Beijing – Tiananmen & Forbidden City

Beijing, lit “the northern capitol” is a city that has an intimate connection to me. I am an American, through and through. But my body is born here, in Haidian district. This city flows in my blood and it has been nearly 2 decades since I last visited it.

Tiananmen (天安门) – lit: Gate of Heavenly Peace is a recognizable symbol of China. Built in the 1400s, it has seen the rise and fall of 2 dynasties and a republic. Famous as the gate to the Forbidden City and infamous as the site of the 1989 protest; it is today a must see for tourists.

I have been carried through, and even walked these streets with my baby legs until my brain had developed the capacity for memory, then I left. But it seems I remember glimpses of being “from” here – the smell of the air; the sound of the tens of thousands of people’s voices that meld into a single droning hum; and the millions – truly millions of faces that look like me, yet also delivered to me an indescribable feeling of alienation.

Forbidden City (故宮) was the imperial palace of China from 1400s to the founding of the Republic of China in 1912. Today it is a museum. Here, the Meridian Gate braces for the tens of thousands of tourists ready to walk its halls.

This is where I am “from” technically, the place where my birth certificate lists even as it is translated from a script I can hardly read. Herein lies the paradox – I seem Chinese, I AM Chinese as it is in my blood, and others see me as Chinese in America where I call home; yet as I blurb out broken Chinese with horrendous grammar with behaviors and mannerism so alien to the locals I confuse the locals who expect me to be one of them yet so clearly see that I am not.

Scorpion kebabs, anyone?

I am here, as a pilgrim to my past, to “my” culture, and to myself. As I walked these streets, listened to a familiar strange tongue, perhaps I will feel close to myself … or perhaps it will only reinforce that I am a stranger in a strange land no matter which land I reside in. We’ll see.

Wait, fried what? #TranslationFail


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