Tienanmen Square is the largest public square in the world! However, with no seating, trees or much shade it is not a place to relax. It also has a lot of security: security checks at every entrance, closed circuit cameras, police, and a military presence. The square has a few structures inside of it and it is considered the symbolic center of the Chinese Universe. It is surrounded by stern, 1960 soviet-style brutalist buildings and white fences.
The first monument in the square was a Monument to the People’s Heros. It’s a large obelisk made of granite in 1958.
There was a memorial hall built in 1976. Chairman Moa Memorial Hall is soviet inspired buildings with socialist-realist war memorials decorating the walk way into the memorial.
The southern end of the square has two gates on it and both were built during the Ming Dynasty. These gates were all three of our favorite structures in the square! The northern gate is the Zhengyang Gate.
The southern gate is the Zhengyang Gate Arrow Tower.
On the northeast corner of the square is The National Museum of China. It is housed in one of the large, brutalist buildings that surround the square. This is the largest comprehensive history museum in China and it was not going to be overlooked by Katie (museum professional) and Christopher (avid museum lover). Due to the size of the museum and foreknowledge of how much time they both prefer to have in museums we planned about 6 hours here. We saw about half of the museum!
Exploitation of the Works of Nature (Ming dynasty, 1687):
Bronze Ding Tripod Inlaid with Gold & Silver Cloud Designs (Middle States Warring Period):
Rhinoceros-Shaped Bronze Wine Vessel with Gold & Silver Inlaid Cloud Design (Western Han):
Thousand-Armed & Headed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattava (18th C.):
We enjoyed the museum but we wished there was more information in English. We would have enjoyed an audio guide, but they are only offered in Chinese. Megan enjoys museums but especially enjoys visiting them with Katie as she observes how the information is displayed and the ease of which the visitor can absorb the information. There were many exhibits in which colors and signs were used to make items displayed well and easy to understand while others were lacking. All three of us were amused that they closed the doors to all of the exhibits 30 minutes before actual closing time of the museum! We think this was to ensure everyone leaving on time but the gift store did stay open for the last 30 minutes (and toilets too!).
Our hostel was in a wonderful location int he middle of the southern Hutongs of Beijing. The Hutongs are a historical area of Beijing with small walking allys and small shops. We enjoyed exploring the Hutongs a bit each day and eating in many of the resturants. While walking the Hutongs to the hostel, we saw many recently reconstructed buildings. We even saw some that were not yet occupied.
Many people bike here, made easy both by the extensive bike lanes on all the major avenues, and the bikeshare program that has bikes everywhere, that can unlocked for use with a app. Since the bike locks on the back tire, and not on a bike rack (like in the USA), the bike can be left anywhere in the city, making it even easier for people to bike to where they need to go! We were all impressed and exciting to see so many people biking around the city.
On our walk home from the museum we stopped and tried a Beijing classic, Pekking Duck! You make a taco with the shell filled with duck, fresh vegetables, and hoisin sauce. We all tried it and found it suprisly delicious! Megan and Katie are not usually fans of duck meat, but Katie thought the dish was decent and Megan thought it was good! Christopher, of course, thought it was excellent.