Friends from Singapore and Taiwan celebrate the Lunar New Year, of course, but this year’s launch of the annual spring festival makes me nostalgic for my last trip to Beijing, nearly six years ago. March still hung clouds and rain in the skies, but as a treat I roamed through the Forbidden City on my afternoon off.
My attraction to China began when I was young—on Sundays sometimes we would go to the lovely Yen Ching restaurant in Iowa City, and be served sizzling rice soup from a lazy susan in the middle of the table, in our very best clothes. While the flavors there were mild, the blends of spices in the Mongolian beef taught my evolving palate that there were more tastes in the world than meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
My trips to China, always woven in with work, introduced me to its complexity and enormous breadth—both in terrain and cuisine—and the warm people I met. The stories of a fairy-tale-like Dowager Cixi living in the Imperial Gardens juxtaposed with the modern-day women I collaborated with, also strong, inevitably leaders to watch.
Looking up at the painted ceilings on the walkways, running my hands over the intricately carved red doors on the pavilions—my creative interest peaked and made me hurry back to the old Peace Hotel (now the Raffles) to savor a Tsingtao and take down all of these images before they flew away.
A new year…the year of the Earth Pig…my year.
Will I return to China? Heaven knows.