During my stay in Beijing, I went to the Wangfujing Street area with my friend who lives in China. After traveling from the Tiananmen Square East Station, we arrived at a popular commercial area where many shoppers and tourists flock daily. The majority of this area had high pedestrian traffic and there were plenty of shops, bars, restaurants and cafés along the street. The large screens featured on the department stores reminded us Times Square in Manhattan. Here was probably one of my favorite places after visiting the famous Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.
At night, shop signs lit up in neon colors. We found one of the biggest and most comprehensive bookstores in Beijing: “Wanfujing Book Store (王府井书店)”. In the six floors of the building, we found primarily Chinese books, many of which were also translated into English.
Finally, we visited St. Joseph’s Cathedral (Wangfujing Cathedral). The Romanesque-style church was a pleasant departure from the crowded shopping areas and the building was illuminated by beautiful golden light. I’d strongly recommend visiting here at night to enjoy the wonderful scenery.
Wangfujing area was definitely one of the most interesting places in Beijing. I learned about how China has grown and changed so rapidly and I felt as if I were in New York or Tokyo. At the same time, westernized buildings and views evoke the feeling of an occurring standardization of culture, although there are still huge differences between countries. Globalization and technological development have contributed to removing cultural barriers around the world. Though this helps us to understand other cultures and ways of thinking, it could also lead us to lose parts of our cultural identities because cultural differences are also representative of the different values that make our world so interesting.
However, my concern has been gradually relieved over the course of my trip. I was surprised that many traditional Chinese architectural and cultural heritage sites have been restored and are still well preserved. Tourists from all over the world, myself included, are able to enjoy traditional buildings and Chinese culture. My initial concern may have been the result of living in Japan and watching a similar change occur; my personal experiences have certainly biased my perspective on cultural change. That said, I hope that I can again see those same manifestations of Chinese traditional culture when I visit in the future.
Seiya – MPP