[Posted on behalf of Abby D.]
Today was a very hot, muggy and busy day! We began the morning with some exploration of Tiananmen Square and then walked across the street to the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City, or Imperial Palace, was the permanent residence and workplace for the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Made up of 9,999 rooms, the complex is vast, beautiful and impressive. Many of us had a difficult time imagining what it would have been like to live and work within the walls of this opulent compound, rarely getting the chance to leave.
We enjoyed a delicious and spicy Szechuan lunch in the Shichahai neighborhood of Beijing, a Hutong preservation area. Nancy B. was particularly happy with this meal as Szechuan food is one of her favorite Chinese regional cuisines.
A special treat awaited us after lunch. Our leader Huajing Maske arranged for us to visit the Hongbaotang Art Studio, where three artists, who are also brothers, demonstrated their techniques for us and answered questions about their work. Two of the artists are calligraphers and one is a painter. Anne F. was curious about the future of traditional Chinese painting/calligraphy and asked if the next generation is learning these skills. Though public school students do not have time to learn traditional painting and calligraphy in school, after school programs and special art academies exist to make sure these art forms endure. The studio was located near Liulichang Street, the Street of Antiquities. Many small shops selling paint brushes, ink stones, paper and other artists supplies lined the small historic streets which we had the chance to explore.
A dinner of Peking Roast Duck completed the day for us. Stuffed and exhausted, we are turning in for the evening.
Photos: 1) Forbidden City, 2) Inside the art studio, 3) Historic street near the art studio
Video: Calligraphy Lesson