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Beijing, broken down and explored

July 07, 2010

EDITOR'S NOTE: Throughout the summer, ASU students studying abroad will be writing back to the states about their overseas adventures. Fostering international student experiences is just one part of ASU's commitment to making a global impact.

Danica's blog:
This week I was able to escape some of my usual haunts – my host family’s house, our neighborhood, and the Beijing Language and Culture University campus – to explore a bit more of Beijing. Earlier in the week, for example, my older host brother and his girlfriend took me to the Olympic Green, which is basically a big park area constructed specifically for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. It is centered around the Beijing National Stadium, more commonly known as the "Bird's Nest," and is surrounded by multiple other stadiums and fields used during the Olympics. It is all lit up and very beautiful at night.

The following day I went with my classmates to the Capital Museum, a massive building filled with ancient coins, pottery, jade pieces, calligraphy, paintings and many other artifacts. A majority of the items in the museum were actually unearthed in Beijing so it was interesting to read about not only China's history, but Beijing's specifically. We spent almost 5 hours exploring the museum!

A couple friends and I also got to experience some of the "hutongs" of Beijing when we went to see a folk rock music concert outside of our district. A hutong is a type of ancient neighborhood specifically associated with Beijing. It is a narrow alley lined with traditional courtyard residences and although many have been destroyed, hutong culture is an important part of Beijing, so some are preserved. Down one of these alleys we spent our night at a great open-roofed music venue listening to a Chinese band called Slap. It was awesome to experience some of the underground music in Beijing.

Another cultural site I saw in Beijing this week is the well-known Forbidden City, a 980-building complex that served as the imperial palace for 24 emperors in China. It was so strange walking around the complex with thousands of other visitors, knowing that at one point in time only the most prestigious people in the country had been allowed inside.

At the Forbidden City we were met with many stares, heard a lot of muttering about "老外“ (foreigners), and even had people come directly up to us and ask to take our picture! You see, many of the visitors at the Forbidden City are from more rural areas in China so for some of them it is their first time seeing a foreigner. My classmates and I turned out to be as much of a spectacle as the cultural site, which was pretty interesting.

I had a great week exploring many different parts of Beijing, but now it's already time to buckle down for midterms, which are this Friday. The summer is going by so quickly!

Danica Harvey, an international letters and cultures major with an emphases in Chinese and economics, is a student in the Chinese Language Flagship Program and will be a junior this fall. She is studying abroad in China this summer.