Last weekend, I visited a well known site outside Beijing called 香山 (Xiang Shan), or the "fragrant hills", as it is usually called in English. I was invited to go by a Chinese student who I am doing a "language exchange" with, and her three roommates.
The place in question is a natural park just outside Beijing, on my campus's side of the city. It consists of hills covered by forests and dotted with traditional buildings and relics. The highest peak, Xianglu, is 557 meters high. The park is particularly popular in the autumn, when the numerous maple leaves turn red, covering the place in red. I find that the Chinese have a very strong cultural tendency to appreciate flowers, leaves and plants, and this is the kind of thing which reallly warms their heart. Chinese students often ask me what particular flowers or trees are called in English, and of course more often than not I don't know the answer.
Anyway by the time I got inside, I was already quite tired, and it was already much later than we planned. We decided to give up going up the highest hill in the park, which is what most people do, and just walk around the base of the hills. Wherever we went it was full of people, on the paths, on the grass, on the rocks, etc.... however, we managed to relax a bit and have a nice picnic on the grass. Of course, the Chinese girls I was with were very excited about the red leaves, although personally I must say that I found the traditional Chinese buildings much more interesting than the leaves. Getting back home was of course also a feat. The queues at the bus station next to the park were unbelievable. However, in the end we made it back to out campus.
It is after days like this that one really appreciates the wisdom of the one-child policy, and almost wishes they would enforce it more strictly!
(The photo is of the crowds waiting to catch the bus to get back home)