The camera is an amazing invention that allows us to do the impossible: freeze time. It is hard to believe it all began around the 5th century BC when Mozi, a Chinese philosopher, realized light passing through a pin hole could invert an image. With a photograph we can freeze a moment and revisit it for years. I like to use my camera to capture memories from places I visit. Aside from reading, traveling is one of my other real passions. I love to experience new cultures and see new places. I have the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz and it has become my great bucket list. In honor of the Chinese philosopher who started it all, I decided to highlight some of my favorite locations in China (that are featured in Schultz’s book) and share a few of my photographs with you.
My husband and I call our trip to Beijing our ‘trip of a lifetime’. We both wanted to go there but didn’t know when we’d get the opportunity. As luck would have it, we moved to Japan with my husband’s job and being able to visit China was more feasible. I was really excited about one thing from the start: eating authentic Chinese food. But, in addition to some incredible Peking duck and all the dim sum I could handle, we got to see some amazing places. I’m not even sure pictures do these locations the justice they deserve, but at least I have them to help me remember our trip.
I’ll start with the Forbidden City. Words can’t express how overwhelmed we both were in this vast place. The scale of it was not what I expected and it felt like a living, breathing entity. My husband and I took hundreds (literally, there’s no exaggeration here) of photographs during our walk through the Forbidden City. I was entranced by the history that seemed to reflect off of every surface. It was almost as if I could hear the scurrying footsteps of concubines and servants and picture the Emperor walking through his special garden. My husband was drawn to the architectural details of the buildings, bridges, and walkways. We just kept pointing at things and taking more and more pictures. It was fabulous.
One of our other stops was the Great Wall of China. The sheer magnitude of building such an amazing structure is mind-blowing. Constructing what would eventually become the Great Wall began in the 7th or 8th century BC. Many of the older walls were destroyed, rebuilt, or incorporated into other sections of wall. During the Ming Dynasty the structure we now consider the Great Wall was constructed. Over a million workers toiled on creating the Wall and thousands perished and were buried under the construction. Sadly, only about 1/3 of the Wall remains today. It was unreal to be able to walk on the Wall and imagine what it was like to monitor the area from the various watchtowers.
And, finally, we visited the hutongs of Beijing. The hutongs are traditional courtyard homes in pre-Communist Era neighborhoods. They are known for narrow streets and alleys and most traffic consists of pedicabs. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China many of these neighborhoods were destroyed to make room for high rise buildings, apartments, and larger streets. These neighborhoods are shrinking and expected to disappear if more is not done to preserve them. We were able to take a pedicab tour through one of these neighborhoods and visit with a family who still lives in their ancestral home. While in the area we were surrounded by the sounds of heavy traffic and tall buildings and it felt surreal; it was almost as if we were inside a time capsule.
When we got back from our trip to Beijing I made my husband a photo book of our adventure. Without my pictures I would still be able to close my eyes and remember the awe I felt during my trip but having pictures allows me to relive my experience and be reminded of things I might have forgotten. Pictures also allow me the chance to share my experiences with others and that makes me happy. So the next time you’re capturing that birthday party, wedding, or quiet moment with the family with your camera, give a nod of thanks to Mozi, the Chinese philosopher who made it all possible.
Click by Nick Hornby
Lights, Camera, Amalee by Dar Williams
The Camera (Life library of photography)
The Man in the Photograph by Linda Style
1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Scultz