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Published: October 20th 2006
One of two massive group sculptures depicting the Chinese people's common struggle for socialism found outside the front and rear entrances to the Mao Mausoleum.
With so much to see and only five days in which to see it, I decided to concentrate on one major site each day. However, this day, the close proximity of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City to each other allowed me to experience both without spending hours crossing from one part of the city to another.
First stop Tiananmen Square, symbolic and political heart of Beijing and site of numerous tumultuous events in relatively recent history. At first glance it appears to be a rather nondescript giant concrete public plaza, surrounded on three sides by austere soviet-inspired buildings with a tall marble obelisk in its centre. On closer inspection however, you can get a greater appreciation for the significance of this place in the hearts of the Chinese people. It is here that the endless queues wait patiently to catch a glimpse of the embalmed body of Mao Zedong housed in a crystal coffin in the Mao Mausoleum; the families take the obligatory photo with the sole surviving Mao portrait on public display in the whole of the country; people from all walks of life examine the bas- relief carvings at the base of the Monument to the People’s
Monument To The People's Heroes
This granite obelisk stands at almost 40m high and has bas-relief carvings of key revolutionary events and calligraphy from important party members around its base.
Heroes depicting the stages of Chinese revolutionary history; while others simply use it as a place to fly kites.
The most impressive thing for me was the magnificent Tiananmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) located at the northern end of the square. It is accessed by way of seven marble bridges that cross the Golden Water River. The impressive portrait of ex-chairman Mao peers down from the gate as you walk through and on to the Meridian Gate, which serves as the main entrance to the Forbidden City. It is possible (for a fee, of course) to climb the stairs for a view from above the portrait. This is where Mao declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.
Once inside, what is now known as the Palace Museum spreads before you in an awe inspiring display of magnificent architecture, pathways , hand-carved marble railings, striking red walls and golden yellow ceramic tiles. It is difficult to decide where to start, but scanning the detailed tourist map and the hordes of people, both Alex and I decided to initially wander off into the quieter regions of the Walled City.
Wandering the myriad
Great Hall of the People
This is where the National Congress of the People convenes. It also houses various official departments and is used to receive political delegations from overseas.
walkways, halls and pavilions, it became more obvious that despite the stunning beauty of this complex, the privileged life led by past emperors and their court officials and families came at a price. It has been said that they lived in a "Golden Prison". From the moment they woke until the time they retired to bed at the end of each day, they were reportedly kept under constant scrutiny. Even moving from one part of the complex to another required considerable amounts of organization and tended to turn into a major expedition. Being such an independent person, I could not imagine leading a life such as this, where every move was monitored with no privacy at all
Several hours later we both admitted it would take more than one visit to truly appreciate it in its entirety. Besides, it was stinking hot and it was time for an afternoon siesta!
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