Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Of Tiananmen Square;

Directly in the center of Beijing is Tiananmen Square. It is about one third of a mile across and about half a mile long making it the 3rd largest square in the world. The square is filled with thousands of Chinese tourists visiting the nationalist monuments dedicated to Mao and the revolutionary martyrs of China. In the middle of the square hundreds of people line up everyday to view the Chairman Mao Zedong's preserved body in the mausoleum. On the north side of the square is the entrance to the Forbidden City with the huge portrait of Mao hanging above the gate. On either side of the square are the impressive communist era building for the National Museum and the Great Hall of the People which is China's parliament building. Being one of the few non-Chinese people walking through this important Chinese square I got a lot of attention. Sometimes it was people asking to take a photo with me while they practiced their English. Other times it was pretty Chinese girls chatting me up trying to lure me into tourist traps.

The carvings on Monument to the People's Heroes tell the story of the Chinese revolution leading up to the founding of the People's Republic.
The Chinese seal above the  Great Hall of the People. 
The entrance to the Forbidden City

I had heard about the typical Chinese tourist trap before I came to China so I knew what to watch out for. During my day around the square and site-seeing with a Dutch traveler I had met, we had about a half dozen Chinese girls come up to us. They usually start the conversation by asking where you are from and what you are doing in China. Quickly the conversation leads into her asking if you want to go to a bar/tea house/coffee shop that she knows of. Supposedly the way the trap works is that at this tea house (or what ever it ends up being) she suggests you order a specific drink. When you finally get the bill you find out that the drink you had was super expensive and you are stuck with handing over $150 for a crappy drink.

She couldn't speak any English so her boyfriend had to ask me if she could get a photo with me. 
There used to be a big city wall here that was torn down to open up the square. All that is left now is this gate tower and several others around the square.
 Monument to the People's Heroes with Mao's mausoleum behind it. 
Another remnant of Beijing's city walls in the square. This was a defensive archer tower.
One of the craziest things about Tiananmen Square is the security. To enter the square you have to pass through a security station and have your bags x-rayed. Once you are actually in there square you'll have about a dozen cameras watching you from every angle making sure you don't act out. The last thing you would want to do here is where a "Free Tibet" t-shirt. You probably also don't want to mention the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 with the iconic image of the man standing in front of the line of tanks.

Several groups of soldiers march around patrolling the square. They also have plan-clothed soldiers which mix into the crowds to keep an eye on everybody.
This is the crowd lined up to see the body of Mao. You can also see all the light poles with security cameras on them.
Just south of the square is an area that looks like it is China Town of China. The narrow lantern-lined streets are filled with a bunch of little shops and restaurants.
A cool building under renovation.
There are also a number of old European diplomatic offices near the square.

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