We visited so many famous landmarks in and around Beijing this week that I decided to dedicate this post just for them! I have always been curious to understand China’s rich history ever since I took that AP World History course back in high school. Having the opportunity to actually see and touch the sites really deepened my understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture.
Tiananmen & Forbidden City
Our group had the opportunity to visit Tiananmen Square (天安门广场) and the Forbidden City (紫禁城) on a Thursday afternoon during the Dragon Boat Festival. We were led by one of our IES Abroad professors, Jeremiah who gave us a tour. The square was guarded slightly more than other sites and we saw various types of law enforcers. While the square now is primarily a popular tourist spot, I couldn’t shake off the feeling of some tension within the square. It can be easy to get caught in the glamour of China’s exotic culture and forget about some of China’s most controversial events that contribute to the identity of China.
We then headed to the Forbidden City and everything from the walls to the building placements was grand. Although the buildings all look the same, the sheer amount of space the palace took up stood out. It's so large that one invasion failed because the invaders got lost inside the city! There is so much to see there and I hope I get a chance to return and explore more of it.
Great Wall of China Trip
If there's one thing you do when you visit China, it's to visit the Great Wall (長城). This is an optional weekend trip that IES Abroad offers that cost an additional 65RMB. We left the center at around 11am on Friday and within two and a half hours, we arrived at the Great Wall. One moment a bustling city and the next green mountains covered in unique foliage. We went to a lesser-known part of the wall near Jinshanling, and it was perfect because not many tourists were around. However, the hike up there was pretty steep and the only way to get to the wall was to climb the thousands of steps. I definitely got a great workout that day and honestly the payoff was worth it! This particular part of the wall was not restored, so it was so cool to walk along the original.
We stayed overnight at a local village with a farming family. The peaceful countryside and their way of life highly contrasted to the bustling city life in Beijing. The family provided a delicious home cooked dinner and we ate outside overlooking the mountains with the Wall in the near distance. We breathed in the fresh air and had a chance to chat and catch up with one another after a long week of studying. We woke up around 4AM the next morning for a hike to see the sunrise. Once we got up there, our 70-year-old guide decides to smoke! Chinese people never cease to surprise me with the things they do.
Temple of Heaven
A benefit to learning about Chinese history in China is that we actually get to visit the sites that we discuss in class. As part of our Understanding China course, we went to the Temple of Heaven (天坛) where Jeremiah gave us a very educational tour of the site. It amazes me how intricate the details of the buildings are and I can't imagine how these large structures were built centuries ago.
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<p>I'm a senior studying Media and Communications & Chinese at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. I enjoy traveling, hiking, and delicious food. I am so excited to share all my new experiences in China with you all! Join me as I journey to find the tastiest dumplings, peking duck and noodles that Beijing has to offer while I balance my studies.</p>