I immediately notice that soldiers, rail thin and stiff as boards, stand sentry everywhere. Look close at the centre of the photo of the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong below and you can see one. Photographing them at a distance is allowed, just not up close. The day is clear, what they call APEC blue, as when APEC met there, factories shut down and car traffic was minimized so that the skies would reveal their true colours. It was rare to see, and we were told that other places in China would never be so lucky.
In the centre of the square today is a huge vase of flowers. We wandered around, milling through thousands of people, and snapping photos of everything.
And we soon learned that the Chinese love selfie sticks, and to photograph westerners. We look funny to them. Our noses are too big, our skin too white. Young people were furtively taking our pictures. Almost makes you feel like a movie star.
Then it was on to the Forbidden City. It was really the Imperial Palace, forbidden to all except the royal family and their eunuchs. Only a set number of people are allowed in each day, and we are some of that number. Amazing series of structures with thick walls, and many gates, and traditional styled buildings that date back to the 14th century. We learned it was a lonely existence for those who lived there, torn from their families who hoped the family member would be favoured by the emperor, thus elevating the family's status. I am learning more and more how important status is to the Chinese.
My post would be not be complete without showing you this picture below. A young Chinese woman sleeping at the base of one of the many statues. For some reason, I was compelled to take her photograph, wondering if she, in her fatigue, represented the modern Chinese.
Tomorrow's post will introduce the food, which, believe me, deserves a post of its own.