Beijing, pleased to meet you!

Well, it’s hard to define a miraculous city like this one. There are nearly 3x as many people living in Beijing than in Austria as a whole, so of course you encounter totally diverse ways of living.
My home is busy Chaoyang district, where you can encounter skyscrapers and arcitectual miracles hosting modern business centers and malls. Even though you think you have encountered the most dominant and highest building, you will always find one even more fascinating. It is also home of Chaoyang park, which I will talk about in my next post.
Take the subway to Dongcheng district, and you get a totally different picture. Last Friday I started off at Ditan park. It might seem an exaggeration, but the whole park was crowded with elderly people practicing Tai-Chi, dancing with lanterns, moving swiftly in colorful costumes. Some are using water to paint Chinese characters on the pathways, only to wait for them to fade under the morning sun.
Next stop was Lama Temple, again 12 yen (1, 70€) buy you the entrance to a totally different world. The shops close to the temple already sell paper money and scented chopsticks, and you get your own package when coming into the temple. We swam along with the crowd, admiring the colorful temples with their painted ceilings and admired statues. The people know tow, burn their sticks and pray in the temples or in one of the adjoining worshipping rooms of witch there are countless. Offerings include fresh fruit, bread but also packed apple juice and sweets. Going through temple after temple you get the feeling you are in a never ending universe of worshipping halls, that ever seem to get bigger and more luxurious. Finally you reach the statue of a giant Buddha who seems to fill out the whole temple with his aura.
Out on the streets Lea and me meet Lili and we head into Wudaoying Hutong. The houses are small and filled with hip cafes and stores, making it one of our favorite streets right away.
Confucius temple is next, other than Lama temple it does not give you a feeling of intense worshipping but rather a solemn environment made for intense studying and reflection. One can imagine Confucius wandering through the courtyard’s trees and pavilions, lecturing to his followers.
After that I set out alone into the adjoining Hutongs. What was meant to be an hours walk turned out to be a 4 hours tour through the district. I just couldn’t stop myself looking into street after street, as the scenery keeps changing. From touristic shopping streets packed with people or mayor sights it is only a corner into what seems to be the resident’s private living room. Families eat or play cards on the sidewalks. I stop in a small street food restaurant for some dumplings.
I keep losing directions but the pulse of the city draws me on until I hit Wangfujing, Beijing’s golden shopping street. Night sets out but the huge malls and plazas turn on the light of their shopping windows. I find an international bookstore next to the capital theatre and Prada. But again turning the corner, I turn into Donghuamen night market, a crowded street lit with red lanterns and packed with stores selling you everything from hot-dog to what seems to be fried grasshoppers. I try something that looks like a white dumpling but actually is a mixture of sugar and something else I am not sure my belly can digest.
I end my day with a night’s view of Trainmen square at night. The gate of heavenly peace is brightly lit, so are the rest of the monuments on this monumental square. That’s where you start to feel that you are in the center of China.
Standing in front of the green-blue-violet-silver lit center of performing arts, I feel the raindrops on my skin without really noticing them. I can’t grasp that my time here is only beginning, and that I have 6 months to go in this fascinating city. It is just like tasting a new kind of food you know you have a full plate of.
Talking about plates, I will tell you more about my family and daily routine in my next post,
Yours, Resi

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