Yesterday was our last day in Beijing and we visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City (the former Emperor’s Imperial Palace complex). In the US, adults know and remember the tragic images of Tiananmen Square during the deaths of protesters in 1989. While the Chinese government is certainly much more open than I imagined, I wonder if the average person from Beijing has seen the images and how much they know of the incident. A quick web search from my hotel room revealed that while I could see headlines about the tragedy, each of the first 10 websites I attempted to click on were blocked.
Tiananmen Square is the largest city square on Earth at nearly 5 million square feet (44 hectares). There are many famous buildings that line Tiananmen Square. Most notable at the center of the square is the mausoleum of Chairman Mao Zedong. Yesterday when we visited (an average work day, not a weekend or holiday), there was likely a 3 hour wait for the opportunity for a 10 second viewing to pay respects to Chairman Mao. His body is preserved within a glass coffin. Today the square is a place of national pride, which political addresses occuring here and party slogans projected on large screens.
From there, we crossed into the Forbidden City, the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty, the last Emperor of China. Built from 1406-1420, the city 7.8 million square feet and consists of 980 buildings. The city was held within protective walls and a moat and is divided into two parts- the outer part used for ceremonial purposes and the inner court, the residence of the Emperor and his family. I’ve never seen a larger “home” in my life.