Sunday, April 27, 2008

The reason for the name of this blog

Setting aside the metaphors for a moment, I want to show you where I'm staying in Beijing relative to the 16 million other people in the city. Here's Beijing Shi (City), laid out on an uncle's ping-pong table:

Enclosed in the red square is the center of the city, which I've so poetically labeled "Heart of City." Inside that area you'll find Tiananmen, the Forbidden City, various Central Government buildings and Beihai (North Sea) Park, an imperial garden with a thousand-year history that has all the grandeur of a popular tourist attraction yet has retained the elegance of a living monument. (It was originally built for Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis. This Kublai Khan.)

Zooming in, you can see the water of Beihai next to the Forbidden City. The east-west street indicated by the red oval is Changan Jie, which I've seen translated fairly accurately as Eternal Peace Avenue. Tianamen Square -- not to be confused with Tianamen, i.e. Gate of Heavenly Peace, which is that building with the gigantic portrait of Mao -- is just south of Changan Jie.

And now we zoom in some more... I live inside a quadrangle (in Chinese: siheyuan, meaning literally "four-sided courtyard") marked by the yellow star, within walking distance to Beihai.

Not bad, huh?

My family owns three units inside the quadrangle, which was originally built to house government officials and their families. My grandpa on my mom's side -- laoye (as opposed to yeye, which means grandfather on one's dad's side) -- who's since passed on, was a notable combatant during three wars: World War 2, the Chinese Civil War and the Korean War. It's been said that his head was worth several pieces of silver to the Japanese during WWII, as he was the leader of a guerilla platoon. Eventually he settled into office life within the Central Government, performing tasks that no one in our family can quite tell you about. "I never pressed him on that matter," my uncle (jiujiu) told me.

One of our units inside the quadrangle is currently leased out, while Jiujiu lives in a downstairs unit with his wife and twin boys, who are yearlings, and his wife's mother. I live with one of my cousins, Zhang Peng, on the fifth floor of a separate building.


The Jamboree said...

Dude, I've been so close to where you live. I wonder if I saw the building you stay in... I'm sure I wouldn't remember it anyway. But yes, it seems like you live in a pretty sweet place.

The Tao said...

It's in a hutong (narrow street/alley) that's off a main road. Really quite out of the way, even though it's near the middle of everything. Would be pretty incredible if you've seen the courtyard (buildings inside are all pretty nondescript).