Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and Summer Palace

Day 3 in Beijing took us to three iconic places in Beijing. 

First was Tiananmen Square, a large square dedicated to the people of China and heavily monitored to this day by the military and the police. For most of us, Tiananmen Square evokes memories of large scale protests by many young people in China in 1989, which ended badly for many. 

Today, the tour guides are not to speak of this protest and current Chinese history has no mention of it either. 

You must pass strict security when entering the Square. Chinese citizens are subjected to background checks on the spot. Your bags must go through an X-ray machine just like at the airport. The lines are long for the locals. 

Tiananmen Square is huge! I remember being here the first time in 2007 and it seemed bigger today. It was also colder today!

Bordering one end of the Square is the entry gate to the Forbidden City, completed in 1420 under the Ming Dynasty. It, too, is huge. I think to walk through it is about a mile. In today's vernacular, you could say it was the government, royal offices, and Emperor's home. 

The first few gates take you into the city grounds, past the government center and into the area where the emperor would receive counsel and issue edicts. 

Behind these areas lies the residential section where the emperor, his wives, children and concubines lived. 

Nowhere within the city were any of the public citizens allowed, hence the name "Forbidden City."

After the City we headed for lunch. Another family style meal which was as delicious as yesterday's. 

This afternoon we visited the Summer Palace, where the emperor stayed during the summers. It is a very large area with gardens surrounding a huge lake. We spent over an hour walking through the park like area, before hopping back into our van and off to the airport. 

Tonight our 2 hour flight will take us  to Xi'an, where we will visit the Terra Cotta Warriors tomorrow. We 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Our day at the Great Wall and Ming Tombs

Not much to say about the Great Wall. Nixon first called it The Great Wall on a visit to China. Until then, China didn't do much to advertise it. At least, that's what our enrichment speaker had told us.

There are more than several good spots in the Beijing area to visit and climb some of the wall. The last time I was here, I think we were at the Badaling section. This time we were at the Younggyuen section. The climbing here was steeper by far. Last time there was no snow. Today, well, more snow. But at least it was sunny and pretty clear skies. There were some smaller temples around the wall, including a temple dedicated to the horse gods, so that horses could be strong to carry the soldiers who guarded the wall from invaders. While there, I found myself face to face with a cute orange tabby. I think it's a sign....

After the Wall we went to - you guessed it - lunch! More family style, more beer. It was delish. Since we were outside Beijing we had to go to a tourist restaurant so part of that included a walk through a jade factory and store. It was pretty nice.

After lunch we visited the Ming Tombs. Built during the Ming dynasty, the emperor wanted a place to be buried, etc. so he could move the capital to Beijing. The Ming Tombs were built before the Forbidden Palace and are over 600 years old.

A nice day.