Day 4: Bye Beijing

. Today was another full day as we visited Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. We started the day in Tiananmen Square and, according to our tour guide Joe, we got lucky and it was not busy today. There was plenty of people there, but apparently its usually much more packed, so we lucked out again. It was surprising because there was a huge line of people there who were waiting to see Chairman Mao’s body, which lies preserved in one of the buildings. Joe said the line takes hours, so we decided we could skip that part. I was just in awe of how popular Mao still is in China. There is even a giant portrait of him hanging in the square. I suppose what I learned about him in history class is different from what they learn here. After walking through Tiananmen Square, we walked through to the Forbidden City. I wasn’t really sure what to expect put I was surprised to find that it was a series of palaces enclosing open squares. I was shocked by how big it was. It felt like it went on forever because every time we walked through one there would be an almost identical one behind it. There we learned that it is called the Forbidden City because only the emperor and a select few are allowed to enter and that no women were allowed in expect the emperor’s wife. We then walked through the imperial garden which is part of the Forbidden City. The garden was absolutely beautiful. There were really cool rock formations and lush greenery. It was funny because when the other girls and I were posing for a photo in the gardens a bunch of Chinese people came up and started taking pictures of us and pushed Nancy, who was taking the photo for us, out of the way. I think its crazy that there are so many people here who act like they have never seen white people before. Whenever we go to a tourist attraction in big groups, you’ll see people staring at us and taking videos of us or asking for pictures. I find it actually pretty funny. I hope we end up in a framed photo in one of their houses.

When we left the Forbidden City, we took a short bus ride and stopped in one of the side streets where we took rickshaws to an old house that had been in the owner’s family for 150 years. It had a little courtyard where they kept their pet birds and the owner told us about the history of their house because it is unique and there are very few like it in Beijing. From there we went to another great lunch of which my favorite dishes were the ramen style noodles and shrimp.

After lunch we made our way to the Temple of Heaven where the emperor used to go to pray to the gods. Before visiting the temple, we had a tai chi class in the surrounding area. A local teacher tried to teach us the moves as tourists at the temple watched us and laughed at our attempts. We then walked to the Temple, which was a round building with a blue roof. Our guide Joe explained that the different colors of the roofs have different meanings. For example, at the Forbidden City the roofs were yellow because it symbolizes the emperor and his dignity. The Temple of heaven, however, had a blue roof because the emperor wanted to be humble before the gods rather than try to show off his power with a yellow roof. The surrounding building had green roofs, which symbolize the Earth and red roofs represent happiness. Unfortunately, when we were leaving the Temple of Heaven to go back to the hotel, we realized that one of the students was missing. We count off in Chinese to see who’s there, so we soon found out that Matt was missing as he is number one. It’s okay though because we found him fairly quickly, but sadly that meant we didn’t have time to stop at Dairy Queen, which after a day in the sweltering heat, was quite disappointing. This was our last day in Beijing so when we returned to the hotel, we just had free time so that we could pack up and get ready to go the next day at 6 am.

Mao’s portrait in Tiananmen Square
Temple of Heaven

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