Week 5: Museums and Parks

I’ve had a good time in Beijing so far, and I feel my Chinese has improved a lot in the mere month that has transpired, but I sometimes can’t help but feel frustrated and discouraged with how frequently I have trouble communicating. After living here a month, I feel I understand pretty well how most common interactions should go: ordering food, bargaining, etc. And yet I am still often struck speechless by how little I understand of what someone has said in their super-rapid Chinese. It goes without saying that Chinese is a very difficult and exotic language for a speaker of English, but this is of little consolation when you’re struggling to understand someone. It may sound cliche, but I honestly the best way to avoid feeling defeated is to take heart in the small victories, the times when you understand something you couldn’t previously that are proof of improvement. I trust that simply given more time this frustration will slowly occur less frequently.

This week proved to be another fun weekend of exploration and adventure around the city. I had some free time during the week, so after classes concluded I packed some water and walked to Yuanmingyuan, also known as the Old Summer Palace. Unfortunately it was overcast all day, so my photos weren’t the most brilliant, but I’ll attach a couple nonetheless. This park is easily the largest I have visited thus far. It used to be a massive palace complex that was destroyed by a European coalition force in the late 19th century. All that remains of the buildings are the foundations, with a few exceptions, but the park is nevertheless beautiful. It features a large lake in the center and the surrounding lands. I didn’t venture as deep as I might have because I was forced to leave at the parks closing, Which I find unfortunate: who knows how many nice, particularly beautiful spots may have been hidden deep within the park?

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That Saturday, a group of students were planning to go the Summer Palace, perhaps the most famous park in Beijing. I had planned to go with them, but unfortunately overslept and by time I woke up they had already left. So I decided instead to visit the Beijing National Museum, one the best museums in the city. I had also planned on visiting the Beijing Capital Museum, but I ended up staying at the National Museum much longer than I expected. The museum is located on the east side of Tiananmen Square, right near the center of the city.


Entry was easy and free, and the museum was huge, hosting an array of exhibits. I started with the largest exhibit, the one about the history of China from prehistoric times up to the fall of the Qing dynasty and found of the Republic of China. After slowly meandering through this exhibit I feel my understanding and appreciation for Chinese history is a little better. Afterward I wandered through the several other galleries the museum hosted, for example, ancient Chinese coinage, history of Chinese script and calligraphy, ancient jade artifacts, porcelain artifacts. Here too time forced my departure: I ended up staying just about up until closing time (which was 5 o’clock).

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