The first and most significant observation when stepping off our flight from Tokyo was how close in proximity yet how incredibly different in culture China and Japan are from one another. It's truly something you have to experience. No photos, documentary, or even blog post can describe the feeling of culture shock you experience, especially as an American.
For starters, China seemed to be a much larger group influenced culture where Japan was very individualistic albeit grounded in some form of "for the greater good" mentality. From the swarms of old men and women practicing Tai Chi in the local parks to the military or government-sponsored demonstrations throughout the city, Beijing gave off a vibe of community-driven activity and more subtle, and at times not so subtle, themes of government's role in the people's lives and China in general. The Chinese people were also more expressive and vocal in public when compared to our experience in Japan.
Of all the countries Sam and I have travelled to, China was the most difficult for us in terms of language barrier. That said, the people of China were very welcoming and helpful. We encountered a few Chinese locals who requested photos with us which was an interesting albeit fun experience. In addition to curious locals, we were able to find a few unbelievable meals off the beaten path including a local dumpling shop (Sam's favorite) and a peking duck meal (my favorite).
The most inspiring part of China was visiting The Great Wall of China. Similar to culture shock, there is no way to describe, or even capture in photographs, the beauty and all awe-inspiring feelings you experience when hiking, and at times climbing, The Great Wall. To this day, I struggle to wrap my head around how something so large could be that detailed and consistently designed - especially at the time that it was built.
Overall, China was an excellent addition to what originally was planned to be a Japan-focused visit. I'm very glad we made the decision to extend our trip and grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time in both countries.
All images below were taken with the Sony A7 Mark ii, Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA, Sony Sonnar T* 35mm f/2.8 ZA, Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4.0 OSS, and Leica 24mm f/1.4 Summilux.