On day 4, we visited Tiananmen Square which was only a 5 minutes bus ride from our hotel. The events that took place here are not taught in Chinese schools so if we were to ask a Chinese person about what we have learned about this site, they would not know. In 1989, the government cracked down on student demonstrators in the square who were calling for democratic, political, social, and economic reforms. After the demonstrators would not disperse from the square, martial law was declared in Beijing and then tanks, and troops opened fire on the protesters. A very notable picture that came from the event is that of the Tank Man, a man who stood in front of tanks to temporarily block them. As always, we took lots of pictures but not of military officials in uniforms. We were told that we were forbidden from taking pictures of them. The military men were decked out in their full uniforms and had to stand straight and guard the area. They are supposed to be an image of China. There are 96 guards because China is 9.6 square kilometers. The more I learn about China, the more I realize that numbers are very important to their culture. Their lucky numbers are 6, 8, and 9, and they do not like the number 4. The decorative knobs on the doors inside the forbidden city were arranged in a 9 by 9 pattern which is related to the lucky numbers. We entered through the south side and left through the north side of The Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is a place that was the imperial palace for many emperors. We toured the imperial garden. It was absolutely beautiful. However, as we were taking pictures of the garden, visitors were taking pictures of us. Wherever we went, people would take pictures with and of us. Usually they stare. At one point, we had a line of people taking pictures of us then they would ask to take pictures with us. The garden was the sight to see until we showed up.
After we left the Forbidden City, we took a rickshaw to a traditional Chinese home. The quaint building has been the owners’ home for 3 generations and is filled with over 200 years’ worth of history. The family who lived there did not want to live in high-rise buildings because they like tradition and this was shown in their decor. The outside of the one-story building was filled with trees, flowers, and pets (birds). Since the building is a depiction of traditional Chinese living, the family has 70-80 visitors a week on average. It’s amazing that they give people insight into traditional Chinese houses, but I would be so annoyed if that was my house.
It was finally lunch time, and it was full of new experiences and knowledge. As always, we ate in a traditional round table style. We noticed that the difference between eating in China versus the United States is that in China we only eat how much we want. We aren’t trying to finish the entire dish that a restaurant prepares for us. In turn, we do not stay full for as long. But it beats feeling overweight after every meal. As for the food, I tried something new: chicken brain. Uncle Joe, our tour guide, said it was the most nutritious part of the chicken. After much hesitation, I tried it. It still tasted like chicken, but it was mushy and melted in my mouth. I was not a fan of the texture. But I am a fan of trying new things.
Finally, we traveled to the Temple of Heaven. We were given a tai chi class and I felt very relaxed. The slow movements were a change of pace from being in the hot sun and always being on the move. After the class, we toured the temple which is a complex consisting of religious buildings. At the temple, the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties used the temples to make sacrificial offerings and annual prayers to the Heaven for good harvest. Tomorrow we have to wake up at 5 am to travel to Xi’an so we have to turn in early. But I am very excited for what is to come.