The world’s largest public square, Tiananmen Square, is home to the National Museum of China, Monument of the People’s Heroes, and the Great Hall of the People. As we walk towards the center of Beijing, we pass Zhengyangmen Gate south of the square. The colorful building is very noticeable among the surrounding tan and gray skyscrapers.
As we continue north, the Tiananmen Square garden comes into view. Perfectly trimmed pink, red, and green hedges pepper the grass near waves of purple, pink, and red flowers. Across the square, is the Monument of the People’s Heroes. This light gray memorial constructed of marble and granite towers ten stories high.
Great Hall of the People
Also on the far side of the square, a line of red flags lead visitors to the Great Hall of the People. Thousands of people visit the square each day.
Gate of Heavenly Peace
To our right, a large portrait of Mao Zedong is proudly displayed on the Tiananmen Tower, also known as the Gate of Heavenly Peace. In front, one male and one female lion stand guard before the seven bridges crossing the Golden River.
The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is a maze of halls and gates creating an outer and inner court. There are three main buildings in the outer court: Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Central Harmony, and Hall of Preserved Harmony. The Gate of Heavenly Purity separates the outer court from the royal family’s home, the inner court.
Each gate is entered through heavy, red doors with golden accents. The roofs of the red wooden buildings are decorated with intricate accents in bright blues, greens, reds and yellows. Statues of dragon turtles, cranes, and other animals decorate the entrance of the halls.
Located in the inner court is the Imperial Garden, an area for the royal family to relax. The tranquil garden features beautiful rock formations and trees over one hundred years old. At each corner of the garden is a red pavilion, representing one of the four seasons.
The Drum and Bell Tower
Walking along Houhai Lake, we reach the Drum and Bell Tower. In the Han Dynasty, the towers communicated the time to the city with morning bells and evening drums. The Drum tower is ornate, painted red with gold accents. Directly across the square is the slightly taller Bell Tower made from brick and stone.
There are Small restaurants and shops along Houhai Lake. Wind chimes and lanterns gently sway in the light breeze.
Rickshaws are not impervious to traffic jams, although are much more efficient than a taxi. Our nine rickshaws encounter several traffic jams of bicycles, motor bikes, and small trucks making deliveries on the narrow streets.
Beijing’s Cricket Master
Mr. Liu’s lives in a traditional home in Beijing. Through the doorway, is an open air garden with a web of clotheslines drying laundry above us. To our right, a small roof provides some shelter above the open air kitchen. Walking by turtles, birds, parrots, and cats we are lead to the enclosed portion of his home. The small space is crowded with trinkets and fish tanks. Only a bedroom, living room, and dining area have protection from the elements.
Beijing’s Cricket Fighting Champion, Mr. Liu, has been featured in many magazines, including a 2011 issue of the NY Times. Mr. Liu knows only cricket, hello, and yes in English, but he compensates well with his theatrical gestures.
The first step to choosing a good fighting cricket involves, a pusher, a toothpick sized piece of wood with a fluffy hairs on end. A cricket that bares it’s teeth when nudged with the pusher is a good fighter. Winning crickets live out their life in royalty, eating and drinking only the best from porcelain dishes. When Mr. Liu is feeling generous, he provides the honeymoon suite and a lady cricket to visit the champion.
He shows us a retired red, wooden fighting stage. A cricket is placed in each end of the stage. When the fighters are ready, tiny doors are slid open, and each cricket is gently nudged into the stage with the pusher. Present day, the stages are clear so there are no obstructed views from the onlookers.
Cricket tournaments are very popular in Beijing. At times, possessions such as cars and homes are wagered. When a champion crickets passes away, it’s placed in a small wooden coffin. Losing crickets are smashed under his shoe. We are honored to take a glimpse as Mr. Liu carries around his current reigning champion, Tyson, named after the famous US boxer.
As we walk along the empty street, the lights of the Red Theatre glow against the dark sky. Most of the actors in Legend of Kung Fu are very young and their skills are extremely impressive. English subtitles scroll above the stage as we watch six scenes telling the story of a young boy evolving into a Kung Fu master.
Outside the hotel, modern, plain, gray and tan sky scrapers tower around us as we walk past shopping malls, office buildings, and perfectly manicured hedges.
*For more information on our tour check out: G Adventures China Express.
- Day 1: Fly into Beijing
- Day 2: Beijing: Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square
- Day 3: Great Wall Mutianyu and travel to Xi’an
- Day 4: Xian: Terracotta Warriors Guided Tour and travel to Suzhou
- Day 5: Suzhou: Master of the Nets Garden Tour and overnight train to Shanghai
- Day 6: Shanghai: Orientation Walk of the Bund
- Day 7: Shanghai: Carte Blanche
- Day 8: Fly out of Shanghai