We began the day by visiting Tiananmen Square, which our guide said is the biggest square in the world. The square contains a large monument to those who died during the civil war between the Communists and Nationalists. (It also contains an incredibly large TV screen that was set up during the Olympics to highlight the special aspects of the countries' different provinces. When I hear the name Tiananmen Square, my first thought is the student protest that occurred and was put down there. As if reading my mind as we got off of our bus, our tour guide told us that there are many police on the square and we should be "sensitive."
Just beyond the square is the entrance to the Forbidden City, which was the home to emperors for over 600 years. It truly feels like a city as one walks through gate after gate before reaching the emperor's living quarters. The exteriors of the buildings are beautiful, with vibrant colors and ornate details. When visiting the City one not only learns about its history, but also the Chinese traditions and beliefs and symbols that are still important today. For example the crane symbolizes eternal life and the turtle symbolizes longevity.
In the afternoon we visited the Temple of Heaven. This is where the emperor would visit each year to make sacrifices to his father- the emperor in the sky- to ensure prosperity and a good harvest for the coming year. The temple itself is extremely beautiful and is known as an architectural wonder- it was put together with no nails! It has long been the symbol of Beijing, and it is a place where many foreign dignitaries Have visited, including Nixon during his ground-breaking trip in 1972.
After dinner we went to a well-known teahouse to see a performance of traditional Chinese performing arts, including plate spitting, martial arts, and Peking Opera.