Friday, September 23, 2011

Experience the Brilliant Chinese Civilization

So yesterday I decided to make the trek out to the Beijing Capital Museum, on which my Lonely Planet Beijing guide comments: "With Beijing busily hatching a huge and disparate brood of new and often rather pointless museums, this modern and sleek addition is a showpiece achievement." Incidentally, there's a reason that Lonely Planet guides will, on occasion, get confiscated at China's borders. They can be kind of harsh sometimes. Haha.

In any case, the Beijing Capital Museum is located in the southwest part of Beijing, which has surprisingly few "sights" to visit according to my guide books. Basically, it's not a very tourist-y area. Incidentally, this photo depicts part of it (I tend to be good at capturing the nice side of Beijing. Trust me, it is not a particularly pretty city), and in general, it seems to mostly be just offices, apartments, schools, etc.

So it's kind of weird when this super modern building pops up in the midst of everything (Also, I don't know if you can tell, but it's huge):

Anyways, so the Beijing Capital Museum is one of the city's premiere art museums. It's primarily home to a variety of Chinese historical artifacts, anything from porcelain, Buddha statues, wall scrolls, jade jewelry, etc. It's also kind of interesting because a large number of the artifacts are from the Beijing area. I did actually really enjoy looking at the displays, but I kind of wish that either (a) my Mandarin was better or (b) the museum had made a better effort to cater to a more international audience because while there were clearly descriptions of a lot of the objects in Mandarin, the English descriptions were usually one word titles. They did translate a lot of the room descriptions though, and they actually weren't in horribly butchered English. However, they were laden with lots of fun propaganda about the glorious motherland, and that's actually where the title of this post comes from.

In any case, I took some pictures (with my shoddy camera. Yes, I apologize) of choice pieces in the museum:

Also, at the time that I visited, they were hosting the saddest exhibit ever of some paintings from Amsterdam. Namely, it was a room with approximately 10 paintings in it, most of them relatively unknown, and then a Van Gogh self-portrait as the centerpiece (with a marked off line leading to it and everything). It was kind of strange, but perhaps in the future they will attempt to host more international art? It's unclear. I'm kind of exceptionally curious as to whether that's just the fault of this particular museum, whether it's a lack of interest on the country's or the people's side, a lack of trust from museums in other place, the political climate, or what. I think it's a very interesting question.

In any case, one of the parts of the museum that was kind of exciting and that you can't really see from the outside is this ridiculous skewed cylinder:

There are, in fact, approximately six floors of exhibits in there, and the way you climb up is by this ramp that spirals around the outside of the cylinder. Now remember the cylinder is slanted. So walking up this ramp is pretty much one of the most dizzying experiences I've ever had outside of an amusement park. Basically, not only is the floor curving and rising, the walls are at an angle and that angle is changing as you make your way the full 360 degrees. It is quite disconcerting. I tried to take a photo, but I don't think it was able to really capture the weirdness of the whole thing. In any case, cool architecture.

I've also been thinking about travel plans. I'm definitely going to try to head over to 西安 (Xi'an) for the October holiday. This, of course, depends on a lot of things, the most important being that the Chinese government currently has my passport, and I cannot buy a train ticket... without my passport. They claimed that they'll get it back to me on September 30th, but we'll see. Also, because it's the holiday, everyone and their mother (quite literally) will be travelling, and so I'm not even certain that I will be able to buy a train ticket. Cross your fingers!

In addition, I have decided that I want to go to Harbin in January. It will be incredibly cold (Harbin is, in fact, right below Siberia), but they have an awesome ice/snow festival every year. They also have Siberian tigers and a fancy cathedral and all sorts of things to see. There's a lot of Russian influence so it would interesting to see how that looks this far east. In any case, this is my very very vague plan for now. January is still very far away. :)

hearts and stars,

1 comment:

  1. I am seriously considering a winter trip to China (though... cold...) - hope the travel plans work out for you!!