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Published: April 26th 2008
Beijing is incredible. I wish I had more time to spend here. There are buildings and temples that are hundreds of years old mixed in with newer buildings- everything has so much character. It’s very clean- and unlike Shanghai, people don’t walk around the street in their pajamas.
People are very friendly here - maybe even a bit too friendly. I had my photo taken at least ten times today- with groups of people, couples, singles; everyone wanted a shot with me. I even caught people sneaking photos of me on the subway and in restaurants. I’m showered with compliments everywhere I go. The attention can be a bit much sometimes, but it is a nice boost to the ego!
I spent the entire day today visiting the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven.
The Forbidden City was built between 1406-1420. Construction required more than a million workers. Over the last 500 years, 24 emperors ruled from within the city- the last of which was overthrown in 1924. It was opened up to the public in 1949. I entered the temple from Qian Men, which is the gate that used to separate the Forbidden City from the
“Chinese city”- where the general population lived. About five minutes after walking through the first gate, two students approached me and asked if they could walk with me and ask me some questions. This is pretty much how the rest of the day went. Everyone seems to be interested in the same things- where I’m from, my age (age is seen as a symbol of status here), where I work, and my impressions of China.
The city is really amazing- it’s hard to believe that something like this can exist right in the middle of a bustling urban center.
The Temple of Heaven was built during the same period as the Forbidden City and was built as a place for the Emperor (the “Son of Heaven”) to pray and make sacrifices to heaven (usually for good crops). The temple grounds cover almost three kilometers of space- a lot of which is made up of parks and gardens. Although it was a little bit busy today, being a Saturday, the weather was beautiful and sunny. Shanghai was so cold (probably around 5-10 degrees)- so it was nice to be able to walk around in a t-shirt again.
I’m getting up at 6am to catch a train to a remote part of the Great Wall, which is about two hours away. There are parts of the great wall that are right in Beijing, but the views aren’t as good. I’m so excited- the wall is what drew me to visit China in the first place.
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