This past weekend was the Chinese celebration of Qingmingjie (清明节), a festival which involves honoring one’s ancestors through burning offerings of paper money and sweeping ancestral tombs. While this meant hordes of Chinese people were travelling to spend time with their families, it also meant a long weekend for the students in my program! I decided to travel to Beijing for a jam-packed highlight tour, and also to visit some of my friends from summers’ past.
I had the opportunity to meet up with my friend Jake, an ND 2016 alum who was also a part of the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program. Jake received the prestigious Yenching Scholarship, a year-long Master’s program at Peking University. He was an excellent tour guide, and Peking University was gorgeous! I’ve heard it said that the top Chinese universities are viewed as quasi-tourist destinations, and after wandering around campus I could see why. The air pollution level on the day of my visit was unusually low (just look at the visible clouds and blue sky!) but if it were any other day I would very much be missing the fresh air of South Bend, Indiana!
Obviously I had to make a trip to the Great Wall during my trip – you may recall from past blogs that I’ve visited many times before, but it never gets less beautiful. I made a point of going to a more obscure portion of the wall, as Qingmingjie had drastically increased the amount of tourists at more well-known areas. Did I wear a Notre Dame shirt just so I could use pictures for this blog? Yes.
I took a break from all this walking to visit the 798 Art District, an area filled with art installations, coffee shops, and handmade goods. I splurged on a delicate flower necklace and a large coffee with ice cream in it, but they were most definitely worth it. Most of the art on display were kooky statues in strange poses, which were fun to imitate as my friends and I wandered the street. We found ourselves in a more formal art gallery and had the chance to speak with the artist himself! I’m no art connoisseur, but I especially liked the way his paintings were made with think, three-dimensional paint that made his objects stand out from their frames. It was also a great time to practice my Chinese! The Beijing accent is often mocked for its clunky –er sounds tacked on to the end of words, but thankfully the artist spoke very clearly.
All in all, it was a busy weekend. I love Beijing and all the memories I have from spending past summers there, but I’m grateful that I’m spending my semester in the less-polluted and more metropolitan city of Shanghai. I’m simultaneously writing this blog and packing for my next weekend adventure in Nanjing. Thanks for following my travels – Go ND, Go China!