Day 4: Old Beijing

Between the company and university visits of the past two days, we have seen how Beijing has positioned itself for the future, but today we took a look at the rich history of the city and the origins of its culture and values. Starting with the famous Tienanmen Square and Forbidden City, we learned about the history of Beijing, and moving to a hutong, we were given insight to the family oriented societal structure of old China.

We were led through the Forbidden City by our tour guide, Joe. He would take us into a certain section, give a brief history lesson on it, then let us roam around to take pictures and explore. The Forbidden City is actually the largest Chinese quadrangle in the world. A Chinese quadrangle is a set of four building and a courtyard in the middle, all set up to promote the Chinese philosophical concept feng shui. On my way out, I purchased an autumn themed silk painting as a souvenir.

Next, we went to a hutong in old Beijing. Hutongs are old alleyways that were built prior to the modernization of the city, and thus don’t feature any skyscrapers or tall buildings. We took a rickshaw ride into the heart of a hutong to meet a family living in one of the oldest quadrangles in Beijing. The family had lived there for decades. The grandfather showed us some pictures of him as a child living in the same quadrangle and hutong. The differences were stark, the streets used to be much wider and calmer prior to the immense urbanization of modern Beijing. However, within the hutong, things remained the same. There was a still a lush garden in the central courtyard and a strong sense of community brought on by familial living. Overall, being in the quadrangle felt like stepping into a time capsule that had preserved this family and their feng shui based lifestyle for generations.

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