Sunday, April 11, 2010

Japan v China - A Study in Opposites (Part 2)

Tian'anmen Square and the Forbidden City epitomise all of the major sights that we have seen so far in China. They are both enormous, dusty, dirty and full of people spitting on the ground, pushing each other out of the way and trying to rip us off. Suffice to say, we were not too impressed with the Chinese tourists. 

I mean, come on people, we are not a herd of cattle, we are human beings so why don't you act like it?? Even worse are the people who yell out or look indignant when someone pushes past them, when they would have done exactly the same thing! 

I'm sure there is some complex sociological reason for why people over here act the way that they do, but I would be at a complete loss to tell you what it is. I know that it is not just this part of the world, because you never saw that kind of behaviour in Japan. I especially hate the fact that, in order to actually see anything, we had to go down to their level and push them back just as hard to avoid being pushed out of the way (you should see the bruises I have on my arms and shins!).

I thought that the actual Forbidden City was in a bad state of disrepair. Parts of it had been restored, however we got the impression that the air of neglect was caused by the lack of respect shown by the droves of people coming through every day. I'm sure that it would have been a much more pleasant place if it wasn't for people littering, spitting on the ground and generally interfering with anything within reach. You would think that they would have more respect for their historical monuments, based on the amount of fuss that they make trying push their way to the front of the crowd.

Aside from the other tourists and the actual state of the buildings, we did find the Forbidden City very interesting. We had some English audio guides, which were a bit temperamental but still very informative and full of interesting stories and facts. 

The stories about the concubines would give the Young and the Restless a run for its money. There were stories about concubines being drowned in wells, jealous concubines aborting other concubine's babies and stories about concubines of unsurpassed beauty (although we saw a photo of one of these so-called beauties taken in 1914, and Michael reckons that she was a "real minger").

It was unbelievable the lengths that the Chinese were prepared to go to in order to make the palace as opulent as possible. One marble carving was so large (16.7m long, 3m wide, 1.7m thick, weighing 200 tonnes) that in order to transport it they had to wait until winter and then sprinkle water on the road every few 100 metres and wait for it to freeze so that they could slide it along. Another carving, an enormous one made of jade (2.2m high, weighing 5 tonnes), took 10 years to transport from the quarry to the workshop, carve it and then transport it to the palace (according to the guide it took a hundred horses and thousands of men to transport it).

Looking at the other monuments around Tian'anmen Square you can see that there is definitely a 'bigger is better' thing going on here. It seems a shame when so much money has been spent on ridiculously huge monuments and fancy-pants airports when in other parts of town there are still people living in shanty villages and dilapidated buildings.

In the end I'm glad that we went to Tian'anmen Square and the Forbidden City, because it is just one of those places that has to be seen to be believed. It was definitely an eye-opener!

(You may have noticed that I have purposefully skipped the past few meals, since a number of people have pointed out to me that all of my posts revolve around food)

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