On Halloween we left to head to Beijing for the weekend. We wanted to get there before it got too cold and it was our only weekend in the next few that we could make it work.
We did our “travel reports” on the way (we figured we’d have a few hours so we may as well make the most of it since we couldn’t sneak it in before we left).
Claire and Lucy did their report on the Great Wall of China.
They did a power point and everything, which cracked me up especially because some of their information was a little mixed up. (i.e. the Great Wall is 550 km long in Beijing, not in all…luckily we were able to straighten them out a bit on a few facts when we got there:).
Their enthusiasm about the whole deal was pretty contagious:
The other kids took their turns too, and we skimmed the surface of the history a little deeper after that with our tour guide, but man alive there is a lot of history in Beijing.
After the reports it was time for Trick-or-Treating.
Claire and Lu were pleased as punch with their little boxes of raisins and some candy corn I smuggled back here when I went to my sister’s wedding in Utah.
It’s funny how the little things like candy corn in a foreign country where you can’t get them on Halloween can sure delight you.
The Summer Palace was built in the 1700s and is the largest preserved garden in China. It was built as a little escape from the hot city for Chinese royalty (it is on a lake which I think must have made it a lot cooler in the summers).
It was burned and destroyed but rebuilt in the late 1800s by Empress Dowager Cixi who our tour guide referred to as “The Dragon Lady.” She “retired” there but still kept control of the Chinese empire through her nephew Emperor Guangxu. Much more about the history of that Empress, one of the two most powerful women in Chinese history here.
The little details of this place go on and on and on.
I have no idea how they keep all this painting up so nicely…I asked and our tour guide didn’t know and I even looked it up. Maybe it’s magical. But wow.
Close-up of the ceiling:
Unrelated to the Summer Palace, I have to just be mushy for a second and say how much I love this boy. Every once in a while I just stop and let my heart be filled with gratitude that we get to have him so close and love him up as much as possible while we’re on this little adventure before he leaves us next year.
…and more “galleries” to get there.
Empress Dawager Cixi (Dragon Lady) would be carried up all those steps to pray the first and fifteenth day of each lunar month.
There is a giant Buddha with twenty-five arms inside the tower.
The views were so beautiful from up there.
Loved this picturesque little river town we passed through when we went out the back way.
For dinner Glenn took us to a place for Peking Duck, because I think it’s mandatory dish while visiting Beijing. Ha!
It was a great dinner with even better conversation.
Beijing Night Market
Loved this place.
You can’t really grasp how interesting it was unless I really take you there:
Food in every type of variety is for sale there.
Below are sheep intestines:
Want to eat a turkey with it’s head looking up at you? There you go.
We tried some things…like these candied apples:
The scorpions brought us right back to the desert. So we really needed to eat them right?
After the night market we walked down a big shopping street all lit up before heading back to the hotel.
Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven the next morning was beautiful and filled with history but before we got through to the actual attraction we sure saw some interesting things that drew us in. And I have to share a few videos to give the full effect because there’s no other way to really explain it. First there was the dancing.
We are kind of used to seeing this, it’s super common to see older people doing all kinds of workouts, mostly tai chi all over the place…in parking lots, on the sidewalks, but mostly in parks.
And I think this dancing stuff has become more and more common. But this was different from what we had seen randomly before…it was like this whole area dedicated to all kinds of exercises.
After the dancers we noticed the “stretchers:”
You can’t tell from this picture but there were rows and rows and rows of them all stretching their legs.
And then we got into some more serious stuff with these older guys.
They were amazingly strong!!
The girls joined in one of the dances as we pulled ourselves from the exercisers on our way to the temple (I think we could have stayed and watched for hours.)
I loved walking along the little pathway leading up to the temple, filled with elderly Chinese folks playing games and hanging out on a cold sunny Sunday morning.
Some doing little performances:
The Temple of Heaven was built round because in ancient Chinese culture the symbol for Heaven was a circle, and earth was a square (the gates surrounding it are square). Originally this was a place for emperors to pray and make sacrifices for the harvests on certain days during the lunar calendar.
Being an Emperor in China involved several ritualistic duties, which evolved from one dynasty to the next. In order to validate the system of leadership, it was important for each Emperor to outwardly show his devotion which involved worship at the Temple of Heaven.
Much of the area and the temple itself was ruined during the occupations of the Opium Wars, but in the early 1900s it was rebuilt and made into a public park.
More dancing and enjoyment of the park on the way out (closer to real tai chi):
Lucy, for whatever reason, was in the best mood ever walking out of that temple. Oh boy, she was so happy!
On our way out we were mesmerized by some pretty wicked hackie-sack skills:
We went to church (in our Sunday clothes I didn’t get a picture of before I thought of it), but wanted to show the building where LDS church services take place in Beijing:
We were only there for an hour, but we heard some great messages. The thing I loved most about that hour was standing up and singing with the congregation a song with “Hallelujah” in the chorus. Made me tear up a little. I have tearing-up-problems I think.
We had been here eight years ago (along with most of these other places) but it meant so much more this time around with kids who could really kind of internalize the history a little better this time around.
Whenever I think of Tianamen Square I automatically think of the protests in 1989 as I’m sure most people in our generation do. This part of the trip was Max’s “report” and he showed us the video of “Tank Man” on that infamous day, and helped us think through what happened there.
But other things happened there too. It was once the location of “The Gate of China” that led to the Forbidden City, British and French troops set up camp there when they invaded the city, during Mao Zedong’s reign much many buildings as well as the “Gate” were demolished to make way to build this square for large gatherings.
As we stood there discussing the history with our tour guide, I don’t want to ever forget how I felt. It was an interesting mix of sadness and also a little fear. I can’t really go into detail here, lots of discussion about Mao Zedong, thoughts about how interesting it is that he is made to still be so revered, which led to a discussion about communism and what is happening in Hong Kong, and all the while we were surrounded with video cameras on every light post and with soldiers marching around most places we went (they were getting ready for the APEC conference that next weekend–here). Just some pretty interesting thoughts and discussions were spurred with Dave, our tour guide, and our kids. I hope we will always remember them.
The Forbidden City is where the Emperors lived for 500 years (from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty).
I have to include this picture (below) because it doesn’t look that crowded but I’m telling you, to get up there to take a look at that Imperial Throne through that door was quite a feat. So many people pushing and pulling.
I have a picture of these guys (minus Lu) eight years ago, right in this spot. Wish my external drive was working so I could post it. (I’m having computer issues.)
That night we walked around the “Hutong” area of Beijing (which is really called the Shichahai Area, but has a lot of narrow old streets connected together with traditional Chinese courtyards). I wish we could have seen more of this place like we did eight years ago. We got to go into an old home which I loved. But we were on such a time restraint this time that we just walked around a little bit…
…and walked along the river area nearby…
…and had a traditional Mongolian Hot Pot dinner.
Again, Glenn took such great care of us!
With only a weekend to visit so many important places that made such a mark on the history of China all that we learned is still unfolding as we put together the history in our minds, and will be for a great long time. Everything we have learned in history books has come more to life. The saying is so true that the more you learn, the less you know. The Cultural Revolution in and of itself is such a huge part of history that we only barely scratched the surface of. There is so much to learn from life and how people live it.
But internalizing what we did, I hope we can all let these little seeds of history be a starting point for many things we will continue to learn in the future. Of terror, of hope, of different ways to rule and regulate, of how a whole culture can shift and shake and twist under different dictators. So grateful we got to experience the beginnings of those seeds right here, together.