Wednesday 16 August 2006
Highlights: Tienanmen Square, The Forbidden City
Today was a chance to visit Tienanmen Square & The Forbidden City (home of the Chinese Emperors for 700 years). The first thing I noticed today was the smog which only added to the heat and humidity. Sometimes it was different to see more than 100 metres!
Obviously Tienanmen Square holds some fascination for Westerners after 1989 and the government’s problems with students. Our tour leader made and interesting point about how hard it is to rule 1.4 billion people and that in China the group (or country) comes first always, not the individual. It would be very hard to run a western style system in China due to it’s size (and remembering Western countries do things that aren’t great like detaining people without arrest i.e. USA).
The line to see Chairman Mao was incredibly long and people stood very quietly to get a chance (this is not like China anywhere else). Mao’s face hangs off the Forbidden City (the place he declared the People’s Republic of China in 1949) and looks down Tienanmen Square.
There is however a McDonalds very close by and people selling Mao watches. It’s probably better to call China a mixed economy slightly more to the left without being a democracy (however people appeared to be happy and have nice things). The Forbidden City is actually that a city it is so huge. As it is not a communist icon they have allowed a Starbucks inside (but not with the normal signs).
The structures are amazing, and to exhibits insightful of just how long China history actually is. The Emperor’s ‘harem’ was especially beautiful. Later in the day we headed out for an overnight train to Xi’an. Just getting on the train is an experience, almost a free for all of pushing and pulling. We got on well enough and I sat down on my ‘hard’ train sleeper bed for the long 14 hour overnight trip ahead to Xi’an.