Last week, as part of our IES Abroad orientation, we got to experience the "Tiananmen Trifecta," visting the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City. We first went to the planning hall, which I promise was much more exciting than it sounds. It was much easier to understand the layout of the city, both in the past and the present, thanks to the museum's numerous models of the city. This was also a good precursor to the rest of the day, when we'd be able to see the real thing and already have an idea how it all fits together and why things were placed where they were, especially those landmarks along the main line in the center of the city.
Next we went to Tiananmen Square, the site of many a revolution that officially did not occur. It was also the site where we were photographed by many Chinese people, as a lot of the Chinese visitors to Tiananmen are from areas outside the city and many times have never seen a foreigner before. We also saw the picture of Chairman Mao. We then went around the Forbidden City, through areas that tourists often overlook, including some parts that were just recently reopened. Going through these side areas, which were mainly peaceful areas lined with grass and trees, gave a much more real idea of what life was like inside. I had never realized before that the ornate buildings and giant open stone spaces weren't necessarily for everyday life, but rather for formal occasions.
Finally we climbed the manmade mountain behind the Forbidden City to get a view of the entire city. Instead we got a view of a few nearby buildings, the rest covered by a misty cloud of pollution. 北京欢迎你！Welcome to Beijing!