春节 Chun Jie (Chinese New Year; CNY)
This Chinese New Year was good. Very low key. I stuck around Beijing for the week and enjoyed the quiet.
Of course you can’t only sit around during the holidays and on a couple of days my girlfriend and I went out to see some of the famous sites in Beijing. Even though I have been living here for almost three years now, I still enjoy visiting tourist spots.
Beijing is definitely not the most livable city in terms of modernity. It has high pollution, traffic is quite congested, and the weather is less than dry (it being located in a valley).
However, where Beijing loses in it’s fight for livability, it makes up for in rich history. Although it has not always been the capital of China, it has a number of remarkable sites that express Chinese culture. Some of the most famous are the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Lama Temple, and so on.
During our Chinese New Year we first visited the Lama Temple. This is an incredibly beautiful temple that is both pleasant to walk through and convenient to get to. I suppose that is one of the main reasons it’s so frequently visited. I have been there three times myself.
We also visited the Bird’s Nest, up north of the Fourth Ring Road. Although this area, like the Lama Temple, was swamped with tourists, it was still very nice to go and see.
The Bird’s Nest, a modern metal stadium originally used for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 has become a symbol of Chinese modernity in the 21st century. While we didn’t go inside, it is very nice to visit and walk around.
We also tried to go to the Forbidden City, but like every other time that I have attempted such a feat, the lines were too long and we decided against it.
It is interesting that while the Forbidden City is Beijing’s, (and arguably China’s), most well known cultural site, it is also a pain in the neck to visit. While some people might scoff at me for not having ever successfully entered the palace throughout the entirety of my stay in Beijing, I also know many Beijingers who have never entered in their entire lives.
On the last night of the Lunar Calendar we attended a friend’s Jiaozi celebration close by the Summer Palace. We didn’t go inside the park but we did ride a moped through the Tsinghua University and my girlfriend freaked out about the fireworks. Then our moped died after midnight on the way home and I had to push it back. 🙂
All in all, it was a good CNY. It’s funny how that the longer you stay here the more normal the celebration begins to feel.
I remember in my first years that it felt quite odd and I didn’t understand it. Now, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of relaxation when it approaches. Probably it is because the longer I am in China the more and more I adjust and adopt its culture.