I recently had the opportunity to travel to Beijing, China with USSEC (United States Soybean Export Council). I learned so much which I’d like to share with you.
While in Beijing, China, we were very fortunate to see a few of the famous sights. Seeing these sights and gaining an understanding of their importance was very helpful to understanding the people and culture.
Really, how can you go to China and not see the Great Wall? It is no wonder it is one of the great wonders of the world. It’s absolutely amazing to think how this structure was built during the Ming Dynasty. The terrain where we were was rough. We took a gondola to the top. It was overcast and misty the day that we were there but what a sight it is! If you’ve seen opening scene in the Disney movie, Mulan, that’s kind of what it’s like. Every couple hundred yards there is a shelter with a lookout tower with a walkway continuously connecting the entire wall. The walls for the shelters were at least one foot wide. The section that we visited was built in the 1400’s.
Our second big sight to see was Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City palaces. We were there the week before National Day so there was a lot of preparation going on in Tiananmen Square. National Day is October 1-7, and people gather in Tiananmen Square to celebrate and see government officials during the celebration. The Forbidden Palace was built during the Ming Dynasty. It is called the Forbidden City because no one could enter or leave without the emperor’s permission. There are several gates. The structures were very elaborate and housed the emperor’s administrative offices and as you go deeper into the gates. Near the back of the palace you approach the family quarters including the concubine quarters and family gardens.
We also had the chance to do some shopping at the Silk Market and the Pearl Market. Shopping is different from the U.S. as you barter. Of course, you also have to consider the exchange rate of the currency to as well.
Contrary to U.S. shops, when the markets are closing, they don’t have a lot of incentive to close up shop. They seem to look at it as the opportunity to lock in a few more sales. The salespeople seemed to get a little more aggressive and started lower on prices. I like to negotiate so I thought shopping there was a lot of fun. However, I had to remember that I had jet lag and since they barter all the time, they are much better at it than I ever will be! Just got to be willing to walk away. Jade, pearls, and silk are the more popular items to buy. I came home with gifts of fans, silk cuts which is a traditional art, a tea set, and silk scarf. A couple of the ladies that I traveled with had blazers custom made for them, perhaps if I ever go back, I’ll do that too.
We were so fortunate to have a wonderful lady, Jane, who traveled with us. She was our translator, but also ended up being a tour guide and really helped us to have a better understanding of the people. Jane was raised in Shanghei, but has lived in the U.S. for several years. Jane was wonderful!
Jane bought this instrument for her 6 year old son. You can watch this YouTube video to listen to what it sounds like. It’s beautiful!
Having the opportunity to be among the people was very helpful in understanding some of the issues that the people face. It’s a fascinating ancient culture.