Photo Theme: Solitude


The theme for today’s Photo 101 challenge is Solitude.  I took this picture a few month ago in Beijing.  I think I was a little envious of this woman because she was able to be alone to contemplate what she saw.  I, on the other hand, was part of an organized tour.  The tour guide was rushing to get us back to the tour bus so she could take us to the pearl factory and the jade factory and the silk factory so that we would buy stuff there.*  Oh, well, everyone’s got to make a living.

*Full disclosure:  I did in fact buy things at the pearl factory, the jade factory, and the silk factory.

Temple of Heaven, edited

Debra discovers free online photo editing!  Which version of the Temple of Heaven do you prefer?  I used FotoFlexer to experiment with special effects.

The Temple of Heaven, located in Beijing, China, was first built in 1420 and later enlarged.  Here the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties held their Heaven Worship Ceremonies.


First Impressions of Beijing

Temple of Heaven, one of the few examples of Chinese architecture I saw in Beijing.
Temple of Heaven, one of the few examples of Chinese architecture I saw in Beijing.

In a recent blog post, Damyanti of Daily (W)rite asked her readers to comment on the last city we traveled to and how it made us feel. (Click here to see the post.)

Her question made me think about Beijing, China, which I recently visited.  If I had to sum up in one word how it made me feel, I might say “disconcerted.”  Even though I did not know what to expect before visiting China’s capital city, Beijing was not what I expected.

What I hoped for, I guess, was a city brimming with history and “Chineseness,” whatever that might mean.  I was hoping for a cityscape that could exist nowhere else on the planet besides China.

Instead, I landed in a bustling modern city, with buildings that appeared to be mostly younger than me.  If I had been “beamed in” to Beijing in a Star Trek type apparatus without being told where I was going, I do not think I would have known I was in China if not for the signs in Chinese characters (many of them side-by-side with English).  To be sure, the major tourist attractions, such as the Forbidden City, were older and distinctly Chinese in character.  But the vast majority of buildings were in the multi-story architectural style defined by me as Ordinary Modern Business.

(Click here for a previous blog post in which I discussed China’s lack of interest in preserving old buildings.)

On the positive side, Beijing was more attractive than I had anticipated.  Its major roads were broad and tree-lined, creating a cityscape that is more lush and livable than I had expected.  On the negative side, I felt the city’s relentless focus on the new resulted in a lack of something ineffable—whether we call it history, character, “Chineseness” or something else.

To be fair, I should point out that I was only there for three nights and two days.  Most of the two days was spent on a guided tour, with little room for roaming off the beaten track.  I know I missed a lot.  I also know that I am most likely indulging in a misplaced desire for exoticism.  Old China may have been more picturesque, but I would imagine that life is much easier for the residents of 21st century Beijing.

With this lengthy preface out of the way, here a few memories of Beijing that will stay with me:

  • People, people, people. People were rushing around everywhere, at seemingly all hours of the day and night.

    Train station at 6:00 a.m. on a Monday morning.
    Train station at 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning.
  • Dead animals hanging in the windows. The Chinese apparently eat anything and everything.  Chicken feet.  Sheep’s head.  Pig intestines.  You name it, they eat it.
Not sure what all of these animals are.
Not sure what all of these animals are.


  • Random displays of bear paw(s) on street vendor’s table.


  • The “thoughtfulness” of our hotel staff in providing unsolicited sex products for us in our room.
From the Beijing hotel room.
From the Beijing hotel room.


  • Babies without diapers peeing in the open. I saw a baby running around a store room with nothing on his bottom.  One colleague told me he saw a Chinese couple holding their baby over a public garbage can so he could do his “thing.”
  •  The misguided fashion trend of men rolling their shirts up above their bellies.
Fashion faux pas?
Fashion faux pas?


  • Chinese people showed no hesitation whatsoever in taking pictures of me and my white American companions. Sometimes they asked if they could take a photo, and sometimes they just took one surreptitiously.  For a minute there, I started to feel like a celebrity.  (This feeling quickly passed when I returned home.)


This young woman requested my photo with her.  As did her dad and also her brother.  Not to mention her uncle.
This young woman requested my photo with her. As did her dad and also her brother. Not to mention her uncle.

I wish I could have stayed longer so that I could have gotten a better “feel” of the city.  I really want to visit the hutongs (the older neighborhoods), but I didn’t get a chance to do so.  Next time…


Have you been to Beijing?  If so, what were your impressions?