We have reached our last full day in China, and the overall emotions of the group are mixed. Many are excited to go back to the simple luxuries the United States has to offer like toilet paper in stalls, safe tap water to drink, and other things like that. On the other hand, it has been an amazing cultural experience filled with new food, sites, and a definite language barrier.
To start the day off, we went to Tian'anmen Square. It is the largest city square in the world, covering an impressive 110 acres of land. While there, we saw many soldiers and officers patrolling the site 24/7, which was something very different compared to what we might see in America. The largest building in the square was called the Heavenly Peaceful Gate in English, and they also had an entire building to honor Chairman Mao's burial site. He is known as the Father of China to the locals. We were surrounded by countless other tourists and found out that over 100,000 visitors go to Tian'anmen Square every day.
After Tian'anmen Square, we headed to the Forbidden City. There was a park right outside the city with many locals doing group tai chi surrounded by trees that were over 200 years old. The Forbidden City is home to 1.8 million ancient treasurers of China's history from past dynasties. The Home of Supreme Harmony building also has 13,844 painted and carved dragons on it from top to bottom. One piece of information we learned during this tour was about the Empress and how she slept on a stone pillow with a hole in it so that she could hear when people would try to come in to kill or harm her.
Our entire group then got a chance to take a rickshaw ride around the ancient Huotong Beijing neighborhood. Rickshaws are bicycles with 2-person carts in the back to ride on. They are mostly powered by the person pedaling but sometimes will have a small motor to assist them. Lunch was provided to us at a local villager's home. In their courtyard, they had birds, grasshoppers, and even crickets in small cages that they kept as pets. It was very cool to see the homes they live in, and we learned that the small 4-room homes are worth at least $2 million (USD) each!
Next we visited the Earthly Peaceful Gate where the bell tower signified the morning and the drum tower let people know the work day was done. This is where the time was tracked in the days before technological time keeping. After climbing a wall of steps that seemed comparable to The Great Wall, we got to see the drums that went off every 12 hours to signal that it was time for the farmers to come back to the village. One drum was an original drum dating back to the Ming Dynasty. After a short break, our next adventure was to an acrobatic show. At the show, we got to see many talented individuals perform, with one of the acts including five girls hanging from a ball spinning at a rapid speed in the air.
To end the last full day in China, we had one of our best meals, Peking duck. The meal included many common Chinese side dishes and the duck. The duck took days of roasting, and the result was tender, juicy meat. We were able to make tacos out of the duck, and it was a favorite for several in our group. Because it was such a delicious meal, this was definitely the "wow" moment of our day!
Gift from Michelle
In front of the Forbidden City
Inside Forbidden City
Inside Forbidden City
New friends at Tianemann Square