East meets West: Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven

Nihao! Hooray for the first day, bright and early. Where is the coffee please? Our tour guides are lively and outgoing at least; it helps a little. First stop, Tiananmen Square!

Tiananmen Square

Monument to the People’s Heroes

While we’re on route, the tour guides explain the layout of Beijing. It’s  roughly concentric circles with each circle being a different district. Tiananmen Square is at the center, the gem of the city. Historically known for its political events and protests, this flabbergastingly massive, bustling square houses the Monument to the People’s Heroes and Chairman Mao’s mausoleum. Apparently if you stand around long enough you can see his coffin get raised up and showed off a bit. To the north lies the Tiananment Gate (Gate of Heaven’s Pacification), through which one finds the Forbidden City. Fortunately for us it’s not forbidden anymore so in we went.

Forbidden City

Hall of Supreme Harmony

Hall of Supreme harmony

Built by the Yongle Emperor Zhu Di, the Fobidden City was a place for the emperial family to live, and for the emperor to deal with affairs of the state. To get to the Forbidden City, one must first cross no less than 5 gates before crossing the Meridian Gate. Inside lies everything from the building where the emperor held court, to where he the empress and his family lived, to where he kept his bazillion conncubines. Let me tell you, these guys had awesome night-lifes if you catch my drift. There is also a lovely “rock garden” in the complex, with very old cyprus trees and rocks that look like a yummy swiss cheese. The mose swiss cheesy, the better luck it brings. Apparently both the swiss cheese rocks and cyprus trees were only allowed to the emperors. Naturally they keep the good stuff for themselves.

Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

the Temple of Heaven

Also built by the Yongle Emperor Zhu Di, it was originally a general place of worship. In the Jiajing dynasty, separate temples of Earth, Sun, and Moon were constructed leaving this as the Temple of Heaven. There is a lot of symbolism in the details of the temple construction and layout of the complex that you can read about. However I’m going to spare the details and just stick a pretty picture instead. All I can say is that this temple has no rolling boulders. Oh ya, it was raining while we were there; it was a bit comical to watch the locals get excited and jump everytime it thundered. “mwuahahaha cower, mortals”? lol. Before the rain started, there were also many couples taking wedding photos (which apparently are taken before the wedding) among the beautiful flower patches.