Wednesday, July 4, 2007

China's 'Forbidden City' forbids Babies?

The Forbidden City was the Chinese Imperial Palace from the mid-Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It is located in the center of Beijing, China. The complex is comprised of 9,999 rooms -- and, what feels like that many tourists. But, there are no babies allowed inside the Forbidden City. (OK, that is absolutely not true. But, I didn't see any. In fact, I didn't see any babies in China at all.)

When Alex was 6-months-old, he visited Beijing in intense summer heat. At every step, we were followed, photographed, and stopped by throngs of Chinese excited to see our little boy. If you ever want to know what it feels like to be stalked by paparazzi, then take your baby to China. With over 1.31 billion people, China has the largest population of any country in the world. The crunch of people on the roads and sidewalks is felt as you ping-pong your way down any street. Even the tourist spots are shoulder-to-shoulder with Chinese teens and adults snapping pictures. But there were no babies, toddlers or small children to be seen. The Chinese prefer to keep their children at home. And, that made us a big hit!

At Tian'anmen Square we were followed by excited teenagers. Navigating the stroller through the main gates for the Forbidden City became a bigger challenge as everyone tried to sneek a peek inside. On the exquisite grounds of the Summer Palace a police officer actually had to break up the crowd gathered around us. At the panda exhibit at the zoo, there were more people taking pictures of us then taking pictures of the near extinct pandas. And even on the hottest of days, as we made the ultimate climb up a very small portion of the 4,000 mile-long Great Wall of China, heads turned and cameras from all directions were pointed at little Alex.

I can't help but wonder how many Chinese scrapbooks, camera phones and even blogs my son is posted on. The chance to visit China was a trip that I'll cherish a lifetime. But more than the Ming Tombs, beautiful jade factories or the anticipation of the 2008 Olympics slated for Beijing, what I'll remember most is the thousands of smiles Alex brought to the faces of China!