by David M. Littlefield | Dec 31, 2019 | Asia, Beijing, China, Cityscape, Expat Life, Landscape, Living in Beijing, Travel
Winters in Beijing are cold and dry. Snow is rare, and it usually doesn’t stick. We can count the number of times it has snowed the past three years on one hand. This year it has already snowed twice before the official start of winter.
We were flying to Taipei the first time it snowed in late November, but this time we were home. After waking up to snow on the ground, and watching it snow off and on for hours I grabbed the camera, and took the subway down to Tiananmen Square and the area around the Forbidden City.
Walking down one of the side streets outside of our compound to the subway station.
The snow picks up on the way to the subway station near the corner of Jianguomen and Dongdaqiao.
I chose the wrong security checkpoint line and it took almost 15 minutes to get into Tiananmen Square. By this time it had stopped snowing. Most of the people I encountered at Tiananmen Square were tourists from out of town, and the usual security and military personnel. There were additional cleaning crews to remove the snow.
After a few minutes of walking around and posing for pictures with Chinese tourists from provences that don’t see a lot of foreigners, the snow picked up again.
Tourists flock to the front of the square to get the best photos of the Forbidden City and the color guard protecting the Chinese flag.
The color guard protecting the Chinese flag on the Square facing away from Mao’s portrait on the Forbidden City.
Beijing policeman walking the sidewalk outside the barrier that surrounds Tiananmen Square.
I walked the subway under Jianguomen to the Gate of Heavenly Peace, which is the south entrance to the Forbidden City. Tourists took selfies and photos before entering.
Two guards with policemen leaving the security area at one the bridges to the Gate of Heavenly Peace.
While taking the photo of this guard and the portrait of Mao, I noticed he was looking at me from the corner of his eye.
Just east of the main entrance to the Forbidden City is an entrance to the Imperial Ancestral Temple, now known as the Working People’s Cultural Palace. It is a smaller scale replica of the Imperial Palace that was used to honor the ancestors during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
The layout of the Imperial Ancestral Temple is identical to that of the Forbidden City. It has been called a smaller scale replica of the Imperial palace.
While Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City’s Gate of Heavenly Peace were filled with people from out of town, the Working People’s Cultural Palace was filled with local Beijingers.
The Bridges leading to the Halberd Gate of Imperial Ancestral Temple.
Locals were taking photos and playing in the snow. I was surprised how many photographers were out. I tried to cut them out of my photos as much as possible. One young family was engaged in a snowball fight.
Several young women were posing for photos in Imperial era costumes. I don’t know if these were hastily arranged to take advantage of the snow or if they were regularly scheduled shoots. The woman in the photo on the Bottom is balancing on clogs at the center of her feet.
The Imperial Ancestral Temple houses the Taimiao Art Museum of Imperial Ancestral Temple Beijing, which is one of the sites for Anish Kapoor’s solo exhibition in Beijing. We first saw the show the prior evening. I stepped in to get another look.
Kapoor’s mirrored steel works S-Curve (2006) and C-Curve (2007), Stave (2013), Non-Object (Spire) (2008) and Non-Object (Door) (2008) were on display in the central atrium.
The 600 year old Imperial Ancestral Temple is the probably the best preserved historical site I’ve seen in China. The highly detailed wall and ceiling paint create a more unique experience than the usual white walled gallery spaces, or outdoor settings, when viewing the distortions and reflections of the scultures.
When approaching the C-Curve (above) from the front reflections are inverted until one gets closer to the sculpture, when they shift to right side up. There is no such distortion when approaching from the rear.
The reflections of the S Curve can feel even more disorienting, as the view changes depending on if approaching from the left, (upside down), or the right (rightside up).
Kapoor’s mirrored steel scultures are part funhouse mirror and part portal to another world. The Temple environment adds to this impression.
Back outside, I headed for the back gate, passing more locals taking photos of each other and the Imperial structures in the snow.
These two young women were taking selfies with a snow bunny that had been built, with a crude snow man on a bench facing the moat near the East Glorious Gate of the Forbidden City.
I ended the morning with a quick walk up to the east corner tower. There were about a dozen other people taking photos with smart phones and DSLRs.
by David M. Littlefield | Sep 1, 2019 | Beijing, China, Expat Life, Living in Beijing, Travel, Uncategorized
An American Expat in China
How does a middle aged graphic designer find himself living in Beijing, traveling China, Asia and the World?
Four years ago I was commuting daily to my web and graphic design job at a New York healthcare company in the Bronx. The commute was long and unpredictable, and the company’s recent move to the new corporate headquarters added an additional 15 – 20 minutes each way. While I generally liked the job I was looking for a change.
My iPhone was my only camera at the time. My photos (and videos) covered a range of subjects from daily life in New York City, weird or interesting stuff I came across (clouds, shadows, etc.), trips and the occasional food pic. Most of this ended up on Instagram and Facebook.
I originally got into photography as a visual arts student at Duke Ellington, School of the Arts in my hometown, Washington, DC. As with many photographers of a certain age, my first camera was the Pentax K1000. I learned to shoot black and white photos, learning to develop film and work with prints in the darkroom. I was always into comics and drawing, and eventually moved on to graphic design, but never stopped taking photos, eventually making the move to digital. The first digital camera I used was the Nikon E4500 flip camera that I occasionally borrowed from the job. Since then I have shot with an assortment of point and shoot cameras, the occasional DSLR, and every iPhone I’ve owned since the original, and now shoot photos with the Sony a6400.
My first trip outside of North American was to Japan, to visit the Nichiren Shoshu head temple Taiseki-ji with other members from Los Angeles’ Myohoji Temple for the 750th Anniversary of the Submission of the Rissho Ankoku-ron in 2009. I took a few extra days afterward to explore Tokyo. Before Japan the only country I’d been to outside of the United States was Canada for a day trip.
I traveled to Taiseki-ji two more times (2012, 2014), and Sado Island (2012) with members of New York’s Myosetsuji Temple. I hit Tokyo again, and Nikko and Kamakura in 2014.
In 2014 I went to Europe for the first time, celebrating Christmas with my Partner and her family in Copenhagen, and New Years with friends in the UK. We returned to Copenhagen the following year to ring in 2016.
A couple of weeks into the new year, I was on my way to work, when I get a text from my partner asking how much I liked Chinese food. I called her back and she told me that we were going to China for her job. Nine months later we were living in Beijing.
Beijing is a study in contrasts. The city is more vibrant and modern than I thought it would be, with so much landmark architecture, but it’s also the Communist era buildings and apartment blocks, and the hutongs.
I’ve seen more Teslas, Mercedes, Porsches, and other luxury and exotic cars in Beijing than in New York, Los Angeles and London combined. They share the roads with electric motorcycles that I’ve not seen anywhere else, countless e-bikes, bicycles, and ‘old school’ carts (tricycles) pedaled by foot.
It’s still news in the West when ApplePay or Android Pay are available in new cities. Meanwhile in Beijing (and the rest of China) a billion people are using WeChat and Alipay to pay for everything with their phone. Even street vendors and panhandlers have a QR code to accept cash on their mobile phones. I’ve met expats of all ages who have been here for years. Some have been here decades. I was speaking to a gentleman at one of the charity balls last year who said he had lived here for fifteen years, and how much he loved the frenetic energy and how the city was constantly changing. This vibrancy is not just in Beijing, but in cities all over China, and other countries in Asia. I can definitely see how people come here and want to stay.
Since moving to this side of the world, my partner and I have explored Beijing, China, and several other Asian countries. We have also visited several more countries in Europe, and I have circumnavigated the world at least twice since 2016. Not too bad for a guy whose first trip overseas was a little over ten years ago.