Today was the most active day we have had on this trip. I remember looking at my Fitbit and we had over 8,000 steps by 10 am. The extreme heat required sunglasses, sunscreen, and many water bottles. I think ice water is what I miss most about the U.S. Since it is unsafe to drink tap water here, no one makes ice, so on hot days, warm bottled water is not refreshing.
First, we visited Tiananmen Square. Before coming to China, I was unaware about the incidents that happened here. Uncle Joe taught us about the failed revolution against the Chinese government. I feel proud that students our age fought for their beliefs, even though it ended up being unsuccessful. The line to see Chairman Mao was insanely long; people were waiting for hours to walk by his tomb for about two minutes.
Next, we toured the Forbidden City, which is directly behind Tiananmen Square. It is much bigger than I imagined, but Uncle Joe explained how the emperor used each different part of the city. The intricate architecture, paintings on the buildings, and carved stone amazed me. My favorite part was the garden at the end of the city. There were abstract stone structures among the flower beds and a koi pond in the back. The garden’s atmosphere was relaxing and soothing after a long tour of the city.
After walking through the Forbidden City for two hours, we were all worn out. We took rickshaws through Hutong, a historical neighborhood in Beijing. The simple one-story brick houses were separated by narrow allies. We even got to tour a house who had been passed down in the same family for over 150 years. The man who lived there was most proud of the antique furniture that his ancestors once used. He prefers to live in his house with a small court yard instead of in the high-rise apartment buildings that surround Beijing.
At lunch, Jordan, Frankie, and Jake ate chicken brain. They definitely have more guts (and now brains) than me, but I’ll stick to the chicken breast. So far, this trip has exposed me to strange foods, but I try to embrace the different culture as much as I can.
Finally, we visited the Temple of Heaven. We attended a Tai Chi class in the parks below the temple. Our amazing Tai Chi attracted a crowd to watch us (by now, we are probably famous on Chinese Facebook). As we walked to the temple, many retired people were playing cards and other board games. The patio area below the temple was square and painted green, while actual temple was circular and painted blue. Uncle Joe explained that this represents that the earth is flat, and heaven is round, a common belief among ancient Chinese people.
Today was eventful and I enjoyed learning about the Ching and Ming dynasties, but I am exhausted. I have to be up at 5:30 am to take a train to Xi’an, so I’m going to bed J
Goodnight from Beijing!