So the National Museum of China is what you would expect for a country with thousands upon thousands of years of history. The building itself was gigantic, much bigger than it looks from the side. When we got in, there were so many exhibits to choose from and I knew we couldn't possibly see them all. Lauren and I both were fascinated by ancient Chinese history because we knew so little about it so two of the exhibits we chose focused on that. The first was Chinese bronze sculpture. At times it seemed like there were food vessel after food vessel, but it really was amazing to consider how these pots were created with minimal tools. The intricate patterns and designs engraved on the sculptures was beautiful and mind boggling. I most enjoyed the section where we saw the changes in Buddhist bronze sculptures. The figurines were so detailed, intricate and beautiful. I suppose some of the ancient Catholic relics might be comparable to these, but the Buddhist figures were like nothing I'd ever seen.
After the sculpture exhibit we went to an exhibit called "Ancient China." This covered the entire basement of the museum, and was much longer than we expected. It traced all the way from the first Chinese caveman to more recent coins and decorations. I could not believe everything I was seeing. Even the most ancient Chinese civilizations had these delicate and beautifully crafted dishes, decorations and artifacts. I thought it was completely fascinating to look at the artwork and pottery and imagine the people who used them. We also checked out an exhibit on more modern Chines history and the rise of the communist government. I found it very interesting to see how the Chinese people evolved and how they moved in the direction of communism to solve their problems. The Chinese are very proud of their way of life, and from what I've seen so far, they have every reason to be. The people are delightful and eager to help and I am beginning to see why friends who have spent time here have fallen in love with the country.
We also visited Tiananmen square which wasn't what I was expecting. I'm not sure exactly what I thought I was going to find, but the square is essentially a big cement area in the center of the city across from the Forbidden City. It was neat to see all the people there, though. After the square we met up with a professor from UNC. Bob Lauterborn showed us all around the Wangfujing shopping area. It is a really cool pedestrian area with all the neon signs that I'd expected to see in Beijing. It was fun to just stroll along and people watch. We even saw a long row of food vendors selling everything from "mystery fish" to fried ice cream. I think we'll go back and try some of the stuff eventually. That night for dinner we were treated to Peking duck. Because we didn't have a reservation ahead of time (and didn't reserve a full duck) we just ordered a couple different dishes with duck in them. This was the first completely satisfying meal I had eaten, everything was delicious and I was stuffed!
On Sunday, we met up with Professor Lauterborn again and went to a Hutong and to the Pearl Market. A Hutong is an old style Beijing way of living, similar to a neighborhood. Small alleys connect courtyard residences in which many generations of a family would reside. The electrical connections were crazy to look at by American standards, but I suppose that they must work, or else people would not be using them. What intrigued me was the fact that these communities have one public restroom for everyone to use rather than individual home bathrooms. It was very dusty on the ground, but I expected that from the older parts of the city.
The Pearl Market was busy and exactly what I expected it would be. There were lots of "fake" things to buy and I started to price out some of the things I want to make sure to come home with. I'm definitely going to get a suit custom tailored, and I know I want it to be charcoal gray. I'm thinking of having it stitched with Carolina Blue (what do you guys think?). Anyways, I know I want to buy a pair of converse sneakers in either gray or black, because my black ones are getting really worn out. I also might buy a pair of hip-hop basketball sneakers, or neon colored running sneakers, since they have tons in pretty fun colors (they would be my on the weekend play shoes for sure!)
Sorry this post was so long. I wanted to make sure I didn't leave many things out. I'll have another one tomorrow about my first day of work where I met a bunch of Chinese communications students (they were FANTASTIC!, but you'll have to read tomorrow...)