My cousin called me one unassuming night. "Hey," she said. "Random question. So do you want to go to China?"
We flew out in March of 2018.
The 14-hour flight seemed grueling for most; however, I took advantage of the time to read and study for the LSAT. My back did ache. My feet, forgotten. Upon arriving at our hotel room in Beijing, I took off my shoes and found inflated pink balloons for feet. Fortunately, the swelling receded by morning.
The tour guide discussed Chinese political history as we made our way to the Forbidden City. It's interesting to note that the protests of '89 did not receive a mention. I felt the protesters' courage still lingering. Amidst their omittance, amidst the hoards of people, some silences scream.
The most interesting aspect of the Forbidden City's history lies in the past roles of women during the varied harem systems. The Forbidden City housed servants, maids, concubines, eunuchs, and consorts. Consorts were second in female social ranking just under empresses.
The Forbidden City's harem system leaves behind many vicious albeit fascinating stories such as the concubine slaughter by Ming Emperor Yongle, China's only monogomous emperor, and Empress Wu Zetian's rule.
Inside the Forbidden City, we ventured through the Long Corridor of the Summer Palace. The length of the Long Corridor extends to about 2,400 feet (728 meters). Decorative paintings depicting Chinese literature, historical figures, and nature adorn the Long Corridor's entirety. Fun fact: the paint used actually protects the wood.
The Picture-Snapping Standoff
Around this time in our trip, I couldn't shake this feeling that people were taking my picture. Maybe they were capturing something behind me? It soon became obvious that this wasn't the case. Once my cousin shared the same sentiment, we performed some meticulous detective work...of photographing the people who were photographing us. Most of our adoring fans turned their phones/cameras away, but we caught some of them in the act.
Every single person we met was nothing but nice and welcoming. I learned that because China is such a homogenous culture, many Chinese individuals rarely see others from different walks of life. A culture shock both ways.
Confusion, Not Confucius
I've never been in such an immense concrete jungle with so little people. Pictures do not provide the smog justice. The smog was palpable--reminiscent of the fog in Silent Hill. The smog in conjunction with the lack of people turned this experience into the makings of a zombie apocalypse.
We learned that the Chinese government forcibly removed people from their homes due to "Olympic-games redevelopment." The Chinese government justified their actions by compensating everyone for the demolishment of their homes and relocation; nevertheless, this begs the question: do you ever truly own your home? This question isn't pointed solely at China as many people in the US are aware of eminent domain.
I felt incredible sympathy for those individuals who were coerced out of their homes. After the forceful redevelopment, this is the ghost town I call Olympic Grey (formerly known as Olympic Green).
The Great Wall
I took a long, deep breath at the vast size of China's Great Wall. My cousin was not thrilled with my plan to climb the ever-ascending stairway to the heavens.
As soon as we made it to the fortress at the top, we found the stairway kept climbing to another one. And another. And another. After an hour of stairs, we walked through a fort and found a restricted area (of all things). Obviously, unattended, we hopped the gate.
So close to the apex, we decided on having a photoshoot (and giving our bodies a break).
It's interesting to remark upon the history of the wall specifically regarding the Tartar Wall of Peking during the Boxer Rebellion. With many independent researchers putting together an alternative history than what we've been told, I encourage you to check out the conspiracy to hide the giant nation of Tartaria. Forewarning: it's a deep rabbit hole.
We finally made it to the end of our journey.
I will always cherish the experience to climb and explore China's Great Wall. I highly recommend conquering this beast of a hike. My only regrets: not counting the steps and not bringing a slinky.
I'll save that for next time.
The next day, we jumped on a plane to explore Shanghai.
*Special thanks to my cousin for permitting me to use some of her photos and initiating this trip.
**Part II coming soon.
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