Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square

Our third day in Beijing, SangKwun took us on a tour of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  Emily was unable to accompany us due to her busy schedule at the shop.  This allowed us the opportunity to use the subway system in Beijing for the first time.  The system does not cover as much area as the one in Seoul, but it is still cheap and easy to use for foreigners.  

Tiananmen Square is a large plaza near the center of the city.  The name translates to Gate of Heavenly Peace.  The square has been the site of numerous political protests.  The most famous one was in 1989, where around 1,000,000 people gathered in the square to protest the Chinese government.  Violence erupted and over 400 to 800 people were killed, depending on what source you are reading.  Below is a famous photo from the incident. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

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Despite the historical significance, there is not much there to look at.  It is mainly tourists taking pictures.  The Forbidden City is located right across the street from the Square.  You can see the entrance in the background of the picture below. 

In the picture above, I think it shows the Beijing smog. I heard about it in the reports of the summer Olympics last year, but I didn't realize how bad it was until it filled my lungs. At times it was difficult to see things in the distance and there was the distinctive smell of pollution around the city.

The Chinese flag is displayed in the square.  There is a guard posted next to it 24 hours a day.  Our first night in Beijing, we drove by the square and witnessed the changing of the guard which draws a large crowd every evening.  Unfortunately, we were driving by and were unable to take a decent photo.

After a short walk through the underground tunnel to the other side of the street, we were standing in front of the Forbidden City.  The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty.  For almost five centuries, it served as the home of the Emperor. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)  

The crowds entering the city were massive.  We had to stand in a line for over 45 minutes to buy our tickets.  It was a cloudy day and we were worried that it was going to start pouring any minute.  It did rain lightly, but luckily it cleared up after only a few minutes.  

According to Emily, the picture of the man on the front of the building is the president of China.  We think that he is also the same man pictured on all of the Chinese currency, but we are not sure.

Here is a map of the city. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

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This river goes around the edge of the city.  I was disappointed to see the amount of trash that was floating around in it, especially since there were trash cans located throughout the tour. 

After 7 months in Asia, I have finely found a doorway that I did not have to duck my head in order to walk through.  

I think this photo can give you an idea as to the amount of tourist that walk through this place on any given day.  They offer an audio device which explains the history of all of the sites in the city that you can rent for a small fee and you can take your own walking tour.  I was amazed to see that the English version is done by none other then the forgotten 007, Roger Moore.  

Below is a picture of the Emperor's throne.

Throughout the city, there are giant iron cauldrons located in various places.  They are filled were filled with water and were used in case a fire broke out. Again, notice the decorations were the dragons with no eyes on the "lookout" for evil spirits.

Most of the temples had been restored, but there was were a few buildings that had not been.  This one was built in the 1700s.  

The love seeing the rooftops.  It is really cool to see them with the city buildings in the background.  

The last stop on the tour was tour was the Imperial Garden. It was very impressive, but my camera had run out of batteries so I was only able to take this one photo.

After 3-4 hours of walking around sight seeing, the three of us were exhausted.  We took a taxi back to Emily's parent's apartment.  They had a large assortment of fruit for us as well as some refreshing ice tea and soda.  Later that night, Emily took us to a street famous for its seafood restaurants.  We ate at a place that served baby lobsters.  We will have pictures of that in a later post.  

The last two days were amazing, but Kim and I were looking forward to the next day's events, touring the Great Wall.  Due to a lack of battery power in our camera, once again we were unable to capture the photos that we wanted to.  SangKwun did and he will provide us with them when he comes to Seoul in a couple of weeks.  Our next posts will be on K&C Studio and my birth father's factory.

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