A Pedacito Of My Trip to China
Updated: Jun 19
Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’, Ming Dynasty vases, Kung Fu, Dragons, noodles, and Bruce Lee, my fascination with China was as great as my understanding was limited.
As always, the universe came to my rescue, I had an opportunity to visit China right after I got married. My husband had to come back to the US, but I was still in Pakistan for the foreseeable future, until I got that elusive green card. On the 13th of October, 2017, we flew to China, a group of about 40 people that included my mom and my sister.
The two weeks in China were like stepping through a time portal, some places seem frozen in the past, while others are very 21st century, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Our first stop was Beijing. We started with the Great Wall, The long and winding road, 6,700 km from the Yellow Sea to Central Asia. Up close the steps are uneven and broken down in certain parts, but it’s a sight to behold. It can’t be seen from outer space of course, but it can knock the wind out of you! My sister and I attempted to climb all the way to the top, but my weak, asthma-ridden lungs gave up on me halfway.
Next on the agenda were The Forbidden City & The Imperial Palace. The Forbidden City is like an apartment complex of palaces, built between 1406 - 1420, it was where all the emperor folk and their courtesans lived. So, it was forbidden for everyone who wasn’t a Ming or Qing emperor.
There’s a moat and a ten-meter high wall with watchtowers all around the city, they weren’t kidding around about wanting to keep the commoners out. The city boasts of the famous Chinese architecture that we find so fascinating, a lot of timber work, pagoda-like rooftops, gilded edges. Bright contrasts of red, green, gold, and black.
We were shown the Banquet Hall, the Hall of Supreme Harmony, and the palace museum, where we perused through a fascinating collection of art and artifacts preserved from that era.
Our next stop was Emperor Qing Shi Huang’s Mausoleum Site Park in Xian, where you can see the Terracotta Army up close. Well, not too up close, but close enough. In the 1970s farmers uncovered this army of life-size warriors, some on horses, that were meant for the protection of dead emperors in the afterlife. You are left in awe of human creativity and ingenuity, each of these warriors has different facial features, different expressions, and here I am, sadly poring over the stick figures in my sketchbook.
The Classical Gardens of Suzhou in Jiangsu really feel like something out of a beautiful fairytale. These gardens have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and no one would ever contest it. The tranquil, clear waters, the fountains and water features, the beautiful buildings, the lovely rose and flower bushes, the shady peach trees, it really is an exquisite way to spend an evening. There’s the Garden of Lingering, created during the Ming dynasty, and the Garden of Cang Lang Ting Pavilion, both are very much worth a visit.
Then began the commercial side of our visit. They took us to a jewelry shop where they had these gorgeous pieces made with jade and other precious stones. We were shown the process of making silk, from the birth of the worm to the end product, and then taken to a shop full of silk products, pillow and bed sheet covers, dresses, scarves, coats, jackets, gloves, every color and grade of silk you can possibly imagine.
We were taken to an underground market, it was literally underground because it was in the basement, and here they have affordable replicas of every designer product you could think of, Hermes, Versace, Prada, Chanel, they had it all, and made so well that no one would be able to tell the difference.
Our last stop was at a tea shop, unlike any tea shop I have ever seen. The building was surrounded by a lush garden, they took us to a large dining area with extra seats for us all. Once seated, two beautiful girls entered, wearing traditional Chinese clothes. They proceeded to perform the tea ceremony in front of us, how to brew the tea, how to sip it, its benefits, all were translated for us by our interpreter. Once the ceremony was over, bags of different grades of tea were brought out and the market was open. Our group bought more tea, Jade jewelry, silk scarves, pillowcases, and ‘designer’ bags than we would need in a lifetime!
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