On how we intended to go to a temple fair and ended up being the last people in the Forbidden City

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Today is New Year’s Eve and we decided to go to one of the multiple temple fairs that occur in the city. It is an occasion for people to visit a temple in order to start the new year with the gods on their side and, at the same time, to have a good time, since there are multiple vendors, a wide variety of performances (acrobats, puppet shows, Chinese opera, even blind dating!, depending on the fair you go to), carnival games, and street food. You can read an overview of the various temple fairs in Beijing here. After Pam did some research, we decided to go to Changdian Temple fair (Ch. 陶然亭公园), since it’s supposed to be “Beijing’s biggest, most famous and most influential traditional temple fair. Changdian’s attractions include handmade craft displays and Peking Opera performances.”

Well, it was not meant to be, because, after taking a hard-to-find taxi to get there, we were informed that the fair starts tomorrow (thanks, The Beijinger, for the wrong information!). We were not the only ones who fell prey to this misinformation, as we saw many people approach the entrance to the park only to find out that the festival starts tomorrow. What could we do now?! After the effort it took to get the three kids out of the house, we did not want to simply go back home. So Pam looked in our Beijing guide and found out that we were not too far from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and there we went!

Pam and I have been in Beijing before, so seeing Tiananmen was not new to us (we even once stayed in a hotel overlooking The Forbidden City during the early days of our relationship). It is still quite an impressive site. It’s not only the site of the Forbidden City, where the emperors of many Chinese dynasties resided (and the center of imperial intrigue). This is also the place where Mao proclaimed the new republic in 1949:

We did the touristy thing and took a few pictures of the family in front of the Forbidden City, under the stern gaze of Chairman Mao.

One of the most interesting things, though, was that while we were there taking pictures of a very famous historical site, we ended up being quite the tourist attraction ourselves. As you can see in the pictures below, various people started taking pictures OF US and WITH US. I know that sometimes this happens (and we experienced it  in India and other parts of Asia when Sophia was a baby), but it was a little overwhelming to find how people wanted to have their pictures taken with our kids. You can see a sample of this phenomena below:

Finally, we ended up going into the Forbidden City. We had no plans to visit the site today (remember, we wanted to go to a temple fair!), but it turned out that the Forbidden City (not the actual buildings, but the various courtyards) was open free and open to everyone (probably because of New Year?) and since we were already there… The kids were quite impressed with the place. Dylan and I even debated if Ninjagos would be able to go over the walls and take over the palace (I don’t think that’s possible, while Dylan believes Ninjagos could totally do that). At the end of the visit, the crowds were thinning out and before we left the place we thought it was a good idea to go to the bathroom. Well, after the bathroom ordeal we found out that we were the last people to leave the Forbidden City, with a Chinese officer escorting us out of the place. Here there are some pictures of the visit, including our leaving the place from a side door, since the main gate was already close.

On our way home we could see and hear fireworks all over the city, celebrating the arrival of the New Year. Hopefully they will stop at some point (they are very loud and it has been hours already!). We need some rest, since tomorrow we will try again to go to the Changdian Temple Fair. This time it better be open!

Manu

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