Today was all about the cultural sites. We saw Tienamen Square, the Forbidden City, had a Hotung tour, took a tai chi class, and saw the Temple of Heaven. They were all really packed full of people but it was so cool seeing these sites in person that I’ve only ever seen pictures of.
Tienamen Square was the first stop on our list. They have a building there where people line up for hours to see Mao’s body, but we didn’t go in. We also saw the monument for the fallen soldiers and listened to Joe the tour guide talk about the different government buildings there.
After that we went through a gate that led us into the Forbidden City, which is what I was most excited to see all day. The doors were massive and red and inside them we saw such incredible architecture. There were so many intricate details painted on the sloping roofs that were beautiful. As I was admiring the Forbidden City, I was also being asked pretty frequently by Chinese people to take pictures with them which was interesting. It got to the point where the guides we were with had to tell people to stop so that I could catch up with the group.
Once we left the Forbidden City we got a Hotung tour. We got into these little carts pulled by people on bikes and saw the living conditions of the Hotung. From the outside, it was just concrete grey one story buildings that looked to be in pretty poor shape. I assumed from this that the people who lived in the Hotung didn’t have much money, but I also noticed that the cars parked on the streets were Mercedes and other expensive brands. We got to see the inside of someone’s home, and learned that the Hotung is from an old dynasty so they aren’t allowed to change the appearance from the outside. The inside however, is full of beautiful furnishings because the people who live there are actually very wealthy. While we were there a woman played a Chinese harp-like instrument for us.
The Temple of Heaven was next on our list, but before we saw that we stopped in the park outside of the temple and took a tai chi class. The instructor had us stand in lines and showed us five different moves. I had fun and ended up going to the front of everyone to lead the final time we did the whole tai chi routine. The movements are all slow and low key, so it was pretty relaxing.
We continued through the park to the Temple of Heaven, and I thought that it was beautiful and it was probably my favorite site that we saw today. The emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties would visit once a year to pray for a good harvest. The paint and details on these buildings were also really incredible, I loved all of the colors. The round shape of the center temple was really beautiful and contrasted the rectangular shapes of the buildings surrounding it.
When we got back to the hotel some people went out to dinner, but I was so tired so I stayed back and took a nap. Tomorrow we’re going to Xi’an so we’ll need to be up very early for that, and I can’t wait to see what the bullet trains are like and to see the differences between Beijing and Xi’an!