The Heart(s) of China
COB Study Abroad Program China
Today could be best defined as experiencing one the heartbeats of China. Our day started with a visit to Tiananmen Square – the heart of the Chinese government, in the Nation’s capital. From the Square we were able to see the Great Hall of the People. The Monument to the People’s Heroes was built in memory of the martyrs who laid down their lives for the revolutionary struggle of the Chinese people in the past century, & Chairman Mao’s Tomb. Our tour guide shared with us a story of his 84 year old grandmother’s only visit to Beijing a few years earlier. Her only desire was to visit the tomb of Chairman Mao, even though she had to wait almost 3 hours to see him for less than 30 seconds. To this day, even after his death in the year 1976, he still has the people’s heart.
We next visited the Forbidden City – the heart of the Emperor’s rule from 1420 to 1924. The reason it is called the Forbidden City is because it was forbidden for any of the “common” people to ever step foot inside. Only the Emperor, his family and advisors could enter. His advisors visited every morning to discuss the matters concerning the running of the country. There were countless details and stories that I could relay about this marvel, but one of the ones I found most interesting were two statues of a dragon atop a tall pedestal. The one inside the entrance was to remind the Emperor to go out among the people to be a better ruler and the one outside was to remind him to return to the duties in the palace for his people
We also visited the Hutong area, which has not been modernized since the 1930’s. In this area we had a group lesson from a 3rd generation Tai Chi Master who studied concurrently with International movie star Jet Li. Through our translator Mr. Lu told us Tai Chi was good for your mind, soul and body (heart).
Also while in the Hutong area we had the honor of being invited to visit the home of a local. This visit really illustrated how a home is the heart of the Chinese family. Although it was small by American standards, it was spacious for a Beijing residence. Its structure has remained unchanged since it was purchased by the father of our host in the 1930’s. Four generations of the family lived in this one home, from great grandfather who originally purchased it, all of his sons and daughters, their children and their children’s children. Because of the value of land in Beijing, his home is worth well over 15 million United States dollars. He told us that he had no interest in selling and wanted it to stay in the family for generations to come. Family truly is the heart of the Chinese culture.
Lastly I wanted to discuss what is happening in our hearts at this point of the trip. For most of us this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We have seen sights and had experiences very few in the world will ever get to see and do. Our hearts will be filled with these memories and all the wonderful people we have met on our trip, both from our school and from China. But our hearts are also longing to return to loved ones and the familiarity of our own homes. Home is where the heart is and our home is in Pirate Country.