Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Great China Adventure: Beijing's Imperial Treasures

I'm not sure when my fascination with China started. I've always been interested in eastern culture, but as someone who studied Japanese for three years in high school and college, you would think my deepest desire would be to head to Tokyo. Nope. For some reason, it has always been China. But I'd put the trip off for years, until this past Fall...

This past Fall, my family decided to send my little sister Jasmine on a European tour with the People to People ambassadorship program (you can check out her website: From Edgard to Europe). I was determine to travel abroad before that little teenager. My aunt, who had seen her children go to Egypt and Italy, also thought it was time she see a bit of the world. She called one morning and asked me if I still wanted to go to China (we both decided a few years ago while watching the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Games that China would be the first country abroad on our world tour). Two days later, our trip was booked, and a few months later, we were in China.

That's a bit of the background info on how this girl from Small Town, Louisiana landed on the other side of the world. The rest of my travel log will feature that breathtaking sights I encountered on my grand adventure of China's golden triangle: Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai.

On our first full day in China we toured Beijing's Imperial Treasures: Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, and The Summer Palace.

The only thing I knew about Tiananmen Square was the haunting image of the 1989 protest against the government. That powerful photo encompassed so much about the shift in China's political climate. Planting my feet in that very square--the largest public square in the world--was really something.

That would be my aunt Cathy with me. She turned out to be the best traveling partner.

Next, we entered The Forbidden City. Walking through The Gate of Heavenly Peace, under the famed portrait of Chairman Mao, it was absolutely awe-inspiring to enter into the 9,999-room compound and see the unbelievable architecture. Do you know why there are only 9,999 rooms and not 10,000? Let's see who can answer that? (If you don't know, ask Google. He'll tell you.)

If there's one thing you'll learn in China, it's that Chairman Mao is very important to the Chinese people--whether they want him to be, or not.

Did I mention it's pretty cold in China during the month of February? I was grateful the street vendors had these funny, but nice and warm, hats and gloves.

Take a look at the amazing detailing. It is unbelievable that the Forbidden Palace is hundreds of years old.

The last place on the agenda for our first day was The Summer Palace. It was built as a retreat for the imperial family during the hot summer months. But, in a way, it became infamous when an Empress Dowager used money that was meant to improve the Imperial Navy to build this huge marble boat. See, every country has a problem with pork belly projects. :)

One of the main structures in the Summer Palace is this beautiful Buddhists temple.

Another feature is The Long Corridor--the longest corridor in the world. What makes this 728-yard corridor even more amazing is that every beam is painted with a different scene from Chinese folklore.

Just look at the detail! It is an amazing sight to behold.

By the end of the first day, everyone was ready to drop. But it was worth it. In less than twelve hours I had witness such history. I knew day one was the start of something truly special.

I was right!

Next up is one of the new seven wonders of the world: The Great Wall of China!