April 18, 2011
BEIJING, CHINA — Today was incredible. We started with a visit to Tian An Men square, the historic site of civil demonstration in 1989. This large public square houses a monument to the heroes of the revolution, the Great Hall of the People, as well as, the museum of history and revolution. It is actually the largest square in the world and we were far from the only tourist visiting.
After exploring the square, we traveled to the Forbidden City for a tour.
The Forbidden City is neither forbidden, nor really a city anymore, but rather China’s largest and most intact ancient building complex. It used to be the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties. It’s nearly 600 years old and was home to 24 emperors with a total space of 9,999 rooms. There were many impressive halls, temples and gates, all beautiful and inspiring. Gold Buddhist statues, bronze sculptures and our first introduction to jade rounded out the sights at the Forbidden City.
From there, we then traveled to the Summer Palace, a lesser known but no less intriguing destination. The Summer Palace was where the Chinese royalty went to vacation from the Forbidden City. These grounds are dotted with lakes, gardens, and temples.
Alton Baker Park would fit right in here, though I don’t know how much the Chinese authorities would appreciate all of the biking and running on the royal grounds.
Kunming Lake, which was reportedly enlarged by up to 100,000 Chinese laborers in the 18th century, takes up the majority of these grounds. On the grounds we also explored the enchanting 17 Arch Bridge and now immobile marble boat.
This first day has been quite an experience and with our journey to the Great Wall tomorrow our trip is living up to its expectations.