Monday, May 2, 2011

Beijing Day 1 : Forbidden City and Tiananmen

This sketch was a bit of a cheat, since I drew it from our bedroom window on the day that we left.  To be honest I didn’t get a lot of time to sketch on this trip because Aissa and I had to herd her family around the whole time.  Not that it wasn’t fun, mind you.  It’s just hard to ask 4 people to sit still while you sketch something.   Most of the sketching I did on this trip was when I would wake up early and go off on my own to have a coffee or scout ahead for our destinations for the day.
Nevertheless this is a view of the Forbidden City, which was the first place we visited in Beijing since it was just a 10 minute walk away from the hotel we stayed at.  I can’t tell for sure, but I believe that the cluster of tall buildings I drew on the right are the Hall of Central Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, and the other tall structure might be the gate to the inner court.  In the foreground are some trees and the rooftops of some traditional Chinese houses that are built along the “hutongs” or alleys of the old city.  In the distance is one of the mountain ranges that surround Beijing and some of the modern skyscrapers that now dominate the Beijing skyline.
My time in the Forbidden City may have been colored by the fact that there were a horde of tourists, and that we were caught in a late afternoon torrent that had us running for the nearest cafe where we could take shelter and warm up.  It’s a far cry from our time in Japan, where even the most popular sites we went to were never overpoweringly crowded, and the people were reserved even when they were there.  In contrast, the numerous tour guides shouting into their megaphones at their tour groups unfortunately did detract from the majesty of place.  It’s hard to appreciate how important “Harmony” was to the ancient Chinese when their 1.3 billion descendants are yelling at each other, often while they’re right next to you.
Tiananmen square was equally crowded, though since it was an open area we all felt less cramped.  It’s there that you get to appreciate Modern China’s sense of grandeur and need  to impress upon their visitors that they’re a mighty nation.  The giant obelisk certainly makes you feel small, and the mighty sculptures of Chinese people (The largest and most steroid infused version of Chinese people I’ve ever seen) flanking Mao’s Mausoleum are a visual treat.  A short walk away from the Square is the National Center for performing arts, which is a must see for anyone interested in modern architecture, or things that look like UFOs.  The entire family was properly awestruck by this building, and we all wished that some Filipino Taipan would build something so ludicrously expensive and impractical yet impressive structure.

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