On our last day in Beijing, we visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Tiananmen square felt a lot like the national mall in D.C., albeit with more stone and concrete. Although we didn’t get to go inside the various museums there, we had a good view of the Chinese legislative building and the various monuments to the civil war that in 1949 gave birth to communist China. On many of the buildings were larger than life portraits of Chairman Mao, leader of the communist revolution, who is probably the most revered figure in modern Chinese history—he’s seen kind of as a mix of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but enjoys a much greater degree of admiration.
The Forbidden City consists of a series of palaces and courtyards constructed in the style of the Ming Dynasty. Ubiquitous are the male and female lion statues that flank the entrance to each section of the city—the female lion is always on the right, and has a cub under her paw, while the male is on the left, and has it’s paw over a globe. The scale is quite impressive, as each time you think you’re nearing the end of the city, there’s always another courtyard. At the end of it, there’s a nice garden that contrasts the buildings of the imperial palace, which were clearly built to project a sense of power and inscrutability.
After visiting the Forbidden City, we went for a tour through a Hutong, or residential neighborhood of Beijing, and afterwards had a tai chi lesson in a park. Both of these spaces are becoming scarcer in modern day Beijing, as the huge influx of people to the cities has led to the construction of many high-rise apartment blocks. After briefly returning to the hotel, a few others and I went out in search of food. We happened upon a small restaurant that was tucked away in a less developed part of Chongwenmen, and ended up having a spicy but delicious meal to end our time in Beijing.