Saturday 21 May Beijing – Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City & Summer Palace

Our Beijing sightseeing this morning began with a tour of Tiananmen Square. Built in 1415 during the Ming Dynasty and enlarged to four times its original size in the 1950s, Tiananmen is the world’s third largest city square. We left the hotel at 7.45am and walked along the road to the next block, where we lined up to go through security, which was the same as airport security – our bags got x-rayed and we went through the scanner. This is something that everyone has to do, as well as showing their ID to gain entry to Tiananmen Square. We then walked down some stairs, under the road and up the other side and came out in Tiananmen Square. We were amazed at how big it was even although we have seen it on TV – it holds a million people and there were thousands there this morning. We saw the Mausoleum, Chairman Mau’s tomb, the Great Hall of the People and the National Museum of China. It also had some beautiful gardens along two of its edges. We were told that the road between Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City is where all the parades are held.

We went back under the road to the north of Tiananmen Square to the World Heritage-listed Forbidden City, the largest surviving palace complex on earth, covering 74 hectares. It is recognized as one of the five most important palaces in the world (with the Palace of Versailles in France, Buckingham Palace in the UK, the White House in the US, and the Kremlin in Russia).
The rectangular shaped city is surrounded by a 52 metre wide moat and a 10 metre high, 3,400-meter-long city wall, which has one gate on each side and four corner towers. The Palace complex, with its 8,700 rooms is the world’s largest palace complex with a floor space of 720,000 square metres.
The Forbidden City was once a “palace city” where ordinary people were forbidden entry. The Forbidden City is an extravagant demonstration of ancient Chinese architecture, with golden roofs and elegantly designed and painted in red and yellow. The Forbidden City was the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties for 560 years till 1911. Twenty-Four emperors lived there. World Cultural Heritage, and now known as ‘the Palace Museum’ among Chinese, it is a treasure house of Chinese cultural and historical relics.
We walked the length of the Forbidden City from the south to the north gate, taking in the classical Chinese architecture. There were thousands of people walking through in groups. We passed through the Meridian Gate to gain entry to the Forbidden City and saw the Hall of Supreme Harmony for celebrations, the banquet building, the inner court (four courtyards are all connected) and the Imperial Garden to name a few.

We met up with our driver after leaving through the North Gate and walking beside the moat – we were taken to a restaurant for a traditional Chinese lunch. After lunch, we boarded our coach again and Vivian organised for our driver to take us past the Olympic Stadium (the Bird’s Nest), the Water Cube for swimming, the Gymnastics building and the Media building.

Then we travelled to the World Heritage-listed Summer Palace, which is said to have the best-preserved imperial garden in the world and the largest of its kind still in existence in China. In the 1750s, the emperor Qianlong commanded the creation of the lake and redesigned the temple on top of Longevity Hill. Here, among the palace grounds are temples, pavilions and man-made Kunming Lake. When we entered the Summer Palace, we saw a sign that told us that there were 46,800 visitors here yesterday and 33,400 visitors already today. We explored the gardens – there were arched bridges, promenades, breezeways and lots of people milling around. Then we boarded a traditional dragon boat for a private cruise along the shores of the Summer Palace Lake.

We arrived back at the hotel at 4.45pm – there was nowhere near as much traffic in the city today as there was yesterday, possibly because it is Saturday. We had a quick shower, dressed and had a snack dinner in the Writer’s Bar downstairs, ready to be picked up at 6.20pm to our Kung Fu show at the Red Theatre.

The show, named the Legend of Kung Fu, follows the story of a young boy trying to fulfill his dream of becoming a Kung Fu master. This boy is called Chun Yi (which means pure one) and was sent to a Buddhist temple to be a monk at a young age. Initially, the young monk had a hard time getting used to the strict discipline of the temple until he became interested in the power of Kung Fu. From then on he worked hard on Kung Fu and made great achievements on the way to growing up. However, the young Chun Yi could not restrain his natural desire to chase a young beauty, so he suffered great regret. Chun Yi punished himself severely and finally returned to the way of seeking enlightenment. At the end of the show, Chun Yi is praised for being a great Buddhist master of Chinese Kung Fu.
This show, consisting of six scenes, is presented by a group of marvelous Kung Fu practitioners from all over China. The average age of these practitioners is only 17 years, but they have all studied Chinese Kung Fu for many years. During the 70-minute show, the actors do not speak but present all Kung Fu, dance and acrobatics.

We were returned to our hotel at 9.10pm after another busy day in Beijing.

Tomorrow, we will be flying to Yichang to join our River Boat and we have been told that we may not get internet coverage, so we may not be able to post to the blog or photos for 4 days.

One Response to “Saturday 21 May Beijing – Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City & Summer Palace”

  1. Maria Hughes says:

    Enjoy your River Cruise and I look forward to the next instalment of your Blog when you have internet, love and best wishes from us all here in Melbourne xoxo

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