After graduating high school , I took a gap year before proceeding with my university education. During this gap year I visited Beijing, and I lived there together with my family for about 3 months. I was a typical tourist. You know the ones you love to hate. Yes, I was all that and more.
I was well aware that I was “BLACK” in China. Not in the racism sort of way. But in the “all eyes on you” sort of way. It’s clear that China has a long way to go in making its society more inclusive for minorities, and maybe even for its local indigenes.
One constant theme about my time in china was the request for pictures from almost everyone I encountered. Sometimes people just went ahead to take selfies without asking. This was mind boggling to me as I could not believe that people in their 60’s have never seen or interacted with a black person.
At first I found it funny, but after a while it became quite annoying. This experience gave me a peek into the way celebrities are treated. When we say; “Raheem Sterling gets so much attention. I’m sure he loves it!!!”. Well for the first month he might, but as time goes on. He resents it.
Truth be told, I had fun in China. The highlights of my trip were my visit to the Great Wall of China, The forbidden City and National Museum. And how can I forget, the delicious hot pot.
The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China started out not as a single, massive wall to protect the people of a unified nation, but rather as several smaller, unconnected walls that were built by warlords fighting each other. This period was known as the Warring period and it ranged between 475 B.C. to 221 B.C.
It wasn’t until Qin Shi Huang became emperor in 220 B.C. that the sections of the wall began to be joined together to form a common defense for China, according to the United Nations. The goal of the unified wall was to defend China against Mongol invaders from the north.
The Great Wall of China represents thousands of years of work rather than the massive building project of a single emperor or even a single dynasty. The components of the Great Wall of China are more than 5,500 miles long, according to the BBC. The Great Wall of China was declared a world heritage site in 1987 by UNESCO and it is one of the 7 wonders of the world. (Kennan, n.d.)
The Forbidden City
ForbiddenCity is a Chinese imperial palace complex at the heart of Beijing (Peking). It was so named because access to the area was barred to most of the subjects of the realm. Government functionaries and even the imperial family were permitted only limited access; the emperor alone could enter any section at will. The 178-acre (72-hectare) compound was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 in recognition of its importance as the center of Chinese power for five centuries, as well as for its unparalleled architecture and its current role as the Palace Museum of dynastic art and history.
The architecture of the walled complex adheres rigidly to the traditional Chinese geomantic practice of feng shui. Within the compound, all the most important buildings, especially those along the main axis, face south to honour the Sun. The buildings and the ceremonial spaces between them are arranged to convey an impression of great imperial power while reinforcing the insignificance of the individual. This architectural conceit is borne out to the smallest of details—the relative importance of a building can be judged not only from its height or width but also by the style of its roof and the number of figurines perched on the roof’s ridges.
The Forbidden City ceased to be the seat of Qing (Manchu) imperial government with the Chinese Revolution of 1911–12. The film The Last Emperor (1987), which portrays the life of Puyi, was filmed in part within the Forbidden City (McKenna, 2020). And parts of my personal favorite, The Karate Kid, with Jaden Smith was filmed there.
Kennan, M. (n.d.). A Quick History of the Great Wall of China. Retrieved from USA Today: https://traveltips.usatoday.com/reasons-visit-great-wall-china-40420.html
McKenna, A. (2020, May 13). Forbidden City; Palace Complex, Beijing China. Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica : https://www.britannica.com/topic/Forbidden-City