Day 4: the Forbidden City, Taichi, and Hutongs

Today was our last full day in Beijing, and we closed it out with a bang: the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, hutongs, the Temple of Heaven, and a taichi class. We started our day off in the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, where we saw Mao’s tomb and the largest town square in the world, which is also the site of infamous protests in 1989. We were rushed off the bus and into a gigantic crowd to go through a security check to enter the City. After we passed through the crowds of people waiting to put their names on the list of the maximum 80,000 visitors a day, we walked into a sort of subway station that allowed us to cross underneath one of the busy streets and into the Square. Once we were there, we turned into bona fide celebrities: people everywhere started taking pictures of our group and were NOT discreet about it.

After we visited the Forbidden City, we rode through the hutong district on rickshaws. The streets were crazy narrow and there were many moments where I thought we would crash into the incoming row of rickshaws, people walking on the street, or parked cars. Thankfully, our driver was very good at his job and was able to guide us throughout the streets without hitting anything. We stopped at a traditional home and listened as our tour guide, Joe, translated the life story of the owner of the quadrangle. The 70-year-old owner had been living in the hutong district from the time he was born and will likely stay there until he dies.

Our last site today was the Temple of Heaven, a Taoist temple where sacrifices were performed. The temple itself was gorgeous and the colors were striking, and the surrounding gardens were also gorgeous. While Angeline, Chloe, Sabrina and I were wandering during our free time, we noticed that we’d attracted a follower-an older man who followed us around some of the less populated portions of the complex. Needless to say, it was slightly creepy, although he grew bored and stopped after a while.

The final stop today was a taichi class in the gardens of the Temple of Heaven. I thought that because I’d danced for colorguard in high school, I’d easily be able to fall back into the routine of memorizing choreography and performing it well within a short period of time. Boy, was I wrong! I don’t know whether engineering school bred that out of me or if I’m just out of practice, but the movements confused me and my hands always ended up in the wrong spots. L

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