Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Forbidden City & a walk through Beijing's hutongs

This post will be slightly picture heavy... its so hard to just choose a few.

First, I just want to share this music video with you. Its a song you may or may not have already heard. It was made for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. BUT - I love this song. I think its really special, and so beautiful, and I think that comes across whether or not you understand what they are saying. I think you can feel what they are saying... I feel it when I just listen, let alone watch the video (and this has English subtitles). I hope you enjoy it, and it can also give you an idea of what the Chinese language sounds like.

Yesterday we decided to take a walk through the Forbidden City. This is easier said than done - I think going on a Saturday wasn't the smartest thing to do, it was packed! When we took the subway there yesterday, I actually let the first two trains pass by because they were so packed... when the third one rolled around and I realized there weren't going to be any less people, I got on... lol.

Briefly, the Forbidden City was the Imperial Palace during the Ming Dynasty through the Qing Dynasty. Starting in 1420, the emperor and his household lived here. It's huge.

Our first glimpse as we walked in (and some soldiers? in formation walked past)

Notice the smog? I thought the food was going to be the biggest adjustment, but I think its actually going to be the air quality issue. Here is what I want you all to do for me. After reading this post, I want you to walk outside, look around you, take a deep breath of that wonderful, beautiful, refreshingly clean air, and be consciously thankful for it.

After we walked through the Forbidden City, we took a walk through some of Beijing's hutongs. These hutongs are lanes or alleys, and these lanes or alleys are created by the walls of traditional Chinese courtyard houses. Here is a drawing of what these would look like from above.

According to my guidebook, the wall not only adds privacy, but keeps out spirits as they are unable to turn corners. As prescribed by feng shui, the entrance is at the Southeast corner.

We actually stopped in one of these hutong areas because we saw a sign for China Mobile. We bought a SIM card for our new cell phones... it was fun speaking to the shopkeeper in Chinese. After we first walked in, we said a simple Chinese sentence like "I want to buy a SIM card." She was showing us a few different ones and telling us about them and when she realized we were understanding everything she was saying, she was really happy and gave us a better deal than she originally intended to. When we could read the information in Chinese, she was even more impressed!

Me on the way back to the subway and back to our hotel. I was only asked to have my picture taken twice today.

Just another word on those split pants for babies that I mentioned earlier... I found an interesting article on it. Apparently split-pants-trained Chinese babies are usually fully potty trained before they turn 1! Not only that, but its not uncommon to see Chinese mothers whistling to their babies on the side of the street - this is because the babies "go" on the command of the whistle!

I thought it was interesting to learn more about the practice, and if you are interested in the article, you can read it by clicking here.

I wanted to include some new MAC shadow purchases and a review of Benefit's Hoola Bronzer and High Beam - but decided to make it into a separate post, so stay tuned for that.

What did you think of the song?



  1. Great pictures---I am so interested in going there its exciting to see your pics.

    The song is really pretty.

  2. I was never the sort of person to go to these kind of places.. I mean, I love Europe & gorgeous beach resorts... but there is something to say about these other locales, the history is so rich here!! but you definitely don't come because you want to relax and be pampered. :) And, if you only see those other sort of places you are missing out on a very big big world you know?! (I'm not speaking this to YOU just thinking aloud... lol)

  3. It might be my computer but I couldn't see any subtitles. Despite being chinese I'm embarrassed to admit I couldn't understand half of what they were singing...I'll have to do some research online to find the translation!

  4. My teachers always said songs are the hardest to understand! Think about it, even in English songs don't make a lot of sense sometimes.

    I understand bits and pieces... lol.

  5. Oops, I had put up the one without the subtitles - I fixed it!

  6. WOW, you made it to China! Amazing pictures!! You and your hubs are so brave/adventurous for going there to live. (can't remember if I read why you were over there??)
    AND you speak Chinese, again- amazing!! (such a hard language!!, which dialect have you learned?)
    Your apartment is really found a great place!
    Hope your trip continues to go's so cute how people want pics taken with you! (cute blonde from America!)

  7. That totally brings back memories! I was there back in 2003 (right during the whole SARS thing lol). Did you see the Starbucks inside the Forbidden City? It seemed like such an oxymoron.

  8. PetiteXXS - I can't imagine being here during that SARS thing!! That must have been sooo scary!! One of my teachers was in college here during that time, and they were not let out of their dorms for like 3 months, and every day they came and checked their temps.

  9. hahahaa, we were there for the SARS thing too. It was weird. We could only talk to your friends through a closed gate at the university's. We were also there for the earth quake...that was unbelievable. I remember the moment of silence a week later, heard ALL over the country at the same time.....crazy. Awesome Forbidden City pics. We went when it was 100 THOUSAND degrees out. I had a baby strapped to me and my other was running all over the place....SHE got her picture taken a million fact, go to my blog...I'll put the pic up of her having her pic taken, it's hyterical!!!

  10. Thank you for documenting your experiences as an American visiting China. I'm Chinese American and my fiance is White. We have been talking about planning a trip to visit China sometime in the next couple years. I have so many concerns. One being that my fiance is White and does not speak the language. I suppose many of the places you and your husband have on your agenda are tourist sites? When we go there we would like to travel to some areas where tourists don't typically go. It would be an interesting and foreign adventure. I am looking forward to reading more about your China experience. I have been taking notes :).

  11. Kel - crazy! I pray I don't have to be here for anything like that! I will check out the pics you post. Our friends here have 3 red headed children and they get their pics taken a lot too. I have a cute picture of one of them playing with a Chinese girl, maybe I will post it!

    PetiteGorgeous - Thanks for stopping by! I have seen several mixed couples so it seems like it wouldn't be too shocking, but who knows? We actually plan on going to a lot of places off the tourist map... many rural areas and remote places. One of my Chinese teachers from the states - her mom lives in a rural area in Shanxi and she runs a Zhongyi clinic, mainly acupuncture... I am going there to see her! and so excited about it!


  12. Just caught up on your last few posts -- China seems so overwhelming!

    Your apartment looks really nice, I find it so impressive that you were able to find one so quickly, and that has all those amenities.

    I can't imagine how hard it must be for americans in china who don't speak chinese, and it is so hilarious that everyone wants to take your photo!!

    I will breath in some nice air, it is a beautiful day and I am very thankful for it.

    Can't wait to hear more!

    Chic on the Cheap

  13. Very interesting! So neat you have the opportunity to see all of these places in real life :)

    I am also interested in this splint pants thing! Potty trained before 1? That is very impressive, considering children don't usually even walk until the age of one. I may need to look into this if I have a third baby!! :)

  14. Andi - I know right?! Potty trained in the sense that they don't wear diapers and they go on cue, so the parents put them over a toilet and use the due (or just pop a squat somewhere..... haha).

    Lyddie - I am so glad you are going to take a deep breath for me, I mean it! Today might be even worse than yesterday, ahhh.

  15. Bloody hell. Look at that smog! It's a gorgeous city, but I doubt I'd survive there. I have chronic asthma, and I can't tolerate very unclean air really =/ I can't breathe that well when it's humid.. just imagine over there being humid. Puu. But someday I wanna visit there !

  16. Oh so cool, I am SO excited you're over there, and we get to live vicariously through you! How's the unpacking and getting settled in shaping up?

  17. looooove this post!!! sooooooooooo cooool. amazing pictures, hope ur well darling.

  18. How amazing! You're a lucky girl getting to live in another country for a year and with someone you love:) Those split pants are hilarious. I can not imagine doing that in America, but they probably can't imagine a 4 year old still peeing its pants!!

    XO Kristin

  19. I'm loving living through you. Thanks for sharing all your fun experiences with us. And hope the smog gets better. I didn't realize how bad it was....

  20. Great pics! Wow, I can't believe the smog! I took a deep outside breath for you today :)

    That is so interesting about the split pants and the whistling, very ingenius!

    Also, yay for being able to communicate to get your SIM card!

  21. Your pictures are beautiful. I can't believe your camera can pick up the smog. Can't wait to see more photos. And yes - i do like the song - it's very pretty.

  22. Thank you so much for commenting ladies :)

    And domesticated bliss - thank you for breathing outside for me! LOL! Really! Today its actually REALLY clear because it rained and brought down all the pol....smog.

    LifestyleBohemia - its crazy but it actually stinks because the smog makes the colors of pictures a lot more dull and a lot less vivid than they really are, sucks!

  23. Steph...

    I am only on my first post read of your blog and already in love with it and the idea of all the beautiful images you are going to be sharing with us of your time in Beijing. I don't know you personally, but that does not mean how elated I am for you to be experiencing this once in a lifetime opportunity. I wish you all the best in Beijing, enjoy every minute and corner of a magnificent city.

    The video and song is lovely. I even recognized good ol' Jackie Chan, lol. My favorite line of the song is "sharing a breath beneath the sun."


  24. Liz - thank you so much for your sweet and thoughtful comments! I am so glad you like the blog so far!! Hopefully I can keep it up and keep everyone reading :) I am very honored to have you as a reader!


  25. Have you tried dumplings and roast ducks? They are the famous and traditional Beijing dieshes. And also bird's nest soup? Its a delicacy in China.

    Enjoy your days~~~