that they had. Everything had to made in such huge and colossal manner, anything less than that I don’t think they would’ve approved. You’ve noticed that for sure. One of the symbols of Beijing and perhaps China, the Forbidden City was an imperial palace and located exactly in the middle of Beijing, more quick facts – 1.) It consists of 980 buildings and covers 720,000 m2, 2.) It houses the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world as listed by UNESCO, and 3.) It was the home of emperors and their households for 500 years. I still can’t believe I walked the whole 961 meters from north to south of the entire place!
Well, it was one hell of a historical but rather very fun trip for me, I would’ve never appreciated those places as much if I never had a liking to history and an interest in Mao Tse Tung. I promised myself that I would without doubt go back in a few years or so, I trust China when it comes to preserving their ancient structures (and I wish that the Philippines could do the same too – but whatever is left of our ancient structures?). Me and my boys will climb the Great Wall and ‘stroll around’ the Forbidden City while I lecture them on it’s history for sure.. .
Peace, Love & some RakEnRoll,