Wednesday, April 20, 2011: Beijing Bound
Tianamen Square 天安門廣場
Bright and early in the morning, we checked out of the hotel and looked forward to our final day at Beijing. The first place to go was Tianamen Square 天安門廣場 (tian an men guang chang). Police officers in ugly jungle green patrolled the entire square. There was a line of them marching right before us, in perfect unison. They looked like unwound wooden soldiers with their rigid expressions and super-straight limbs swinging like pendulums. It was funny when they marched by and Mom was like, “Hurry! Get a picture of them!” Lol~ There was a security check center we had to pass through. I never imagined mainland security to be this tightly regulated and stringent. As the world knows, Mainland China is very harsh against political dissent, Communist outcries, and democratic tendencies. Tianamen Square is the site of the infamous 1989 democratic protests, where hundreds of vocal students and political activists were gunned down mercilessly and unnecessary tanks blazed down the unfortunate. And nowadays, you will see Chinese policemen, or 公安局 ‘gong an ju,’ stationed about the corners and streets of the square. My sister joked to me, “I wonder if I say something mean against China or Mao, if a mysterious white van will pull up and I will never be seen again… me with the white van. Dun Dun DUN!”
There were SO MANY people, AGAIN! Every freaking day, every hour, every year, and every season!!! I cannot escape tourists anywhere I go. And there were just way too many elderly people from the villages who spoke their native harsh-sounding dialects. In addition to the exhausting heat and mugginess of that day, I had to deal with old villagers and tourist crowds. Oy~
I still made the most of my time at the Tianamen Square. There was the Memorial for the People’s Republic of China Heroes. It was located at the heart of the square, standing tall and simple, made of primarily granite stone and pure marble, or 大理石 da li shi/花石 hua shi. It was constructed in honor of those who sacrificed their lives for the Chinese people during the revolutionary struggles during the 19th and 20th centuries. Engraved in the front was an inscription by Mao Zedong:
“Eternal glory to the people’s heroes!”
At the back of the monument, written by Zhou En-lai:
“Eternal glory to the heroes of the people who laid down their lives in the people’s war of liberation and the people’s revolution in the past three years! Eternal glory to the heroes of the people who laid down their lives in the people’s war of liberation and the people’s revolution in the past thirty years! Eternal glory to the heroes of the people who from 1840 laid down their lives in the many struggles against domestic and foreign enemies and for national independence and the freedom and well-being of the people!”
Nearby was a grand conference hall and Chinese history museum. We took a few pictures with the Tiananmen gate to the Forbidden City behind us and Mao Zedong’s prominent face smugly looking, glaring, around the city. The gate was further down the square, with probably more people lined up again. My mother really wanted to see the 毛主席紀念堂 Mao Zedong Mausoleum. Yes, there were crowds of people lined up and looped about, but people were moving. We figured the line looked short to the entrance and things were rolling along. Oh, how much we were wrong… First, we dropped off our bags and camera with Dad, because they were excluded from the memorial. Dad looked funny with a mountain of purses piled on his lap. Too bad he could not do anything besides sit in the wheelchair and get pushed. Then, we waddled onto the mob of people and moved with the flow. My sister got kicked out of the line for wearing flip-flops. She went to join Dad at the wheelchair under the blazing, rising sun. Chinese government people in suits and with megaphones kept yelling at people to stay behind the yellow line, and not one smidget beyond! We were strolling forward towards the front of the mausoleum, where we overhead people mentioning ID cards. No one mentioned anything about showing ID cards. We saw all the way up front that there was a sign asking to be ready with some form of identification. Mom and I were like “WTF, we came all the way up here to hear about this?!!!!” I told Mom to run and grab our passports, while I stood in line with our spots. I mean, we already made it this far, and more mobs shuffled in far behind us. Mom came running back with the passports. By now, the heat was coming down hard. With Mom running so far up, she started complaining about the sun and how far she had to run to find me. Well, I saw her in time and I did move up in the line to keep up with the traffic. A little further down, we realized the line LOOPS all around the back and up front again. Judging from the front entrance screwed with us, because the bulk of the line was hiding along the sides and back exit… To add to the frenzy, there were announcements about what not to bring into the building, such as guns, knives, lighters, bags, cameras, etc… And we thought we heard watches too. I was saying to myself, “What? No watches??? There’s no time turning back now!” Mom put on her jacket to hide her classy pearl watch. I took off my new white Swatch and put it in my bra. Yes, my bra. I figured when they search me through the security check, they cannot feel my rather private bust area. It had to have been a decent hour + on that line. Finally, back up front again, we realized we could wear our watches. Besides, Mom worried that if they did find watches in my bra, we would probably get in trouble and see ourselves in the mysterious white van =/
Through the security check we went. The officers were rather aggressive, giving hard nudges forward and yelling out in their harsh Beijing accent. Even past the security, there was ANOTHER line. Again, more pushing and people stepping on your feet. At one point, I was so pissed at people pushing around I just yelled out, “Slow down there! No rush. No need to step all over people.” And then, FINALLY, we hit the entrance…
毛主席紀念堂 Mao Zedong Mausoleum is the final resting place of China’s revolutionary leader. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of Mao, as he may have done plenty of reforms for China, but he also was a ruthless, stubborn, and selfish person. Enough about my personal feelings on Communism and Mao. Mom lived in China during the Cultural Revolution. She explained how she carried around the Little Red Book with Chairman Mao’s wise words of worship. Life was poor, hard, and limited, nothing glorious or particularly satisfying. Either way, Mao is an respected figure of history throughout China, with his face plastered on pins, books, posters, frames, etc… The mausoleum is the ultimate place signifying the country’s devotion and appreciation for him. Upon entrance, there was a whole area against the wall filled with white flowers. In a moment of silence, I walked down with Mom to see the former Chairman. We waited seemingly endless hours to walk a brief 15 seconds past the glass display. His body was embalmed carefully, resting peacefully behind glass windows and before awed netizens and tourists alike. He was dressed in his uniform, only his upper body exposed and illuminated. Xenon lamps inside the crystal coffin radiated his serene face, giving him a wax-like, but human color. It was an unbelievable encounter for Mom, as she probably remembered her childhood days in Shanghai.
At the back entrance, there was also the 正陽門 Zhen Yang men, which translates to the Gate of the High Sun. As a historic symbol of ancient Beijing, Zhenyangmen served as a gate protecting the entry into the imperial city, the tallest among all the surrounding gatehouses. Again, the architecture was impressive: colorful exterior, intricate awning design, sharp protrusions, and mounting presence over Beijing.