Public and Private Walks and Lectures
I’ve developed and designed programs introducing Chinese history and culture to students and groups for over 15 years. Currently, I organize public and private walks and lectures in Beijing for educational programs, companies, community organizations, and travelers.
My lectures are informative but fun looks at Chinese history, historical events and people, Chinese culture, and adjusting to life in China. For information on speaking to your group, please contact me through the “Contact” link above.
Public walks are offered in conjunction with The Hutong, Beijing’s leading cultural exchange center. Check out The Hutong events page and calendar for more information on upcoming public walks and lecture.
Private walks are also available. Please see below for a partial list of walks available in and around Beijing. For more information on booking a walk, and for prices and scheduling, please contact me through the “Contact” link above.
Selected Private Walks
Manchus in the Palace: A Walk and Discussion at the Forbidden City
A fun and informative walking seminar of Chinese imperial history while exploring Beijing’s majestic Forbidden City including areas just opened this month. Not your usual history tour, Jeremiah employs voices, Forbidden City fun facts, stories, pop culture references, and examples from the archives to bring to life the palace in the days of Manchu rule. Along the way, Jeremiah will discuss why the Manchus — and the empire they founded — continue to cast a shadow over today’s China.
The Emperor and the Lama: A Walk and Discussion at the Lama Temple and Confucian Temple
The Lama Temple (Yonghegong) and the Confucian Temple/Imperial Academy are well-known for their association with Buddhism and Confucianism respectively. But these sites have also long played an important role in state ideology and the ideology of empire building.
First, we’ll look at the religious and philosophical context for both locations. Then we’ll consider how the Qing emperors appropriated the forms and functions of Tibetan Buddhism in consecrating the Lama Temple at a time when their armies were steadily moving westward into the Tibetan plateau. This connection between the state and Buddhism in Tibet has had profound implications for the current relationship between Beijing and Lhasa.
At the Confucian Temple we will talk about how Confucianism became the dominant ruling ideology and the role that the system of exams and academies, notably the adjoining Imperial College, played in perpetuating Confucianism through the centuries.
Imperialism, Opium, and Nationalism: A Walk and Discussion at the Old Summer Palace
The Old Summer Palace contains the ruins of Yuanmingyuan, one of a series of lavish imperial gardens destroyed in 1860 during the Second Opium War. Today the ruined pillars, foundations, and archways serve as a vivid reminder to visitors and school children of the “Century of Humiliation” and the tragedy of imperialism in 19th-century China. While we explore the remains of these magnificent grounds, we will discuss the historical context for their destruction and how the memory of the events of 1860 continue to play a role in shaping how China views the world today.
This walk and discussion will last about two to three hours and we will proceed at a leisurely pace with plenty of time for rest, refreshments, and conversation.
In the Footsteps of the Emperor: A Walk and Discussion at the The Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven contains some of the most iconic architecture in Beijing. It is also a gathering place for Beijingers of all ages. Nowhere does Beijing’s past and present exist so prominently side by side. We will look not only at the Temple of Heaven complex and its ritual and historic significance, but we will also discuss the connections between present and past and between historical and contemporary Beijing. Along the way, we will have a chance to see dancers, jugglers, martial artists, and even parents matchmaking their (often unsuspecting) grown offspring!
The Dowager and the Dynasty: A walking seminar at the Summer Palace
Who was the Empress Dowager and why is she blamed for bringing down the last dynasty?
She ruled China for nearly a half century and many today blame her for spending money on rebuilding this elaborate pleasure garden even as the empire faced grave threats from without and within. But the real story of the Empress Dowager Cixi — and the Summer Palace she had built — is more complicated and fascinating.
We’ll explore this question and the last days of dynastic rule as we stroll through the gardens and pavilions of Beijing’s famous Summer Palace.
The Ming and the Merciless: A walk along the Great Wall
There are many myths and legends surrounding China’s Great Wall. Separate fact from fiction as we walk from tower to tower. We’ll learn why the wall was built and what it was like to stand on its ramparts facing north. We’ll also enjoy some country cooking on the way!
Tiananmen and the Making of Modern Beijing: A Walk and Discussion at Tiananmen Square
For much of China’s 20th century, the area around Tiananmen has been the political epicenter of the Chinese nation. Certainly, it represents the beating heart of the city of Beijing.
This walk and discussion will take us through Beijing’s history as an imperial capital and how the abdication of the last dynasty in 1912 and the founding of the PRC in 1949 fundamentally transformed this city. We’ll visit the Beijing Urban Planning Hall (a fascinating museum in desperate need of a catchier name!), walk through Tiananmen Square, and explore the former imperial spaces surrounding the square. We’ll look at the history of the city, the political significance of Tiananmen, and the ongoing evolution of Beijing from an imperial city to a modern capital.
Traditions and Transitions: A Walk and Discussion in the Hutongs of Dongcheng
This walk explores the past, present, and future of the Beijing hutongs. One of the capital’s most distinctive features, the hutongs have long been at the core of Beijing’s urban culture. This walk takes us through the hutongs of the Dongcheng district, once home to some of Beijing’s most fascinating figures. It is also an area with a vibrant present, as old spaces are repurposed as new commercial and residential spaces. We will discuss the history of the hutongs in the imperial period, who lived there and why. We will look at the different architectural features and how these features were important markers of status in the old capital. We will also discuss how the pressures of rapid urban development are presenting challenges to the preservation of both the physical and community structures of these neighborhoods. Finally, we will discuss how new uses for old spaces has changed the hutongs for both better and worse.
May Fourth Movement and the Making of Modern China: A Walk and Discussion
A century ago, within the humble walls of a red brick building just to the east of the Forbidden City, an intellectual revolution was underway. Peking University was ground zero for the May Fourth/New Culture Movement. Iconoclastic firebrands like Chen Duxiu were publishing new magazines. Young intellectuals like Hu Shi were returning from abroad with new ideas about philosophy, language, and history. The librarian Li Dazhao spent his time writing essays on Bolshevism and revolutionary change. Even his intern, a chubby kid recently arrived from Hunan, would go on to play a major role in China’s turbulent 20th century. Overseeing it all was Cai Yuanpei, classically trained and German educated, who changed the academic climate at Peking University and sowed the seeds of intellectual change.
We’ll discuss these famous figures and the New Culture Movement while visiting the old Peking University building and the surrounding hutongs. Why was the May Fourth Era so important? Why was it such an intellectual dynamic period? How did the May Fourth Demonstrations of 1919 change the intellectual climate and set the stages for the political divisions which would soon tear China apart?
Myths, Museums, and Modern History: A Walk and Discussion at the National Museum of China
One of the first official visits by Xi Jinping and the new Standing Committee when they took office in 2012 was the “Road to Rejuvenation,” the flagship exhibit at the National Museum. The Road to Rejuvenation presents the origin story of Modern China from the perspective of China’s leaders and the Communist Party. We will tour the exhibition and look at China’s modern history while discussing how and why this narrative has been created, deployed, and perpetuated in China today.