Can I get a little Bīngqílín here people?

When we first realized Nicholas was a Beijing boy, I'll admit to being slightly disappointed that we'd be doing a repeat of touring.  And then perspective set in and I realized that only one of my children had ever seen the Beijing highlights...and at the time she was only two.

And so off to Tienanmen Square, the Forbidden City and a hutong we went, me with a happier attitude.  At this point I've stood in Tienanmen four times now and still I find it amazingly impressive in size.  They say one million people can fit inside (that's more than twice the population of our home city) and I have to wonder if maybe even more actually would.

Despite the fact that breakfast had been a mere hour before, the blood sugar levels of several kids tanked somewhere between admiring the Zhengyangmen Gate on the south end and approaching the Tienanmen Gate 880 meters to the north.  Greatly desiring a decent photo (because who knows when/if we'll be back), we *may* have offered to buy ice cream in exchange for smiles.

We got the photo.  Next mission ~ to find the ice cream.  We walked through gate after gate after gate.

Before we left the Square the little one began his battle cry for Bīngqílín. And we began to get a taste of his level of persistence. There were a few minutes that he'd flash that winning smile...especially when he got a quick ride on Baba's shoulders...but for the better part of 45 minutes until we found an ice cream cart, we (along with many of the folks around us) heard his request for a frozen treat.

The sheer magnitude of the Forbidden City is mind boggling.  And when you take into consideration that the entire complex was built in 14 years back in the 1400s by over one million workers... Because it isn't just the buildings themselves, but the ornate, intricate detail on each.  And the symbolism...not one detail is random.

For example, the lions that you see in pairs at nearly every gate.  They are male...

...recognized because their paw is over the earth showing power, and female...

...with her paw resting on a cub showing her nurturing side.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony was the center of power during the time of the dynasty and is where the emperor would meet make his decrees.  To symbolize its importance there were 10 small mythical figures at each corner (on each level).  Other buildings had 9, 7, 5 or 3 mythical figures (much like the gargoyles found in medieval Western architecture) depending on their rank.

Finally, some 45 minutes after we entered the Forbidden City we found the elusive Bīngqílín cart.

Everyone got a cold treat and it served as the perfect pick me up on a hot day.  Who knew that it would be in the lower 90s in May?  Thankfully it is still dry season and the humidity levels are essentially 0.

On our first visit here in 2007 we had learned that the bricks are seven layers thick, therefore preventing anyone from being able to tunnel into the Emperor's complex.  It was an impressive fact then, but as we walked through yesterday, we saw a man working on a few spots that needed repair. That provided the opportunity to see the actual size of each individual brick which gave an even new insight to just how fortified even the ground of the Forbidden City was.

Nicholas wasn't the only one that needed a little time off of their feet and we told Ky we'd inform her swim coach that she did some extra dry land exercise while on the trip.

Deep inside the complex we came to the Empress Dowager's home (known to the outside world as the Dragon Lady) and I had to get a quick picture of MY THREE BOYS in front of one of the dragon statues.

As we exited the complex we walked through the garden.  I'd like to say that it was tranquil and beautiful, but only one of those descriptions would be accurate.  The warm weather and time of year brought about more tourists than the gardens could "tranquily" house and we didn't linger long.  But who could resist a photo at the "embracing trees" considered a sign of harmony between emperor and empress?

Oh, and a quick snapshot of our pretty girl.

Upon exit we got to walk along the city moat to get to our van.

And then on to a hutong to see the traditional style of living quarters for Chinese people.  These narrow streets and alleyways were around far before the concrete high rise apartments of today.  The demand for this traditional housing is on the rise and one 1000 sq foot home in an area like this would cost up to one million US dollars.

As we exited the hutong, we were a bit ahead of Mama and Grant and turned the last corner into a park area before they did.  Nicholas began to frantically tap my shoulder exclaiming, LaoLao, YeYe! (Grandmother, Grandfather!) When they came back into sight he got the biggest smile on his face. Quite heartwarming that already he knows who belongs.

We then spent some time in the hutong park watching locals play majhong, checkers and cards.

We also burned off a bit of energy.

One fascinating thing about Beijing is the mix of ancient with new.  You can be amid skyscrapers and modern hotels and then turn the other direction and find an ancient drum tower.

Dinner brought another adventure in attempting to use our limited Mandarin to place our order in a noodle shop.  And then the new guy saw the McDonald's ice cream window as we walked down the street.  Loud, persistent requests for Bīngqílín began once again. I'll admit to being quite relieved to see our revolving hotel doors...

Despite the spectacle moments he's created, he's amazing.  Last night as I crawled into bed beside he and Daniel (D is insisting on sleeping with his little brother so he isn't scared) he reached over for my hand and said, "Wo de jia" (essentially "my family") and then closed his eyes and fell asleep.

The courage and resolution of this kid.  At seven he has decided that moving forward is the way to go and he's overall embracing the changes.  We've got some obstacles to overcome, but this is the good stuff.  I'm smitten...

1 comment:

Laurie said...

My goodness, you take GREAT pictures and tell great stories! LOVED the stair-step, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, boy picture!! :)