Today started with a great breakfast again. I am sad that this is the last day we will eat at the Howard Johnson, but hopefully, the next two hotels can match this breakfast quality. After our meal, we made our way to Tienmann Square. During this visit, I learned a ton about the history of China. It turns out the last emperor of the Qing dynasty was in 1912. After the dynasties were succeeded by the Republic of China, there was about 30 years of civil wars in China. Then, in 1948, Chairman Mao went to Tienmann Square and declared this country as China. He ruled for about 20 years before his death. After he passed, China began to change from a country similar to present day North Korea which has very little communication with the outside world, to a country that is open to trade and relations with the world.
Aside from the buildings, one thing that stuck out to me was how packed the square was on a Thursday morning at 9 AM. There was a building right in the middle of the square that contains Mao’s tomb. However, because of how crowded it was, we did not see the tomb because the wait time was three hours. The square itself is the second largest square in the world. On the wall of a building, a large portrait of Mao hangs down. Pretty much every visitor I saw stopped and got a picture of this picture.
After Tienmann, we walked to the Forbidden City. This was home to emperors starting in the Ming Dynasty in 1420 and lasted all the way up until 1912. In total, 24 emperors lived in this palace which included 14 from the Ming dynasty and 10 from the Qing dynasty. The palace was giant and housed 10,000 people including the emperor’s family, his security, and other friends. It was made up of big walls and shaped like a rectangular. I personally liked the palace’s garden the best. It was 12,000 square meters and had a wide variety of plants.
After the Forbidden City tour, we took a “Rick Shaw bike” where another student and I sat in the back of a bike and rode to a Chinese citizen’s house. We took a tour of his house which I thought was very small but it turns out it is actually worth a lot of money. This is because there are very few houses in China as most people no matter how wealthy or poor, live in apartment high rises. It turns out, the gentleman’s family has lived in that house for over 150 years. He admitted out of the entire house, he was most proud of the furniture that remains in the interior from when his ancestors first bought the home.
After the tour of the house, we went to lunch. An interesting fact I learned from Dr. Lei was the reason why Chinese people drink excessively hot tea in the hot weather. Their theory is that when it is hot out, they drink something hot to make their body sweat. When they sweat, their body is internally cooling itself off.
Following lunch, we made our way to the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven is a very sacred place where emperors would sacrifice livestock for their ancestors. Before visiting the actual temple, we went on a lawn and did a Tai Chi class. This was very different from what I am used to and I would describe it as calming and refreshing. After the Tai Chi class and visit inside some of the temples, I missed the meetup time and got stranded away from the group for a little bit of time, but we will not talk about that in here.
After leaving the temple, 11 us took two different subways to a famous snack street. This was very similar to scenes in movies such as Hangover, where the streets are very narrow and there’s always cars or bikes riding down the street beeping. There are a ton of options and when we actually went into one of the shops, it was impossible to tell what each food was. It was more of just “oh that looks good, I’ll take some of that.” And then when you ate the food it was more of, “What is that?” Then the person would say, “I have no idea but it’s great, you need to try some.” We even got a whole chicken. By whole chicken, I mean whole chicken. One kid ate the brain of the chicken and another one ate the heart and feet of the chicken. Overall, our last night in Beijing was super memorable and I am looking forward to going to Xi’an tomorrow.