I had a chance to visit Beijing in April 2012. I went with my lola (grandmother), tita (aunt), and some of their colleagues. There were a lot of tourists. But the historical vibe wasn’t lost on me. I still felt like I was on ancient and sacred ground.
In college, I learned a lot about the empires of China and the succeeding cultural revolution in an Asian Literatures class. Well, apart from our professor impersonating a Chinese theater character and trying in vain to teach us some Chinese characters, what really struck me was the multitude of class struggles — tiers of oppression and discrimination and unjust taxation only because some were born to have more power than others. The common folk weren’t allowed to set foot on the emperor’s grounds, much less see his face. But now, practically everyone — even foreigners/non-Chinese folk — are allowed to frolic and picnic and do jump shots in what was once forbidden ground.
I surmise that only a few understand the implications of these social changes. And only a few might understand the history of Beijing to begin with. I’m not going to lecture here. But here’s the thing: people might give a lot of flack about the Communist party (and indeed, they had their own political issues and ways of corruption), but they did usher in the thinking that everyone is equal. Maybe TOO equal. But they did give people the chance to have equal access to resources, which previously only the royalty enjoyed.
Anyway, these are just some of my reflections as I, myself, drank in the grandeur that is Beijing. It would be nice to go back there, if only to understand China’s rich history a little bit more.