Kate Woods in China: Goodbye Beijing


The temperatures of Beijing and Wellington are beginning to intersect with the cool beginnings of Autumn and Spring.

Here in Beijing, crunchy heaps of leaves are being dumped amongst my feet as I walk along the tree-lined road to Three Shadows. It reminds me that soon I’ll be gone. I am counting my last days in meals. Yesterday beef and pickle noodles and then tonight street-side barbequed skewers of spicy meat, coriander, eggplant and tofu. I have three meals to go.

Luckily I have so many beautiful snippets of experience to unravel on the plane ride home. Looking up and up at the 14m sandalwood Buddha in the Lama Temple and feeling complete wonder and peace. Scampering excitedly down a rock face at sunset in the Summer Palace – a bit lost but running to catch the last light on a golden temple in the distance. Being part of the efficient surge of bodies filling the subway tunnels at rush hour. Walking through warm village streets full of evening festivity, fruit carts and people cooking in the open air. Sitting in an ancient candle lit Taoist hall watching silent sci-fi films with improvised music and new friends. Being welcomed into light filled artist studios in Songszhuang; an adrenaline-filled ride in a pedal powered rickshaw when the elderly driver decided to take on the motorway. Going for a dreamy swim with a family from Three Shadows late at night in tepid water. Visiting the ghost-town gallery district of Jiuchang – and sneaking views of artful private gardens. Navigating hutongs with a gang of artists on bicycle and finding the ubiquitous/delicious yoghurt drink in its chilled ceramic jar. Tasting lotus root, while being warmed by a bonfire, at a Three Shadows ‘Autumn Moon’ celebration. Standing on a cliff surveying ancient caves. Discovering the vast array of photography texts in the Three Shadows library. Walking down my street in the dark, after a Chinese art history class, ducking small bats dipping in and out of the lights. Exploring the maze of brick galleries that make up the incredible Caochangdi. Hearing the constant trilling of bikes behind me and seeing the many amazing ways that people have of tying up large bulky objects on the back of bicycle carts. Being taught new words by people in local supermarkets. Losing myself in the detailed pattern on the ceilings of the Ancient Architecture Museum.

I really could go on but I think the breadth of my experiences means that I will be back.