Day One in the City
A wander through Tiananmen Square, the largest public meeting space in the world followed by a walk through the Forbidden City took all of the morning. Fortunately a big breakfast at the hotel kept us going until our noodle lunch. Emperors, eunuchs, concubines, and other invited guests inhabited the Forbidden City from the time of its construction in the fourteen hundreds until well into the 20th century. We strolled down the white marble path through the middle of the city, a path once reserved for only those men carrying the emperor’s sedan. We poked our heads into the royal halls– Supreme Harmony, Middle Harmony, Earthly Tranquility, and believe it or not, Eternal Abstinance, and many others. There was much that gave us pause, from the incredibly long line of people waiting to see Chairman Mao lying in state in the mausoleum on Tiananmen Square to the sheer magnitude of the space and buildings in the city. On top of everything else we had a sunny day, which was a relief after yesterday’s smoggy trip into Beijing from the airport.
The afternoon was a chance to see the city from on high. We climbed Jingshan, a mountain built from the dirt dug to create the various nearby moats and lakes. The mountain was built to keep the linearly traveling bad spirits coming from the north away from the Forbidden City. Let this be a Feng Shui lesson for all of us– a small mountain or at the very least a dragon screen properly oriented will keep those evil spirits away!
A scavenger hunt in Beihai Park was the last event before dinner. We finished at the nine dragon screen, which actually has 635 dragons of various sizes on it (question # 5 on the scavenger hunt). A quick trip back to the hotel by subway was much appreciated after many hours of walking.
We finished the day with a delicious dumpling dinner followed by some shopping on the way back to the hotel. A good day had by all! Tomorrow we head off north to walk the Great Wall.