The Emperor’s Day

May 10

The return of Joe! Our fearless tour guide was back for our final full day in Beijing. And boy was it a busy day. First, we visited Tian’anmen Square which is the where many government buildings are located. Joe described it as a politically active area but did not go into the controversial history of the square. I found it interesting to compare the view points of the Chinese and how I learned about the history of the area. They do not talk about the riots that took place there, whereas that was one of the most important events to take place in modern China that I learned about.

Directly across the street from the square was the Forbidden City, our next stop. The Forbidden City used to be the home of the Emperor and where he conducted all of his business. The city was surrounded by a 52-meter-wide moat and a massive wall (is Trump jealous of all of the walls in China?). The architecture was very traditional Chinese with curved roofs and points jutting out on the corners. The vast majority of the city was painted red because it symbolizes luck, happiness, and joy. The other most prominent color was yellow which symbolizes power. We kept walking through gates into more and more courtyards with the main palace and smaller structures all around.  The Emperor would perform different ceremonies, business and acts in a specific “room” that was meant to hold those events (excessive, but it’s good to be the emperor). At some point, they all started to run together because they were all pretty much the same and there were a lot of rooms. There was one area of the City that was vastly different than the rest of the City, the Imperial Garden. The rest of the city had not had any trees so that nobody could hide in them and easily enter or escape if they tried to rob or assassinate the Emperor. The garden was full of vibrantly colored flowers but mostly had trees and a special kind of rock formation called a scholar’s rock, which is very unique. After walking the entire length of the city, we emerged from the final gate in the large wall and saw the hill made from the dirt from digging the moat and on top was another palace.

After lunch, the group went on a Hutong tour. Hutong means narrow alley and is essentially a style of neighborhood. They appear gross and unkept on the outside because the government does not allow them to be changed due to their historical significance. On the inside, the houses are very nice and have lots of character. We were shocked to learn that to buy one of those houses was $44,000 US per square meter. The high price is attributed mostly to their historical significance as well, but still, wow.

Next was a visit to the Temple of Heaven. But before we got to see the temple we learned a few Tai Chi exercises. By the end of our session we had a crowd of fifteen or so people watching us (felt a little odd).

The Temple of Heaven was where the Emperor would make sacrifices of animals to pray for rain and good harvests every year. The smoke from burning the animals was thought to create a connection between Heaven and Earth. Unlike the Forbidden City, the Temple was painted mostly blue.

To cap the day, I had dinner with my Dad, who would have thought that we would be in Beijing at the same time for totally separate reasons!

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