Friday of Fall Break at Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City
This is the long-delayed ending to the photo documentary of my Fall break in Beijing – Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. I guess you could say I saved the best for last, although I had just as good of a time at the Olympic Park and Liulichang. The one thing Tiananmen and the Forbidden City had over everything I’ve done in Beijing, except for maybe the Great Wall, was the shear size of it. It was almost overwhelming, and not just because of the crowds.
I purposely didn’t include a lot of background info on either the Forbidden City or Tiananmen. It’s readily available on Wikipedia, and this will help keep the word count down. Enjoy the pictures.
Tiananmen Square (1989 wasn’t it’s brightest moment) is the the third largest city square in the world. As far as I was concerned, if you weren’t staring at the Chinese Imperial City across the street, everything in and around the square would make you think you were in Soviet Russia.
The characters in Tiānānmén 天安门 (referring to the actual gate) mean “heaven”, “peace”, and “gate” respectively, and it’s usually translated as “The Gate of Heavenly Peace”. While it’s the first gate between Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, Tiananmen is actually outside the City, and it’s the Meridian Gate (built into the city walls) which is the gate into the city.
My Tiananmen experience was above and beyond interesting. For some reason, I thought it was going to be a relaxing walk before the crowds in the Forbidden City, but that definitely wasn’t true. The Square itself is full of tour groups, vacationers, and locals alike. Everyone is trying to get the perfect picture with Mao in the background (just like I did), and nobody wants to make room.
While in the Square, someone asked to take a picture with me. Although creepy, I said yes – may not have been the best move. Within 1 minute, there was actually a small line of 4 or 5 Chinese people who wanted to take a picture with me. There was no reason other than they saw someone else taking a picture with me, probably thought I was a famous American, and wanted to hop on the bandwagon. Every now and then on the streets someone will try and speak English with me, but this was the first time this type of thing ever happened to me. My wallet wasn’t stolen, and in some weird way I may have made those peoples’ day, so it’s all good.
The Forbidden City 故宫
The Forbidden City was home to the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) to the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912). Begun in 1406, construction lasted 15 years, and required more than a million workers. It’s the world’s largest surviving palace complex and covers 178 acres, consisting of 980 surviving buildings with 9,999 bays of rooms. Word on the street is that in Imperial times, unauthorized entry by common people would be punishable by death.
The Three Great Halls: Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Central Harmony, And Hall of Preserving Harmony
The Three Great Halls are definitely the highlight of the tour. Each with a different function, they were used for ceremonial occasions, as the Emperors personal prep areas, official meeting areas, and imperial examinations. All three Great Halls line up in sequence on a marble terrace. Some of the halls and palaces have been restored and repainted, some haven’t. This way, you can still enjoy their authenticity while seeing what they would’ve looked like hundreds of years ago. Be on your toes when trying to get a look inside, it gets a little rowdy.
Inside The Halls
The inside of the halls and palaces leave a bit to the imagination. You’ll see two things: a clean floor, and a well decorated throne – the Dragon throne in the Hall of Supreme Harmony probably being the most well known. As cool as the thrones are, I was a little disappointed with the lack of anything else inside. I understand though, keeping artifacts out in the open air isn’t the best way to preserve them. In a few of the halls further down the sequence, like the Palace of Earthly Tranquility – the residence of the Empress – the windows and openings are covered in plexiglass and the insides contain many more pieces.
78 Acres And Every Inch In Detail
One thing that didn’t disappoint was the amount of detail you see everywhere you look. It’s hard to explain in words, so your best bet is to check out the album towards the end of the post.
Panoramic View From The Top Of Jingshan Park
This is the view looking southwards from the Pavilion of Everlasting Spring, which is the highest point in Jingshan Park. The middle hill on which the Pavilion sits was made with the earth removed to create the moat that surrounds the Forbidden City. I had read before my visit that this spot offers the best views of the Forbidden City and Beijing, so although tired and ready to head back to CET, I manned up and made it to the top. It only costs 2 RMB (a little more than US 30 cents) to get into the park, and the climb takes about 15 minutes – totally worth it.
And that’s it. As far as the Forbidden City is concerned, it’s wise to take an entire day to walk through it. I only really saw the main halls and palaces, but there are museums, stores and exhibits full of all of the artifacts from its 500 year history. I would say go from South to North, starting at the Front Gate of Tiananmen Square, and essentially walking in a straight line all the way up to the top of Jingshan Park.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!