|A smoggy welcome to Beijing|
|In Tiananmen Square, General Assembly Building behind me|
Built by Mao Zedong, Tiananmen Square is the centre of the General Assembly of China and is said to be one of the largest public squares in the world with a capacity of more than 1 million people. To one side of the square is a large monument to the Peoples' Heroes of the Revolution and Mao's mausoleum, where a never ending queue patiently waits its turn to pay respects. The General Assembly building takes centre stage and on the other side of the square is a massive portrait of Mao. Prior to our arrival we were warned not to mention anything about the student and workers' uprising of 1989 while in the square or to ask anything about the tanks etc. Discussion of the military crackdown is prohibited in China and there are plain clothes, secret service agents with English speaking skills located around the square whose job is to listen to conversations and make arrests if necessary. The Chinese are clearly very twitchy about potential subversion. Actually, the agents were pretty easy to spot as they fiddled with their cell phones and lent on railings but we stayed true to the advice and just drank the whole scene in.
|Monument to the "glorious heroic workers of the revolution"|
|Inside the Forbidden City. The size of the crowd is an indication of how vast it is.|
|Intricate detailing on the buildings and tiers of marble balconies.|
|A view across the city. The buildings on the hill are included. The large bronze vats were kept filled with water in case of fire.|
|Inside one of the palace rooms, little changed since ancient times.|
|The walled garden in the Forbidden |
City - note the paving between
As with so many grand palaces around the world you can't help but ponder the narcissism and entitlement of those who built them and lived in them but on the other hand you can delight in the extraordinary treasures they have left which many millions of people can now enjoy. I thought it was amazing and am so glad to have seen it.
So far it had been a fascinating day with a mix of modern history, politics and ancient, dynastic grandeur. There was more to come which I will write about in my next post.
Right: She looked so darned cute, I had to get a photo, with her mother's permission.