The 5 days I was in Beijing was really mind opening. I literally felt like a hidden part of my brain opened up and actively absorbed everything like a vacuum cleaner.
Like an average traveler, I had an idea of what Beijing is like, and just like an average traveler, my idea was flipped upside down after the trip. I knew the Forbidden City was the world’s largest palace, but I didn’t expect it to be that shockingly impressive. Every time I passed a gate and stood in a square, there was always another gate and another square behind it, and another, it was endless. But what impressed me the most wasn’t in the grandeur, but in the details. It’s the architectural design that contains meaning in its numbering and placement, it’s the delicate workmanship that leaves architects today in wonder, it’s the poetry and calligraphy in every room written by our Emperors… It was the subtlety and the profound beauty that is lost in translation.
Then I visited the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace and more, when it hit me. China was this strong country with its unique culture and intellect. It was a nation esteemed enough by other nations to influence their history. Today, China is recognized in the world scene, but probably for different reasons than in the past.
Walking through Beijing’s Hutong, Beijing’s old streets, is a weird thing to do. Not that it isn’t the norm, (in fact it is the norm since people live and open shop there) but it’s like walking into a history textbook only to find that the people living in it are all modern 21st century Chinese. I think it’s beautiful to live with the past, to have traditions, to maintain what is handed over by ancestors.
As I walked on though, I grew sad. Passing by the ancient grey houses with the expansive palace in the backdrop, I realized that was the Ancient China. When Mao tried to leap forward to his New China, Old China fell, taking with it all its magnificence, delicacy, wisdom and principles. We need a greater leap forward to control the deepening social problems in China, and to restore the values we lost to the past. Mao once said, “One is not a good man until he climbs the Great Wall.” China is on a climb too, and one day, I believe it will be a good man.