4th of July and 798! China Week 3

Week three was probably my favorite weekend in China! Monday was the fourth of July, so all of the students gathered together to celebrate being an American in China. We all wore red, white, and blue, proud to be representing our country as we studied at the most prestigious university in China. At night, we took the subway to Tuanjiehu, which is considered the Soho of Beijing by many foreigners. There, a barbecue restaurant was hosting an Independence Day celebration for all of the Americans in Beijing. It was one of the only times I haven’t felt like I was the only American person in a Chinese location. Many Chinese people from all over the country visit Beijing, as it hosts many important cultural and religious sites, and it’s very rare to see people of other nationalities at most of these tourist destinations in Beijing. It was really interesting to see how people of all ages from all different parts of America had somehow made it to Beijing, could speak Chinese, and yet were still celebrating their home country. We took the subway home and were still able to go to bed early, ready to continue working hard and studying!

On Saturday, we headed to the 798 Arts District, a hipster district in China full of contemporary art galleries, small shops, and intricate street art. Walking through the maze of alleys and streets was exciting, as it seemed that around every corner was a new sculpture or graffiti art that provided awesome photo opportunities. Some of the art criticized society, and other pieces of art provided an insight into traditional Chinese artisan practices. One of my favorite pieces was an art piece about the size of a three-story building. It consisted of three stacked cages with dinosaurs in them and was found on the main street outside of the main art exhibit, which boasted colorful contemporary artwork.

Local artists had also set up small booths along the streets, showing off their talents that ranged from pencil portraits to small wire car statues. I fell in love with two paintings by a man who only used his fingers and ink to paint beautiful depictions of waterfalls. You could see the fingerprints in the art, and I watched in amazement as he created one of the masterpieces in front of my eyes. As I waited for him to finish “finger-painting” my complex nature scenes, I sipped on freshly squeezed orange juice, which can be found all over China, and is made right in front of you as a man squeezes fresh oranges and bottles the juice.

I loved the 798 Arts District so much that I cannot wait to go back, as it’s so big and I feel like there is so much more to explore! The arts district will always have a place in my heart, and I felt like I was finally finding myself in Beijing. Being able to learn and speak Chinese, celebrating the fourth of July, and visiting arguably my favorite place in China? Absolutely amazing, and I’m so grateful for this opportunity!

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