I just flew in to Xi’an, where we’ll be staying at the Sheraton. (Mom and Dad, their picture should be on the Web site)
I was sad to leave Peggy behind. Peggy was our Beijing tour guide and she was wonderful. She has fantastic English — even idioms, like “piggy-back ride.”
So when I last left you, we were on our way out of the Forbidden City. Remember that gate I showed you, with the arch in the middle that only the emperor could go through? We walked through it. Here’s what it looked like on the other side.
There are a ton of tourists here, but not many of them seem Caucasian. Walking through this big arch, I only saw two other people who looked like they weren’t Asian.
Before you fully exit the Forbidden City, there’s a big statue pointing out. That was supposed to remind the emperor to go out and listen to the common people while he was ruling.
On the other end of the tunnel was Tiannamen Square. You immediately see a giant picture of Mao Zedong, who was in charge of China in the middle of the 20th century. The picture is 6 meters tall, and it’s replaced every year. I wasn’t supposed to take a picture this close, whoops!
So in 1989, students protested in Tianamen Square. It was a big mess, and when people complain about China, they often complain that the government doesn’t address the riots. Many people in China haven’t seen any pictures or coverage of the protests, including Peggy. Tour guides aren’t permitted to answer many questions about Tianammen Square. Regardless, it’s an interesting place to be.
Long before the protests, when Chairman Mao was in charge of China, people flocked to Tiannamen Square to hear him speak. He was controversial because he helped China grow, but he also had some ideas that wound up getting many people killed. The official view is often referred to as “70/30,” which means that 70% of the things that Mao did were good, and 30% of them were not so good. So I guess your view on Mao depends on how heavily you weigh that 30 percent. I don’t think I’ve read and learned enough about Mao to fully judge him, so regardless, it was pretty neat to hang out with him.
When Mao died, his body was embalmed and he rests on the other side of the square opposite the gate I showed you above.
It doesn’t cost any money to view Mao’s body, which is raised from a giant freezer for a few hours each day. The line is usually crazy-long. Waiting in this line took about 2 hours. We didn’t wait, but I thought the umbrellas looked pretty neat. :)
I hope you’re enjoying my accounts. Next up is the Temple of Heaven!