Traveling as often as I do these days, I do sometimes wonder if there is a balance between life and work. Or for me, simply, my work is my life; my life – my work. And thinking this, I realize that in a very real way that my life these days has been a holiday.  I am always on my way to another wonderful destination. So I take off for Beijing as though I was on vacation. Enjoying the experience. All dimensions calm down and come together when I am alone in the plane, balancing mind
and body, and falling asleep to wake up in a new city,
a new environment, and a new adventure in life.

Beijing and I have changed so much since I first visited here in 1980.
I have totally forgotten the number of trips between then and now, but never the memories. In the Urban Planning Museum of the city, there is a miniature model of the entire Beijing metropolitan area you can walk around. It shows the incredible growth of the city from the first town into the future; the modern buildings, the landscapes changing, and the Forbidden City at the center growing smaller and smaller.

The round doors are a mysterious characteristic of Chinese architecture, and these two small exquisitely carved windows clearly have deep meaning. In the halls of the Forbidden City, there are many of these beautifully decorated windows with motifs of plants and birds that act as ornaments for the round doors.

Architecture has changed everywhere in the major cities of the world but in Beijing the contrast of the new with the ancient is striking. This new Zaha Hadid Galaxy Soho building offers another mall and more offices but it is really shattering the texture of old Beijing. I have a wistful nostalgia as I watch the vanishing of old Beijing into new Beijing. Happy to see them both in this very brief time.

Here, a portrait by photographer Ken Li taken in 1997.
It is called, “Manchurian woman with flower”. bravo.

In this ancient image, an Imperial Palace concert of female musicians.
Apart from the striking beauty of the painting, and the harmonious colours, the story behind it is fun. It was believed that for peace to reign in the Empire, it was essential to have a healthy and organized Imperial sex life. Servants kept records of the Emperor’s comings and goings with brushes dipped in imperial vermillion. In a record of the Chou Dinasty (B.C.) they talk of 81 in number, sharing the imperial couch nine nights in groups of nine. Hence, all the lady musicians waiting
their turn to play for, or with, the Emperor!

Here, the aesthetic of minimalism in Beijing. The Opposite House is a great hotel, designed by the Japanese firm of Kengo Kuma & Associates of wood and glass; its 99 rooms are perfectly spare and understated; it is a treat for the eyes and the body. The name “Opposite” come from the contrast between the serenity of the rooms and the vibrant atmosphere of the restaurants and cafes hosted there.
It is the best place to stay.

The clubhouse is in the heart of the Capital, and is a branch of Hong Kong’s famous 127 year old Jockey Club. The mix of the traditional courtyards of the Ming and Qing Dynasties and the contemporary architecture create a unique modern aesthetic. The architecture is beautifully pure and the rooms are all exactly the same. Best though for me is that all the members can share food recipes and have a personal chef make their own cuisine! And the four gardens, mirror the harmony of the four seasons.

The first recipe for duck is in a book of 1330 by the imperial kitchen chefs. Traditionally prepared, the methods are still the same. The ducks are aged for 45 days, their crispy skin amazing, and the thin slices so difficult to cut, that the great Chinese chefs use special knives and have an art to boning the entire duck.
Here, Chef slices at table. So delicious.

Hospitality is the best surprise, always, in a foreign country. Hospitality is an art of giving and sharing, showing respect to your guests. Even if cultures are different, deeply we are all the same when we share the pleasure of giving.
With great kindness and a symbol of the future, I received a beautiful Horse,
the symbol of good vibrations for this year!

Posted on: Sunday, May 4th, 2014

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