Summer time had always been the best times of my life. Almost every summer I would go back to China since majority of my family members live there. Everything about China makes me smile and my heart beats with excitement as I stride through the massive international airport gates. Once I get to Guangzhou, there would always be delicious food and warm family members awaiting my arrival with open arms. We normally spent a lot of time together playing poker, having parties or just vacationing. It did not matter what the activity was as long as we were together, laughter and happiness ensued.
The blast of summer in China was hanging out all day with my cousin who apparently is my childhood friend. We reminded ourselves each time of how foolish we would act by engaging in our sheepish activities like yelling and singing, jumping around as we climbed our favorite mountain. The mountain brought memories; memories of childhood promises we made to each other that have brought to us an unbreakable bond. Despite the many changes we have gone through, me moving to America, we still enjoyed the memories that brought back the carefree and easily amused ‘young kids’. It was the best of times I had known.
My sweet cousin was an expert in making me feel at home. He made sure that I knew China like the back of my hand. Taking tours and learning my culture is what he wanted me to do all summer. He believed that for one to be successful, they had to know where they were coming from to know where they were headed to.
One of the romantic and serene places we visited was the Summer Palace in Beijing, China. In Chinese it is known as Yi he Yuan whose literal meaning is “Gardens of Nurtured Harmony”. The sight of it gave me a feeling of home at last and I could not wait to explore the palace that is dominated by Longevity Hill and the Kunming Lake. My imagination ran wild as I dreamt of practicing my martial arts in the morning at the palace, strong wind with a cool breeze blowing my white cloths and my long black hair as it whispers to me, “This is where you belong”. “Hey! Come on man!” I heard my cousin calling. For a moment the outside beauty of the palace had taken the better part of me. There was more! More… more inside. “How much more beautiful could the inside be?” I thought to my self.
As we got inside the palace, I could feel the presence of Empress Dowager Cixi. Her portraits were well sculptured; her big peaceful eyes told how much one could enjoy life at the palace. I later found out that she resorted to the palace during summer. She also diverted 30 million taels of silver said to be originally designated for the Chinese navy, in to the reconstruction and enlargement of the Summer Palace. Indeed it is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design, with the natural landscape of hills and open water combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value. It is a popular tourist destination but also serves as a recreational park.
The Marble Boat on the ground of the Summer Palace made me wonder to a future I cannot tell now “my honeymoon” I thought. It will be romantic to be with my beautiful lady who will make my heart race until I am old and grey. We walked along the Seventeen-Arch Bridge, for a moment we stood and looked at the clear water that reflected the beautiful sky blue color.
Standing a t the top of the Longevity Hill was the Tower of Buddhist Incense. It is the highest building in the Summer Palace. It reminded me of the power of meditation and quickly thoughts flew to my grandfather, when we were small, he would sit under a tree with his legs crossed looking like he was asleep. We always threw stones at him to wake him up. Grandmother would chase us or give us a hard task so as to avoid disturbing grandfather in his serene moments. Now it all came clear, it is a way of connecting to someone, it is piety.
We set foot along the Long Corridor to the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity. A resting place at last, we sat as we admired the landscape and people of all kinds walking around, children running and lovers holding hands as they walked past the beautiful green flowery gardens. Our last capture to the eyes was the Bronze Qilin statue inside the Summer Palace. A piece of Art it is. Anyone can fall in love with it. “Talent”, was what came into my mind.
I felt some weakness in my legs and I realized it was time to go back home. The sun was already bidding the sky goodbye. Our day had come to an end but the Summer Palace was just beginning to sink in my whole being. It was a place worth my return for the rest of my summer days. I studied it everyday and the more I did, the more I fell in love with it. It was worth knowing it; to share the wonderful experience with my friends when I got back to America.
I went back home every evening to the crowded family gathering. Our family would gather up with the best of foods, gifts in a very exhilarating mood! Grandma’s soup was just delicious. The secret family recipe of roasted pork on rice was heavenly. Even my father would be obliged to come home and behave like the obedient son when grandma slowly cooked it to perfection. We would sit at the dinner table for hours just reconnecting our lives together.
Such events proved to be a vital part of my upbringing since it convinced me on the importance of family values and why I must work hard in order to maintain a happy and warm home. There was simply no place like home. It gave me a place to rest and regain my innovation and productivity from the much rougher, colder outside world. My family at home would support and lessen my pressure, as well as help me make key decisions about my life. Home brings stability and rewards from all the work I endure and perform. To me, going home to China showed me how hard I’ve worked and what it is that I am fighting for.
I have learned a tremendous amount of information and knowledge about how to treat people and how to react to various situations. These lessons, by my uncles, aunties and grandma, proved to be priceless since I didn’t have to make some of the mistakes I would have made otherwise. They have helped me to be mature and molded me to almost being an ideal person. With such lessons I have been able to make best friends as well as convincing people to always accept my ideas.
I have learnt a great deal of many Chinese beliefs and practices since I was slowly losing them because of adopting the American culture. This has helped me to understand and be more complete as a Chinese American. Going back to China almost every summer is a significant event in my life. It has become more of a ritual because it allows me to reconnect with my family and culture, two very dear things to me. It is a form of relaxation and calms me from the stress I have with school work.
Visiting China will always be a good deal because it allows me to identify myself and acknowledge who I really am and where I stand in this confusing world.