It's been over a week since we left China and I still haven't written down about my experiences, so I'm going to quickly go through the highlights of Nanjing and Beijing.
First off, I wanted to say I was wrong about the people. Chinese people can definitely be rude. While this of course doesn't apply to everyone in China, I began to notice it especially while going to some more touristy locations. For example, while waiting in line to see Chairman Mao's embalmed body, we had dozens of Chinese tourists pushing past us to get farther in line. I've noticed that the level of politeness goes out the drain the second places become crowded. And we sure did encounter a lot more crowded places towards the end of our tour.
The Police State
I also noticed that while China is heavily secured, is not as much of the police state I had envisioned. Don't get me wrong, there are cameras everywhere! Every time we ride the subway we have to scan our bags at security. Our Didi drivers (like Uber for China) were required to keep cameras in their cars. Yet, over time I began to notice how it didn't bother me so much. We could scan our bags quickly and half the time the guards didn't even pay attention. The police walking along the streets seemed to act more as information centers for lost commuters and tourists. Overall, it became normalized. However, I never could get over the Great Firewall of China and not being able to access Google, Facebook, and other major sites without the use of a VPN. The difficulty of using the internet alone would make me hesitate to actually live in China as opposed to just visiting.
We visited Nanjing primarily to see Jin's grandmother and uncle. It was quite interesting because Jin's grandfather fought for the Communist Party of China (CPC). Because of his service to the country, Jin's grandmother is given a place to stay and free food from the cafeteria for the rest of her life. My great-grandfather Jones had a similar situation as a WWII and Korean War veteran. He was able to retire at the Old Soldier's home in DC and had access to free room and board.
Anyways, what makes Jin's family history even more interesting is that her grandfather's brother actually fought for the Kuomintang (KMT), which was the Chinese nationalist party founded by Sun Yat-sen, which eventually became a rival party to the CPC. Because the CPC won the war, they were slaughtering members of the KMT and Jin's grandfather had decided to rescue his brother. He put family over party loyalty and helped him escape China. As a result, Jin's grandfather was not eligible for promotion, but he must have been extremely well respected as he was still able to have received an honorable discharge at the end of his service.
This kind of family history sounds like it could be a movie! It's only crazier to think about the fact that my grandfather had joined the Japanese military right at the end of WWII, before he had a chance to fight. And my great grandfather Jones actually fought in Okinawa in the Pacific theater against Japan. Our children will have some of the most confusing, but interesting family histories.
In addition to visiting Jin's grandmother and uncle on multiple occasions, we had a chance to do some exploring around Nanjing.
We visited the Sun Yat-sen memorial park. We visited the Nanjing museum and a Confucian temple. We visited the Nanjing massacre museum. We visited a really interesting synagogue that doubled as a Jewish history museum of Nanking. We also visited Jin's old neighborhood and her grandfather's grave.
Cindy's friend from college named Luan was our tour guide all throughout Beijing. And Beijing was definitely the most touristy.
Something funny about Beijing is how many times we would stop and get asked for photos because we were foreigners. It happened once, maybe twice with my mom, more frequently with me, and a ton with my dad. While at the Great Wall, I was stopped about 4 times while my dad was stopped almost double that, by random Chinese people who wanted to take their photos with us. One of the cutest instances was when a whole group of about 20 or so children came up to me and asked for a photo. After the photo, they all came up to me and began to give me high-fives and hugs.
Visiting the Great Wall was spectacular. It was also amazing how they had built a sort of roller coaster ride that takes people to and from the wall. There is also a funicular for those who are uninterested in hiking to the top. The view was breathtaking though and I could've spent the entire day walking, but we had so much else to visit.
As I mentioned earlier, we visited Tiananmen Square and actually got to see Mao's embalmed body, which was an interesting experience. It was about a 2-hour wait for about 10-seconds of viewing time and then you're escorted out.
We also visited the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Prince Gong's Mansion along with Hutong, and the Temple of Heaven. Towards the end of the trip everything began to look the same. But I was amazed with the beauty of the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace had some similarities to the Forbidden City, but I loved the large man-made lake in the middle of the complex allowing for boat riding between structures.
We also visited the military museum, which is quite interesting due to the large amount of pro-communist propaganda included. I wonder how Chinese tourists feel visiting American museums, which similarly feature propaganda which we cleverly label, "history."
Overall, I'd say China was one of the more eye-opening places that I've visited. It's one of the first times where I began to question the history behind the writing and wonder how much of the written history is true. But with the large amount of corruption I've encountered in recent months with the US government and more specifically DoDEA, I've really begun to question our own history as well.