Beijing (1/2) : Sights and Sounds

I’ve had a luxurious two months off from teaching, which gave me plenty of time to travel around China and other parts of Asia before the spring semester starts. After two weeks of IST (In Service Training) back in Chengdu, I flew off for the first leg of my trip: Beijing! I’ll be splitting the trip into two posts- the first will be about the city’s history and sites.


Beijing is the former capital of the final two dynasties of China – the Ming and Qing dynasties, respectively. For this reason some of the most lavish palaces, temples, and imperial parks in all of China can be found in central Beijing. The city has succumbed to the country’s real estate boom however (in addition to grievous damage from the cultural revolution decades before), and many of the centuries old alley way homes – hutongs – have been ripped up to make room for glossy million USD high rise condos (more on this in post #2). Still, a lot of historical sites remain in excellent condition; here are some highlights:

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Semester One Sketches

Nowadays, it seems like anyone can call himself or herself an artist. This type of individual will take mediocre photos shot on a smartphone, spend 10 minutes playing with a monochrome filter (“the contrast just needs to be perfect!”, point to a random word in the dictionary for a TITLE (and write this in at least one other language to show he/ she is truly, unattainably worldly), and – just like magic!- suddenly becomes an artist.

There was a time when being an artist required years – if not decades, or a full lifetime – of commitment to a craft, where endless hours were spent hunched over a table covered with papers or sketchbooks, with trays of watercolors and ink or gold acrylic paint piled high, and a half dozen brushes of various sizes within arm’s reach…

I’d like to think I fall into the second category of artists… but maybe at the end of the day, I’m also just an equally 装-BARTISTA!” Continue reading