Beijing: Olympic Park and Pangu 7 Star Hotel

After our Badaling Great Wall visit, we decided to capped this rainy day with a short visit, though not part of our itinerary, to the Beijing Olympic Park, its structures built for the 2008 Summer Olympics.  Brittany dropped us off at the Ruyi Bridge (over the Pangu Gardens) where, from this vantage point, we had a great view of the “Bird’s Nest” National Indoor Stadium and “Water Cube” Aquatic Center of the Olympic Park on one side and the Pangu 7 Star Hotel on the other.

Beijing National Indoor Stadium

The 18,000-pax Beijing National Indoor Stadium, also known as the National Indoor Stadium, is an indoor arena nicknamed as the Fan due to its design resembling a traditional Chinese folding fan. Opened on November 26, 2007, it hosted, at the 2008 Olympics, the artistic gymnastics, trampolining and handball events. After the Olympics, the stadium was used for sports competition, cultural and entertaining purposes, and as a multi-functional exercise center for local residents.

Bird’s Nest – Beijing National Stadium

The US$423 million Beijing National Stadium, also known as the National Stadium or, colloquially, as the “Bird’s Nest,” was designed for use throughout the 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Its design was awarded to a submission from the Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron in April 2003, after a bidding process that included 13 final submissions. The design, which originated from the study of Chinese ceramics, implemented steel beams in order to hide supports for the retractable roof; giving the stadium the appearance of a “bird’s nest.” Leading Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was the artistic consultant on the project. The retractable roof was later removed from the design after inspiring the stadium’s most recognizable aspect. Ground was broken in December 2003 and the stadium officially opened in June 2008.

Water Cube – Beijing National Aquatics Center

The Beijing National Aquatics Center, also known as the National Aquatics Center and nicknamed the “Water Cube,” is an aquatics center that was built alongside Beijing National Stadium in the Olympic Green for the swimming competitions of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Despite its nickname, the building is not an actual cube, but a cuboid (a rectangular box). Ground was broken on December 24, 2003, and the Center was completed and handed over for use on January 28, 2008. During the Olympics, swimmers here broke 25 world records.  After the Olympics, the building underwent a RMB 200 million revamp to turn the inside into a water park.

Pangu 7-Star Hotel

The Pangu 7 Star Hotel,  with its jaw-dropping views of the “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium and “Water Cube” Aquatic Centre, offers 234 guest rooms, including 140 suites. Ten room categories range in size from 45 to 488 sq. m. and all have 3.5-m. high ceilings. It is the only hotel to have been granted permission from the Palace Museum to reproduce priceless artworks from the Forbidden City. The masterworks were recreated on burnished copper panels in Italy.

Ruyi Bridge

On our last night in Beijing, we decided to go shopping at the San Li Tun Commercial Complex.  Our last day was uneventful as our flight left Beijing for Manila at 12 noon.  What an end to summer and a welcome for the rainy season.

Beijing: The Badaling Great Wall

After this short stopover at the Bona Jade Store, we all returned to our coach in anticipation of a great Great Wall tour.  Then it started to rain.  Upon arrival at the Badaling Great Wall, we found out that our cable car ride was cancelled, bad news for chubby Alex and his senior citizen mom.  Carmen opted to stay behind while Alex gamely joined us.  With the time allotted to us by our guide Brittany, we traversed the snaking portions of the wall as far as we could, donning our jackets for rain protection.  Some of the sections were quite steep.

The Great Wall of China

The entire Great Wall, with all of its branches, stretches for 8,851.8 kms. (5,500.3 miles), 6,259.6 kms. (3,889.5 miles) of which are sections of actual wall while the rest are 359.7 km (223.5 mi) of trenches and 2,232.5 kms. (1,387.2 miles) of natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers.

The carefully restored, 4.8-km. long Badaling Great Wall, 70 kms. (42 miles) northwest of Beijing, one of 4 places that is accessible to tourist,is its most visited section (opened to tourists in 1957).  On February 24, 1972, the late U.S. Pres. Richard M. Nixon and his wife, accompanied by Vice Premier Li Xiannian, visited this part of the wall during his historic visit to China. On the day of our visit it was filled with tourists, in spite of the rain.  The immediate area around the Badaling Wall has a number of hotels, restaurants and a cable car.

The Great Wall of China, stretching from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Nur in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia, is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in northern China, built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic groups such as the Xiongnu from the north and rebuilt and maintained between the 5th century BC and the 16th century.

Since the 5th century BC, several walls have been built that were referred to as the Great Wall. One of the most famous is the wall built between 220–206 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. Little of that wall remains; the majority of the existing wall was built during the Ming Dynasty.

Prior to our return to our assembly area at Badaling Hotel, we took some time out to do some pasalubong shopping at a souvenir shop where I bought some marble letterhead stamps etched, on the spot, with the names of Jandy and my daughter Cheska, both in Chinese characters.  I also bought a pair of granite tiles stippled with images of the Great Wall.  Back at the Badaling Hotel, we had a late buffet lunch at its coffee shop.  At the men’s comfort room, we were amused by life-size replicas of the terra cotta warriors of Xian.

Badaling Hotel Coffee Shop

Beijing: Bona Jade Store

On our third day, after breakfast at the hotel, we were to proceed to our tour’s piece de resistance, the Great Wall of China.  Along the way we dropped by Bona Jade Store, one of the largest jade stores in China, taking the seventh exit of BaDaLing Expressway.

Bona Jade Store

Bona Jade Store manufactures and sells more than a thousand kinds of gorgeous jade ware and jewelry (necklaces, rings, earrings, pendants) that embodies thousands of years of Chinese culturing. Its 2-storey sales hall covers about 6,000 sq. m. and can accommodate several thousand customers. Its big parking lot covers about 8,000 sq. m..

Bona Jade Store Sales Area

Upon entering the store, we were assigned a store guide who briefed us on everything you need to know about Chinese jade.  Jade was prized by the Chinese for its durability; its musical qualities; its subtle, translucent colors, and its alleged protective powers (it was thought to prevent fatigue and delay the decomposition of the body). Chinese jade, renowned throughout the world, is classified according to their beauty, hardness, mellow color, soft feel and pleasant sound. At the sales area, we all bought some jade pixiu necklaces, said to bring good luck, while  Gil bought a ring.

A Display of Jade Ware

Bona Jade Store: Er Bo Zi Road East, Huilongguan, Changping District, Beijing 102208, People’s Republic of China. Tel: 0086-010-80796761. Fax: 0086-010-80796762. Website: www.bonajadestore.com.cn.

Beijing: Summer Palace

From the Asian Games Panda House, we next proceeded to the Summer Palace, the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China.  The Summer Palace, located on the western edge of Beijing, between the fourth and fifth ring roads, 12 kms. from central Beijing, was, as its name implies, used as a summer residence by China’s imperial rulers. A pleasure ground in the countryside, yet near to the city, it is virtually a museum of traditional Chinese gardening that uses rocks, plants, pavilions, ponds, cobble paths and other garden styles to create a poetic effect between different scenes.  Points of interest here are the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity and Kunming Lake.

Hall of Benevolence and Longevity

The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, the main hall of the Summer Palace, was first built in 1750 and was then called the Hall of Industrious Government, but the building was burnt down by the Allied Anglo-French Force in 1860. The present building was reconstructed in 1890 and the name of the hall was given by Emperor Guanxu. This is the most important hail for political activities in the Palace as it was the place for Emperor Guangxu and Empress Dowager Ci’xi to handle state affairs and receive foreign envoys.

Kunming Lake

Kunming Lake, covering ¾ of the area of the Summer Palace, is the most attractive water area in Beijing. Originally, it was a natural lake formed by a number of springs in the northwestern district in Beijing. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), people grew lotus flowers in the lake and planted rice around the lake. Its picturesque beauty was often compared with the charming scenery around the West Lake. Even the emperors were fascinated with it and made boat trips on the lake. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), in order to build Qingyi Garden, the Emperor Qianlong he had the lake expanded. He named it Kunming Lake in a way to praise its incomparable beauty.

Seventeen Arch Bridge

The 150 m. long and 8 m. wide Seventeen-Arch Bridge, built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799), is the longest bridge in the Summer Palace.  It connects the eastern shore of the lake and Nanhu Island in the west.  Nanhu Island lies southeast of Kunming Lake opposite Longevity Hill. With an area of about 1 hectare (2.47 acres), it is the largest island in the Summer Palace. When Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) enlarged Kunming Lake, he ordered workers to save the temples and buildings but to excavate the earth; thus creating Nanhu Island.

Nanhu Island

The octagonal, 3-storied and quadruple-eaved wood-constructed Pavilion of Buddhist Fragrance (FoXiangGe) is the highest and largest grand architecture in the Summer Palace. The 40-m. high tower is built on a 20-m. high stone terrace half way up the hill – hence it seems to touch the clouds and looks graceful and beautiful. This symbol of the Summer Palace can be seen for miles around.

Pavilion of Buddhist Fragrance

A highlight of our visit here was our (Gil, Jandy, Gibson and me) photo ops dressed in complete and colorful Chinese emperor attire (RMB 10 each).  Azon, on the other hand, dressed up as a frowning concubine.  She did the same thing again at Kunming Lake, this time smiling. Our visit to the Summer Palace capped our day.

Azon Dressed as a Chinese Princess or Concubine

Beijing: Asian Games Panda House (Beijing Zoo)

After having our fill of Peking Roast Duck at the Original Quanjude Restaurant, we returned to our coach and proceeded to the Beijing Zoo where we were to have our first face-to-face encounter with the Giant Panda, an emblem of China, at the Asian Games Panda House. We entered the Zoo’s East Area where the pandas, big cats, bears, small mammals, pheasants and waterfowl are housed.

Beijing Zoo Entrance

The over 10,000 sq. m. Asian Games Panda House, built in 1990 for the 11th Asian Games, currently houses 5 pandas, the youngest being 2 years old. The Giant Panda Hall is designed on a circular pattern inspired by the Tai Chi symbol. The interior has area of 1,452 sq. m. and there is an additional 2000 sq. m. of outside “playgrounds” for the pandas with trees, climbing structures, and lots of places to lean back and enjoy a snack.

Asian Games Panda House

The main part of the house has a bamboo-shaped structure, entered from the southeast side and exited from the northwest, with 11 semicircular arch rings (representing the 11th Asian Games) surrounding it. There are 3 exhibition rooms around the central hall. The center also has rooms for isolating, medical treatment, fresh bamboo, deliveries, food making and TV supervision.  The outdoor sports ground has wooden perches and recreational facilities for pandas.  Bamboo is grown around the Panda House.

A Sleeping Giant Panda

The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is a bear easily recognized by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the Giant Panda’s diet is 99% bamboo. Other parts of its diet include honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, and bananas when available.

The Giant Panda in Motion

It lives in a few mountain ranges in central China, mainly in Sichuan province, but also in the Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Due to farming, deforestation, and other development, the Giant Panda has been driven out of the lowland areas where it once lived. The Giant Panda is a conservation reliant endangered species. While the dragon has historically served as China’s national emblem, in recent decades the Giant Panda has also served as an emblem for the country. Its image appears on a large number of modern Chinese commemorative silver, gold, and platinum coins. Though the Giant Panda is often assumed to be docile, it has been known to attack humans, presumably out of irritation rather than predation

Beijing: Original Quanjude Restaurant

After our Forbidden City tour, we returned to our coach and proceeded to the famous Quanjude Restaurant for lunch.  Established in 1864 during the   reign of the Tongzhi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, the restaurant is known for its trademark Quanjude Peking Roast Duck and its longstanding culinary heritage.  .This recipe was originally reserved for the imperial families but the first Quanjude manager, Yang Renquan, who started out selling chicken and ducks, paid a retired chef from the palace for the imperial recipe.

The Entrance of Original Quanjude Restaurant

Peking Duck, at the Quanjude in particular, has been a favorite dish for various political leaders ranging from U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro and former German chancellor Helmut Kohl.  Now we were going to savor it plus other delectable dishes. Peking Duck, one of China’s national foods, .is cooked using open hung ovens (designed to roast up to 20 ducks at the same time) and non-smoky hardwood fuel such Chinese dates, peaches or pears to add a subtle fruity flavor with a golden crisp to the thin skin.

The cooked Peking Duck was traditionally carved in front of us and served in 3 stages. First, the skin is served dipped in sugar and garlic sauce. The meat is then served with steamed pancakes, spring onionsand sweet bean sauce.  Several vegetable dishes are provided to accompany the meat, typically cucumber sticks. We then spread the over the pancake which is then wrapped around the meat with the vegetables and then eaten by hand.

Peking Roast Duck

In 1958, the restaurant was ranked first in “Chinese Famous Dishes,” compiled by all-China famous chefs under the Ministry of Commerce.  In 1982, it was also ranked first in “Elite of Chinese Famous Dishes,” published by Japan and China.  The Quanjude restaurant chain enjoys a high reputation among domestic and overseas consumers for its peculiar roast technique and outstanding quality, selling over 2 million roast ducks served in 400 different styles to over 5 million customers annually. Quanjude has 8 direct branches and several other franchises in Beijing, 2 in Hong Kong and 1 in Melbourne (Australia).

The Original Quanjude Restaurant: No. 14, Qianmen West St., Beijing, People’s Republic of China.

Beijing: The Forbidden City (Inner Court)

The Inner Court is composed of the 3 main structures at the rear of the Forbidden City, all official residences of the Emperor and Empress and all smaller than the Outer Court halls, namely the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqinggong), the Hall of Union (Jiaotaidian) and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunninggong).

Palace of Heavenly Purity

The first structure inside the inner court is the  Palace of Heavenly Purity, the largest of the 3 halls. During the Ming Dynasty, it was the residence (the large space was divided into 9 rooms on 2 levels, with 27 beds) of the Emperor and, during the Qing Dynasty, the palace often served as the Emperor’s audience hall, where he held council with the Grand Council, received ministers and emissaries, and held banquets. This double-eaved building, connected to the Gate of Heavenly Purity to its south by a raised walkway, is set on a single-level white marble platform.  At the center of the palace, set atop an elaborate platform, is a throne and a desk, on which the Emperor wrote notes and signed documents during councils with ministers. A caisson is set into the roof, featuring a coiled dragon.

Behind it is the  Hall of Union. Square in shape and with a pyramidal roof, the 25 Imperial seals of the Qing Dynasty, as well as other ceremonial items, were stored here. The third hall is the Palace of Earthly Tranquility, the emperors’ wedding room. This double-eaved building is 9 bays wide and 3 bays deep.

Exhibit Hall of Textiles and Apparel

Besides the 3 main buildings are the 6 eastern palaces and 6 western palaces, where the emperor used to handle everyday affairs, and which was the living quarters of the emperor, empresses and concubines. Those palaces have been converted into exhibition halls, where a spectacular set of imperial collections is displayed. The Exhibit Hall of Textiles and Apparel, reflecting the nomadic heritage of the rulers, showcases stately court robes plus the emperor’s accouterments.

Imperial Garden

Behind these 3 halls lies the relatively small and compact 1,2,000 sq. m. Imperial Garden (Yu HuaYuan), he private garden of the imperial family (used exclusively by the imperial family to sip tea, play chess, meditate and generally relax) and the last part of the Forbidden City. The garden was built in 1417 during the Ming Dynasty. The most typical imperial garden in China, it is an aesthetic change from the crimson and gray building complex to a colorful and luxuriant atmosphere. The garden contains several elaborate landscaping features.

Hall of Imperial Peace

Within the garden, there are about 20 structures in different styles. It is interesting how the manmade structures maintain harmony with trees, rockeries, flowerbeds and bronze incense burners in this relatively small space.  The Hall of Imperial Peace (Qin’AnDian), first built in the 15th century, is the main structure in the Imperial Garden and the only one on the central axis – it stands in the center of the garden, encircled by a rectangular wall.  In each of the four corners of the Imperial Garden there is a pavilion, symbolizing the four seasons. The Pavilion of Myriad Springs is the most famous and lies in the south east corner of the garden. It was built in 1535 and restored during the Qing Dynasty.

Pavilion of Myriad Springs

To the north of the garden is the Gate of Divine Might, the north gate of the palace (we exited here). On the left side of the Inner Court is the Mental Cultivation Hall (Yangxindian), the most important building except for the Hall of Supreme Harmony. From the time of the third emperor, Yongzhen, all the Qing emperors, 8 in total resided in this hall.

Beijing: The Forbidden City (Outer Court)

Upon entering the Meridian Gate, we were ushered into a large square pierced by the meandering Inner Golden Water River, which is crossed by 5 bridges. Beyond the square stands the Gate of Supreme Harmony, behind which is the Hall of Supreme Harmony Square.

Gate of Supreme Harmony

A 3-tiered white marble terrace rises from this square. Three halls stand on top of this terrace, the focus of the palace complex. From the south, these are are the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian, the largest), the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian) and the Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohedian).

Hall of Supreme Harmony

The first hall we visited was the Hall of Supreme Harmony which rises some 30 m. (98 ft.) above the level of the surrounding square. It is the ceremonial center of imperial power, and the largest surviving wooden structure in China. It is 9 bays wide and 5 bays deep (the numbers 9 and 5 are symbolically connected to the majesty of the Emperor).  Set into the ceiling at the center of the hall is the Dragon Throne (Longyi), an intricate caisson decorated with a coiled dragon, from the mouth of which issues a chandelier-like set of metal balls, called the “Xuanyuan Mirror.” During the Ming Dynasty, the Emperor held court here to discuss affairs of state. During the Qing Dynasty, as Emperors held court far more frequently, a less ceremonious location was used instead, and the Hall of Supreme Harmony was only used for ceremonial purposes, such as coronations, investitures and imperial weddings.

Hall of Central Harmony

The Hall of Central Harmony is a smaller, square hall, used by the Emperor to prepare and rest before and during grand events. Behind it, the Hall of Preserved Harmony, was used for rehearsing ceremonies, banquets and was also the site of the final stage of the Imperial examination.  All 3 halls feature imperial thrones, the largest and most elaborate one being that in the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

Hall of Preserved Harmony

At the center of the ramps leading up to the terraces from the northern and southern sides are ceremonial ramps, part of the Imperial Way, featuring elaborate and symbolic bas-relief carvings. The northern ramp, behind the Hall of Preserving Harmony, is carved from a single piece of stone 16.57 m. (54.4 ft.) long, 3.07 m. (10.1 ft.) wide and 1.7 m. (5.6 ft.) thick. It weighs some 200 tons and is the largest such carving in China.

Northern Ramp

The southern ramp, in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, is even longer, but is made from 2 stone slabs joined together – the joint was ingeniously hidden using overlapping bas-relief carvings, and was only discovered when weathering widened the gap in the 20th century.

Hall of Literary Glory

In the south west and south east of the Outer Court are the Halls of Military Eminence (Wuyingdian) and Literary Glory (Wenhuadian). The former was used at various times for the Emperor to receive ministers and hold court, and later housed the Palace’s own printing house. The latter was used for ceremonial lectures by highly regarded Confucian scholars, and later became the office of the Grand Secretariat. A copy of the Siku Quanshu was stored there. To the northeast are the Southern Three Places which was the residence of the Crown Prince.

Upon exiting the Hall of the Preserving Harmony, we notices a huge block of marble carved with cloud and dragon designs. Past that, we entered  another gate called the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Qianqingmen), the main gateway to the Inner Court.

Beijing: The Forbidden City

After about half an hour of photo ops at Tiananmen Square, it was now time for us to enter the Forbidden City (also officially known as the Imperial Palace Museum), the best preserved imperial palace in Beijing  and the largest surviving ancient palatial structure in the world.  With Brittany, our guide, taking the lead, we all crossed Dongchangan St. and entered the city via Tiananmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) where most tourists enter.  The gate has a huge portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong, widely used as a national symbol.   Our tour of the Forbidden City would take about 2 hours.

Tiananmen Gate

The 72-hectare (178-acre) Forbidden City, the seat of Imperial power for 500 years, was commissioned by Emperor Yong Le, the third Emperor of the Ming Dynasty,  and was built between 1406 and 1420.  It was home to 24 emperors of the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) Dynasties.  However, it  was burnt down, rebuilt, sacked and renovated countless of times, so much so that most of the splendid architecture we saw today dates from the 1700’s onwards.  In 1961, the Forbidden City was listed as one of the important historical monuments under the special preservation by the Chinese central government and, in 1987, it was nominated as a World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. This treasure house of Chinese cultural and historical relics is recognized as one of the most important 5 palaces in the world (the other 4 being the Palace of Versailles in France, Buckingham Palace in the U.K., the White House in the U.S. and the Kremlin in Russia).

Outer Court

The complex was so huge so it took us quite a while to walk through, especially when we  wanted to have a close look at everything. Its dimensions are huge, being 961 m. (3,153 ft.) from north to south and 753 m. (2,470 ft.) from east to west and is surrounded by a 7.9-m. (26  ft.) high city wall and a 6 m. (20- ft.) deep by 52 m. (171 ft.) wide moat. The walls are 8.62 m. (28.3 ft.) wide at the base, tapering to 6.66 m. (21.9 ft.) at the top. Altogether, it has a total floor area of approximately 150,000 sq. m. (1,600,000 sq. ft.) and consists of 90 palaces and courtyards, 980 buildings and 9,999 bays of rooms, not all of which can be visited.

Inner Court

Traditionally, the Forbidden City is divided into two parts: the Outer Court (or Front Court) and the Inner Court (or Back Palace).  The Outer Court, used for ceremonial purposes, includes the southern sections.  The Inner Court, the residence of the Emperor and his family, was used for day-to-day affairs of state and includes the northern sections. Generally, the Forbidden City has 3 vertical axes with the most important buildings are situated on the central north-south axis.

Meridian Gate

Once past Tiananmen Gate, we crossed an expansive brick-paved square until we reached the 5-arched Meridian Gate (Wumen), the largest gate and the main entrance to the palace. The gate was the place where the Emperor announced the new lunar calendar on the winter solstice.  Once through Meridian Gate, we go across Golden Stream Bridge and on to the Outer Court.

Forbidden City: No.4 Jingshan Front Street, Dongcheng District 65132255, Beijing, People’s Republic of China.  Open 8:30 AM-5 M. Admission: RMB60

Beijing: Tiananmen Square

From the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Tiananmen Square was just a short leisurely walk.  This 440,000 sq. m., 880 m. by 500 m. city square, the largest  in the world (it can accommodate 600,000 people), lies between 2 ancient, massive gates: the Tian’anmen Gate (after whom the square was named) to the north (it separates it from the Forbidden City) and the Zhengyangmen, (better known as Qianmen) Gate to the south.  Designed and built in 1651, the square has since been enlarged 4 times its original size in the 1950s.

Tiananmen Square

The square has great cultural significance as it was the site of several key events in Chinese history such as the May Fourth Movement (1919); the proclamation of the People’ Republic of China by Mao Zedong (October 1, 1949); the annual mass military displays on all subsequent National Days until October 1, 1959; the military parades for the 35th (1984), 50th (1999) and 60th (2009) anniversaries of the People’s Republic of China, and the Tiananmen Protests in 1976 (after the death of premier Zhou Enlai) and 1989.

National Museum of China

The square is flanked by the National Museum of China (dedicated to Chinese history predating 1919) on the east and the Great Hall of the People on the west.   On the main north-south axis of the square is the Mao Zedong Mausoleum, built near the site of the former Gate of China (demolished in the 1950s) upon Mao’s death in 1976.

Monument to the People’s Heroes

On its southern edge is the 38 m. (125-ft.) high Monument to the People’s Heroes, built in memory of the martyrs who laid down their lives for the revolutionary struggles of the Chinese people during the 19th and 20th centuries. The monument, constructed from August 1952 to May 1958, was designed by Architect Liang Sicheng, with some elements designed by his wife, Lin Huiyin.  The monument weighs over 10,000 metric tons and contains about 17,000 pieces of marble and granite from Qingdao, Shandong Province and Fangshan District outside Beijing.

Tiananmen Square is open, with no trees or benches.  However, trees line its east and west edges. The square is lit with large lampposts which are fitted with video cameras.

Great Hall of the People

Tiananmen Square and 6 other places in Beijing were selected  as “red tourist” sites by the State Tourism Administration as part of a “red tourism” program aimed at boosting tourism in former revolutionary bases. Being a regular tourist destination, the square was filled with tourists and the occasional columns of precision-marching soldiers in their familiar green uniforms.

A Column of Precision-Marching Soldiers