January Blog

大家好 ! (da jia hao!)

It’s nearly half way through our scholarship! Last month I was extremely busy studying for my exams.  In my spare time I would like to go to Chinese supermarkets to practice my Mandarin with the locals and then revising some Chinese characters with my friends. I felt like I learned more by using the Mandarin skills I have learned with the locals. Now that exams are finally finished my sister is coming to China to do some travelling with me!  During January Chinese people will be preparing for their Chinese New Year on the 25th of January. 2020 is the year of the mouse and the New Year celebrations will last for 7 days.  To celebrate the New Year many Chinese people will brightly decorate their homes in red and hang lanterns in the streets to bring good luck and fortune for the year to come.  Families gather together to have what is considered the most important meal of the year for many Chinese families. This is a perfect time for sharing gifts and giving red envelopes for the children that contain money, this tradition is to share fortune in hopes that they will be wealthy in the new year.

We started our travels in Beijing by visiting some of the famous landmarks such as the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Olympic park and my favourite, the Summer Palace. We travelled mainly by subway as it is so convenient to get around cities. We had to wrap up warm as it is winter (冬天, dōng tiān)  in China so it can reach as low as -15 degrees.

Tiananmen (天安门) Square translates to the gate of heavenly peace, named after a gate in the imperial wall. It is in the top 10 largest city squares in the world with a capacity of 600,000 people! It holds cultural significance to Chinese people due to many events taking place here and the many buildings that surround it such as the Great hall of the people. When me and my sister visited Tiananmen square it was surprisingly empty; we think this was due to the new year celebrations so many people have travelled back to their home cities to spend time with their families.

The Forbidden City holds the palace museum and was the Chinese imperial palace for the emperor of China during the 1420-1924 periods. It was also the centre for the Chinese government for 500 years. The Forbidden City is made up of 980 buildings that show traditional Chinese architecture.  The walls that surrounded the city were so high and the buildings inside were full of amazing patterns and detail as every wall was decorated.

We visited the Olympic park at night time due to lights lighting up the buildings in bright, vibrant colours and patterns.  I have never seen any buildings like these before due to the unique architecture of each building. The Olympics were held in China in the summer of 2008 and in 2022 the Olympics are to be held here again. The national stadium also known as the “birds nest” holds indoor sporting events and the Beijing national aquarium that looks like its covered in bubbles holds swimming events. Even though the Olympic park was built for the Olympics it is such a great tourist attraction due to the amazing designs of the structures and the light shows at night. The birds nest is also home to Beijing’s national football team the Beijing Sinobo Guoan F.C. the birds nest gets its unique name due to it looking like a nest, you can see it in the background of the picture of myself and my sister.

The Summer Palace was my favourite landmark to visit due to it being a really pretty park full of temples, lakes and bridges. We spent hours in the park taking our time walking through the many gardens and admiring the details on the temples. The Summer Palace was originally built in 1750 although destroyed in 1860 due to the opium war by French and British troops so was rebuilt in 1886. Its purpose was a residential summer home for the emperor. Many buildings in the Summer Palace have powerful meanings such as the sea of wisdom, longevity hill as well as a Buddhist temple. The lake was frozen over in the park so many people were able to ski, ride bikes and play ice hockey on it.

Myself and my sister planed on travelling for three weeks all over China although our time was cut short to 6 days due to the Coronavirus. We still enjoyed our time in China very much as we managed to visit famous landmarks in Beijing.  For this month maybe you can all try to make some new year decorations like the ones in the picture to bring luck to your home!