Written by Magan, High School/Pre-College Student Correspondent for JSA Diplomat Program in Beijing, Summer 2018*
When in China it’s a part of the cultural experience to find yourself struggling to get through incredibly crowded public spaces. One second you might be standing at the back end of a line to get through the usual museum security, when all of a sudden, a huge group of other tourists and site-seers join from behind you. You suddenly find yourself being shoved forward. You can practically feel five other sweaty bodies pressing against you from all sides as everyone around you tries to squish their way into that one measly line. Then the line is no longer a line but rather a packed, disorderly mass of sweaty bodies. People are pushing forward even when there is no room to move, and you find yourself being cut in line by those around you. You’re not sure what to do as you have never quite been in such a chaotic situation before.
Today, on our way to the Forbidden City, we learned an especially important lesson on how to navigate your way through this type of situation. The most important tip: don’t be afraid to push your way through a crowd, because no one around you is going to grant you your own personal space. Other people will not stop pushing forward or surpassing you in line just because you are in front of them, so you have to be just as determined as the rest of the crowd. I found that the most successful method of survival in this situation was going with the flow of the crowd, but making sure to stand your ground too. If you allow yourself be pushed and surpassed by other tourists, you won’t move at all. Tip number two: since there is no escape from this crowded situation, embrace the experience! Yes it may have been sweltering hot outside but getting to see the Forbidden City was totally worth it!
Once we cleared security and were able to enter the Forbidden City, what we discovered was glorious. The architecture of the buildings within was incredible and I was surprised to see how vibrant the gold, blue, red, and green hues were on the building roof tiles and walls. We learned that the reason these buildings were able to withstand such harsh weather for so long was because of their design. The supports of the structures were made in such a way that each piece of wood fits perfectly with the others connected to it so that during natural disasters such as earth quakes, the building supports have just enough “give” that they can sway without being toppled over.
Another part of the architecture of the Forbidden City that we learned about was the little figures stationed on the edge of every roof top. Typically the design consisted of a dragon followed by a series of nine mythical figure statues, (because nine is a lucky number and represents the emperor) and then finally a man riding a chicken. We discussed how historians are not quite sure about the origin behind the “Chicken Man” but we all agreed that we liked it regardless.
After our excursion to the Forbidden City, I interviewed everyone on their thoughts after visiting this historic site:
Kelsey: I was surprised at how big it was and how intricate the architecture was.
Annlin: I’m about to pass out…
Swetha: I’m sticky…like rice!
Ellie: I’m sticky…
Louis: I thought it was interesting. I enjoyed the history behind it. It was interesting how they shielded in the emperor as if he were a god.
Carina: It was forbidden!
Miles: The architecture was very impressive and I’d like to go when it’s not so crowded.
Natalie: I thought it was beautiful!
Ed: I thought it was pretty cool and the architecture was nice.
I highly recommend visiting the Forbidden City for its incredible architecture and it’s rich history, and next time you travel to China and find yourself stuck in a chaotic public space, remember to be persistent and don’t be a pushover!