I Climbed The Great Wall Of China!

When you design for a living, inspiration and creativity must be renewed. Design inspiration can come from anywhere – but travel is a HUGE source of inspiration for me. 

"Travel is not about where you go but how you see the world".

This Spring I had the opportunity to travel to China, a trip that turned out to be one of a lifetime. I was part of a group, and we visited Beijing, X’ian, Shanghai, Suzhou & Hong Kong. Below are some of my travel notes.

The Great Wall of China

Climbing The Great Wall of China was an Olympic event… who knew? and one which I challenged myself to undertake. Crowded at the bottom with many tourists, mostly Chinese, the higher up you go the less populated is the path. What surprised me the most was that it wasn’t a paved path; rather it consists of many steps (I heard 1,000, then someone else said 2,000). I made it up the first 600, huffing & puffing and very warm. I was warmly dressed, as it was very cold on the mountain, about an hour’s drive outside of Beijing. Climbing, the layers came off one by one - first the cashmere scarf, then the down jacket, and so on. Along the way, I paused to take photos with local tourists.


The Great Wall of China

Since I relate everything to design…I was wondering if construction blueprints existed for The Great Wall, so I looked it up & sure enough there are (see http://bit.ly/2n4IqPL , and for additional information http://bit.ly/2oCcEXn . I was also wondering why the steps height was so uneven, ranging from 4”- 16” high, making the climb even more challenging.

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty—the years 1420 to 1912. It is located in the center of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum. 

 The Forbidden City

 X’ian; The Qin Dynasty Terra-cotta Army 

The army of life-size terra cotta soldiers, archers, horses and chariots was stationed in military formation near Emperor Qin’s tomb in order to protect the emperor in the afterlife. This awesome view is even more amazing when you discover it represents only a fraction of the underground treasures yet to unearth.

The Qin Dynasty Terra-cotta Army 

Suzhou - Venice of the East

Suzhou, a city west of Shanghai, is known as the “Venice of the East” for its canals, bridges & romantic water town. 


When you travel through China, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s no such thing as ‘Chinese food’. Oh there’s Cantonese, Sichuan, Shandong, Fujian, Hunan and Anhui food, and everything is so fresh & delicious. Peking duck was one of my favorites.

Signs of China

Signs in China are everywhere, some in traditional graphics, and other quite contemporary. What was amusing, was the occasional literal English translation.

The Recycling Bins are beautifully designed with graphics you cannot misinterpret:

“Be careful For Squeeze” was found in front of a revolving door.

“Asexuality” …you get it!

“Fire off in Garden Area”…would you guess “No Smoking in Garden?”
 Except for the air pollution, China is super clean


Cleaning crews with low-tech equipment, often in uniforms are in many parks & historic areas.

Hong Kong 

Hong Kong is an autonomous territory, and former British colony, in southeastern China. Its vibrant, densely populated urban center is a major port and global financial hub with a skyscraper-studded skyline incl. the famed architectural landmarks like I.M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower.

This was my second visit to Hong Kong. Would you believe I was there in 1967? Naturally, it was overwhelming to experience the growth. The Hong Kong I remembered featured a few high-rises, compared with the urban & commercial jungle of today’s Hong Kong Island & Kowloon. Although governed by China, it still feels like a British Colony, with driving on the Left side. It’s public transportation, incl the subway is amazingly efficient.

In conclusion, my trip was inspiring and fun, providing much design inspiration!

Until the next trip… Ni ha to all!

Ruth Livingston


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