Another early start and no time afforded to get a coffee meant I had a splitting headache (and an empty belly) as we walked over to
Our hotel was located only a few blocks from the Qianmen or Zhengyangmen (South) gate of the ancient walled Imperial City and marks the far end of the Square today.
Tiananamen Square is the third largest public square in the world at 109 acres and is perfectly rectangular.
The Square has existed in a smaller form since 1651, but has been expanded and altered several times since. It is so large in scale that even the thousands of daily visitors and dense military and police prescence are completely dwarfed by its enormity.
|Great Hall of The People|
At the far nothern end of the Square is the Tiananmen Gate- the gate into the Forbidden City.
The Monument to the People’s Heroes and Mausoleum of Mao ZeDong are located approximately in the middle of the square between the Qianmen gate and Tiananamen Gate, upon the site where the ancient Gate of China once stood.
|Monument to the People's Heroes, National Museum of China behind|
Flanking the sides are the National Museum of China, and the Great Hall of the People (Chinese Congress building). Our guide proudly remarked that the Great Banquet Hall inside the congress building holds up to 5000 dining guests at one time.
I replied scathingly that I bet they serve coffee there, and fixed my attention on some massive flower sculptures erected for the recent national holiday.
|Flower sculpture, Tiananamen Square|
Tiananmen Square student protests of 1989 are a completely taboo subject- nothing is published or discussed about them in by anyone. I bent down on one knee -ostensibly to tie my shoe - on the spot upon which I believed the young man faced down the tank alone, and touched the ground with open hands. China
We walked the length of the gigantic square, crossed the busy multi-lane street, and crossed the massive marble bridges over the moat to enter The Forbidden City via Tiananmen Gate.
|Tiananamen Gate, to the Forbidden City|
The Forbidden City is surrounded by a 26 ft high, 28 feet wide wall and a 20ft deep by 171 ft wide moat.
|Southern (Meridian ) Gate's moat, The Forbidden City|
Built by the Ming Dynasty between 1406 and 1420, the
Forbidden City consists of 980 buildings, over 9000 separate rooms and covers 720,000 square meters.
|Stunning roof detail, The Forbidden City|
For close 500 years, it served as the home of emperors and their households, as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government.
|Entrance to the Forbidden City, and moat|
One could spend a few days here exploring the enormous complex. We visited a few of the highlights, including the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the
and the Palace of Heavenly Purity . Imperial Garden
|Imperial Garden, the Forbidden City|
One of the notable architectural points of the
Forbidden City is the yellow roofs- yellow being the Emperor’s colour.
|Hall of Supreme Harmony, The Forbidden City|
As in other ancient buildings in
, roof eaves are decorated with “roof guardians”, but inside the China Forbidden City, the guardians are led by a phoenix and followed by a dragon.
As with other roof guardian decorations, the number of guardians denotes the building’s relative importance, with the only most crucial of buildings boasting the full nine “sons of the dragon’’. The Hall of Supreme Harmony in the
Forbidden City boasts a tenth- a hangshi.
|Roof detail and 10 roof guardians, Hall of Supreme Harmony|
As we exited through the Northern (
) gate of the City, we looked above us to Meridian and its stunning pavilion, a raised park made with the earth excavated to construct the moat. Jingshan Park
|Jingshan Park and pavillion, Beijing|
After a quick lunch, Suzanne headed back to the Silk Market for a second fitting on her new wardrobe, so David, Helen and I made our way via a 40 minute metro to the
together. Summer Palace
|The Summer Palace, Beijing|
When the Jin Dynasty emperor moved his capital to the Beijing area, he had a palace built on the site of the hill where the Summer Palace now stands @1150 AD. These palace grounds were expanded over the following 500 years by subsequent emperors, who used the palace as a lushly planted refuge from Beijing’s summer heat and humidity.
|A gingko tree, aflame|
|The Marble Boat, The Summer Palace|
Kunming Lake covering 2.2 square kilometers was entirely man-made wi and the excavated soil was then used to build Longevity Hill. The Marble Boat was built by Empress Cixi in 1860.
Helen and David and I spent a couple relaxing hours there, refreshed by the water and densly wooded glens, before meeting up with Suzanne and our guide for our “Last Supper” of Peking (Beijing) Duck. David and Helen were leaving for the UK early the next morning.
The oily-skinned roasted duck is cut into thin slices and served with green onions and bamboo shoots to be rolled itogether in a crepe with sauce. We also enjoyed Lions Heads- massive pork meatballs served on a bed of lettuce. We soon made short work of that memorable meal!
We gravely exchanged email adresses for continued correspondence, then ventured to the market area for a few last minute souvenirs before heading to bed.
|Dumplings are lovely, but liquor is quicker!|