Day 5: Stepping Foot in Forbidden Realms and Heaven

I woke up later than I wanted today, but my ankle felt much better today. Uncle Joe came back today to take us to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Both Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City are located in the heart of Beijing. There were at least thousands of people that came visit the square today; the square was filled with tourists from all over China and the world. We passed by the Tiananmen Tower which was used to declare in a big ceremony to the common people who became the Emperor and who became the Empress. We walked north of the Tiananmen Square where the Forbidden City, or the Palace Museum, is located. In the past, it was forbidden to enter the palace without special permission of the emperor, and so that’s how it got its name. To enter, we had to first cross a bridge over a large moat, and then we entered through the gates painted with red. I loved looking at the architecture and the designs on the buildings; I especially loved the dragon designs. We walked through both the southern section, or the Outer Court in which the emperor exercised his supreme power over the nation, and the northern section, or the Inner Court in which the emperor lived with his royal family.

After we exited the Forbidden City, we walked to lunch. I really liked the pork wrap with cilantro dish. After lunch, we took a tour of Hutong. Hutong is a Mongolian word meaning water well, but now it became a term for the local culture of the Mongolians since the Yuan Dynasty. The twisted lanes of Hutong could be compared to a maze. However, each lane has a story. We took a rickshaw tour of Hutong and we stopped at someone’s house. The houses were painted gray as opposed to red which was reserved for the royal family. On the top of each family door, there are beams which represent status. We saw a household with only 2 beams meaning relatively low status. At the Forbidden City, there are 12 beams. Later, we entered a house and its courtyard. We got to witness a woman playing a guzheng, which is similar to a harp. I thought that different buildings in the courtyard represents one of the five elements, water, fire, wood, metal, and air was most interesting.

After the Hutong tour, we went to the site of Tian Tan. First, we walked to a park where I saw elderly people stretching. Suddenly, our Tai chi teacher came and greeted us. We lined up in rows and started off with warm-ups. He taught us five moves, and soon we were able to do them without his guidance. Finally, we went to see Tian Tan, also known as the Temple of Heaven. Tian Tan is one of my favorite structures; it amazes because it is completely made of wood and no nails. Tian Tan was visited by the Emperor to give prayers to Heaven for good harvest. After Tian Tan, we went back to the hotel.

For dinner, I ate at the same hot pot place I went to eat at on the first night, but this time with Liliana and a different crew. It was pretty funny when one of the waitresses recognized me. Liliana chose more special dishes like pig throat, duck gizzard, and duck blood pudding. I’m pretty sure I ate all the duck gizzard. We went back to the hotel first to rest up a bit, before going to a bakery for snacks. We went to the Glory Mall and managed to get some pastries before one of the shops closed. However, we ended up getting trapped in the mall. Thankfully, we ended up following a worker to the main entrance. After a long day, I had a very good night’s sleep.

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