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16 July 2024
Alan Morris in Tiananmen Square outside the Forbidden City.

Today, we visited many exciting places in Beijing. It was like walking through the pages of a history book.

Exploring Beijing.

On day four of my Chinese holiday, I visited a few places in Beijing & drove around some of the busiest, craziest roads I have ever been on my travels.

Photos from Downtown Beijing.

The Temple of Heaven.

I always thought that The Hall of Prayer was the Temple of Heaven. I didn't realize that the Temple of Heaven was a complex of different buildings & a large, beautiful park area. 

The Temple of Heaven was fascinating, but I found the locals in the grounds surrounding it more interesting. It was fascinating to watch people doing Tai Chi, dancing, playing instruments, playing cards, singing, dancing or taking part in large games of keeping it up with a football. It was strange to see a group of people practising Tai Chi with giant swords; I'm sure they would have been arrested in England. It was here that I made my first purchase on this trip, a large bamboo hat to shade my head & neck; it turned out to be a good purchase, saving me from sunburn & from getting too wet later in the holiday when it rained.

Photos from the Temple of Heaven.

Temple of Heaven Official website.

Tiananmen Square.

Tiananmen Square was huge. Our guide 'Alan' told us the history of the square, both good & bad. I found it strange that the Emperor, wanting to look out for the people of China, found it necessary to demolish thousands of homes to build a square so that the displaced people could rejoice in their homelessness.

I can imagine how it looks on days when something is being celebrated; the colour, the noise & the celebrations must be unique, but on a typical day, it reminded me of a large empty parking lot with a few large video screens. It was hard to imagine the scenes of 25 years ago when so many were killed by tanks. We were told that no people were killed in Tiananmen Square & that the massacre happened a few streets away. This didn't match my memories of the films that I & the rest of the world had seen at the time.

Photos from Tiananmen Square.

Tiananmen Square.

The Forbidden City.

As we approached the gate to go into the Forbidden City, some monks were waiting to go in. Some girls I was with on the tour asked the monks if they minded taking a photo with them. The monks were very happy to have their photo taken with the girls & as I took pictures of them, many Chinese girls also jumped on the side of the girls to have their photo taken with English girls.

We soon went into the Forbidden City, which was massive. The buildings were fantastic, but we had little time to explore. Many of the buildings we entered were bare when I visited. Maybe if I had longer to look around, I would have seen more, but it left me sad that it seemed mainly empty. It has had many objects stolen or destroyed in the past & it also became apparent that many of the objects, usually there, were on tour being shown at different places throughout China & the outside world.

About the Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City is a palace complex at the centre of the Imperial City in the Dongcheng District of Beijing. The Forbidden City was constructed between 1406 & 1420. It was the former Chinese Imperial palace & winter residence of the Emperor of China from the Ming dynasty (since the Yongle Emperor) to the end of the Qing dynasty, between 1420 & 1924.

The Forbidden City served as the home of Chinese emperors & their households & was the ceremonial & political centre of the Chinese government for over 500 years. Since 1925, the Forbidden City has been under the charge of the Palace Museum, whose extensive collection of artwork & artefacts were built upon the imperial collections of the Ming & Qing dynasties. The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.

Photos from the Forbidden City.

Official website of the Forbidden City & Palace Museum.

Silk Store.

We were taken to a silk store before lunch, where we were shown how the silkworm is used to generate the silk & then how it was woven into many different forms of silk for making various items. Amazingly, every part of the worm & silk cocoon was used. Even the worm was used to produce makeup.

I purchased a silk duvet, pillow & shirt. The girl serving me was beautiful. When she helped me try on a shirt & then undress me again, I asked her if she could come to England to dress me. To my delight, she said she would come to England to be my maid.

Lunch & knock off-market.

We were taken to a market with fake goods & a food hall for lunch. The food hall was large & had many great-looking places to eat. Sadly, we were taken to a terrible buffet; the food was poor quality, cold, & for the most part, tasteless. The beer was no better, taking ages to pour by staff that didn't know how to pour beer & generated more foam than beer.

After a poor meal, I accompanied Tracy while she went to buy a dress for her granddaughter as she didn't like bargaining. Pretending to be her husband, I told her that she could only have ¥80 to buy a dress, & after a lot of negotiation & walking off, we managed to get the ¥200 dress for ¥80. My new wife was pleased & Mel decided she would have to be our daughter.

After shopping, we returned to the hotel for a rest before going for dinner tonight.

Food Market.

On our way to dinner this evening, we stopped at a Chinese food market in Beijing. I tried 3 of the assorted offerings being sold, firstly I tried a starfish. Not having eaten a starfish before, I went to eat it raw. The horrified stall holder shouted at my barbaric manners, took it off me & plunged it into hot oil to deep fry it. I grabbed one leg for myself & passed the remaining legs to Mel, Dave, April & Rob, offering the remaining body part to Tracy.

All the people with a starfish leg soon made short work of it, but Tracy couldn't swallow her bit & spat it out.

Mel then returned with a spicy snake skewer, which we ate. It was a bit chewy, but the sauce was delightful. I decided we couldn't leave without trying a large scorpion skewer. Tracy declined, but after I swallowed the first scorpion, Mel soon polished off the second & we then took a short walk through Beijing to go for our main meal of the day.

Photos from the food market.