Written by the Warrior

 

Since 1997, I have been to China exactly once every 10 years.

10 years is a long time, and in a place like China, where the pace of development is dizzyingly rapid, a lot can change in a span of 10 years.

Some changes are so profound that it essentially eradicated some of China’s very unique identities, such as when small red brick houses gave way to gray concrete skyscrapers – lots and lots of them; and when small community based courtyards and alleyways gave way to traffic choked avenues.

Some changes are simply victims of such rapid development. In 1997, smog was virtually unheard of. In 2007, it was mistakenly labelled as fog. But in 2017, there’s no denying that the thick layer of particulate dust that hangs in the air, is real and is not good. As well, those lovely dust masks are now a quasi essential urban fashion accessory.

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Some changes are simply a reflection of the times that we are in. During my recent trip to China, I observed an insane level of security measures from boarder customs, to airports, to subway stations, to museums, etc… Especially around Tianmen Square, where once upon a time, people were free to wonder at all hours of the day. People protested there, families had picnics there, older folks did Taichi there, and tourists took photographs there…

Beijing - Qian Men Pedestrian Street

Now, all of that can probably be done, as long as it is between 8am and 4pm, and provided that you can successfully pass through x-ray machined security checkpoints.

Sometimes I wonder if all this security is really necessary. But then again, who am I to judge.

Some changes are perhaps a way to blend in with the world and keep up with the Joneses, such as adopting traditions from around the world – like this one where floating lanterns are lit and set afloat on New Years eve, which is a tradition adopted from Thailand’s annual Yi Peng festival.

And more English, even if it is spelled kinda wrong.

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Some changes are definitely for the better, such as the new 10 year multi-entry visas, free museums and art galleries, less public spitting, pedestrian friendly streets and absolutely gorgeous international airports.

Despite the pace of change, some things are so timeless that they have remained their true self to this day, such as the majestic Great Wall…

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Amazing festivals…

And the one, the only (one of 50), the original “Quanjude” peking duck, still served in the same tradition as it has been for 154 years…

And it is as yummy as ever.

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