Flying Kites in Tiananmen Square

Beijing is full of surprises. Walking back to Raffles Hotel I pass the walls of the Forbidden City and into Tiananmen Square and look up into the night sky. Maybe a hundred kites. Some so far into the night sky that you could see them only by their twinkling lights. Twinkling lights on a Kite ? Oh yes, trust the Chinese to come up with that one. So here I am in Beijing determined to soak in as much of the cultural past as possible. I know about China’s explosive economic growth. It’s everywhere … but oh yes, Beijing is full of cultural surprises …..

The incredible Forbidden City/Palace. Took me more than half a day just to walk through it. The harmony of its architecture so Buddhist. Some of the best interiors though enclosed from public viewing for protective work in anticipation of the thousands that will visit during the Olympics.
To eat not in the best restaurants that Beijing has to offer, but in even the better ones that are hidden away from the tourists gaze. The ‘Dhaba’s’ of Beijing. And if you pride yourself in your ability to handle the spiciest of foods, think again. I made the mistake of smiling nonchalantly ” Oh, well, as Spicy as you can get”. Big Mistake.
And every one is just so friendly !! Start a conversation anywhere in Beijing only if you have time to listen to someone’s life stories and are willing to tell some of your own.
And the Beijing Opera ! Remember that great film “Farewell my Concubine” ?? Any one see it ? So I had to go to the Opera House. It is exactly as it was 200 years ago. And the grace, agility and the stage presence of the actors was beautiful. I tried to imagine myself as a worker in Beijing 200 years ago. Coming every night to watch Opera. The only difference of course was all the female parts were played by men at that time. The female actors on stage were quite stunning. Glad somethings change.
All of this in my first day in Beijing. Oh well, business meetings start tomorrow. But I am determined to soak up as much more culture as I can. This is the first time i have been to China. Ever since I was a young boy, China has been my Mythic land. I am finally here. And before the God of Economic progress subjugates all the other Gods.
And yes, for those that are wondering, Chairman Mao is still alive and well in China.

15 thoughts on “Flying Kites in Tiananmen Square

  1. Dear Shekhar,
    I have always wanted to go to China but have always been a little apprehensive about the social climate and what food I’ll get. Right after my project in Sydney, I was offered a project in Shanghai, but I did not take it up and instead went to Cape Town. I hope you are enjoying your stay in probably the most unique civilization in the world, where few from the outer world have been. I hope you enjoyed walking around the palace – I have seen the king’s palace in Bangkok which is also quite huge, so I can have some idea of what it may feel like. What is the thing that is striking you the most i.e. significantly different from what you had expected? Do you feel the society is free i.e. do you feel the same freedom that we feel in India or America?
    Hope you have a wonderful trip.
    Himanshu – NY

  2. interesting….tell us more about how do the chinese view India…China is very interesting we are the 2 most populous countries of the world, we have a common past, we are currently the fastest growing economies, and we are neighbors.

  3. Hi Shekar,
    I loved this bit on china…seems like your visit truly was so much fun. Visiting new places, getting to know differant cultures and meeting people from differant parts of the world I guess gives you the much needed satisfaction as a Filmmaker.
    🙂 would be really great if you could start up a gallery section on your site. Would be so much fun to see you travel so many places… that would be awesome viewing for your fans.

  4. divya, I will post pictures as soon as I can grt the cables to take them off the camera to the computer – I promise – I have some that will surprise you guys !

  5. Himanshu, Other than one huge potrait of Chairman Mao in Tianamnan Square, there are no signs of the provobial Bib Brother in China. Honestly ? I feel more free and comfortable walking the streets of Beijing than I do the streets of NY or Los Angeles. In fact when I visited the Buddhist sites like the amazing Temple of Heaven in Beijing, I felt a greater affinity to this culture than I have felt anywhere else in the western world. I do not fel alienated here. Shekhar

  6. someone once asked Godard, was Mao a tyrant. He said, Mao was a great cook, he fed half of China.

  7. Thanks a lot for your reply, Shekhar. I am sure you are have a wonderful time on a truly unique journey. I’ll look forward to seeing your pictures.
    Himanshu – NY

  8. I dream to make a film on Hueng Tsang the 7th Century Chinese traveller who took back the wisdom of Buddha and India to China.He acted as a catalyst in deepening the relationship between the two civilisations.
    His travels were interesting and tell a lot about that period’s Indo-China.

  9. Re your post on 24th August Shekhar:
    “Himanshu, Other than one huge potrait of Chairman Mao in Tianamnan Square, there are no signs of the provobial Bib Brother in China. ”
    LOVE that typo “Bib Brother”…am wondering if it is in fact a Freudian-typo as those in positions of power who rule without collaborration or communication treat their fellow countrymen like infantile babies, totally dependant on the rule of the parent for their survivial…;-)
    Then there is Bib Mother,,,I have come across Her a few times during my years working in the Womens Sector…
    Bib Mothercan be a bit scarey especially in numbers…
    I trembeld in my floral skirt a few years ago when I met a tribe of Bib Mothers at a Womens conference where there was a public execution of the male species.
    The incident inspired me to write a piece;
    “Sisters, Our Brothers are not all to blame”….
    …..and how come “collaborration’ mever looks like it is spelt correctly…is it easier to say than do perhaps?

  10. Dear Shekhar,
    you make me a little bit homesick. I grew up in Beijing. As I was young, I used to pass the Tiananmen Square everyday, and everytime I felt proud to be a Chinese.
    And “Farewell My Concubine” is one of my favorite movies. It is a great love story occuring during a very turbulent time in the Chinese history. It shows how selfless and great the love of a woman can be. And the actor Leslie Cheung combined man and woman in one just so well. He was such a great actor. Too bad that he died so early.

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