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Day 38 Beijing

July 3, 2011
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July 3, 2011 (Sunday)

Thirty-eighth day in China, sixth day in Beijing: 北京站 Beijing Station, 天安门广场 Tian’anmen Square, 升旗 flag ceremony

I went to Beijing Station and queued to get tickets from 兰州 Lanzhou to 敦煌 Dunhuang, two cities in west China once stops on the southern 絲綢之路 Silk Road. The day was hot. I walked into a cramped, labyrinthine mall across the street and ate some noodles with a ground meat sauce. I read in my new guidebook about the history of Beijing, and decided to go to Tian’anmen.

I took the subway to Qianmen. I had been there before, but did not notice that the cordoned-off area before the 正阳门 Zhengyang Gate was actually Tian’anmen Square, as Tian’anmen (Tian’an Gate) itself was obscured by the rectangular 毛主席纪念馆 Chairman Mao Memorial Hall. I passed through a security checkpoint to enter the square, then walked around the maosoleum. Two monumental buildings faced me on either side, and as I rounded the 人民英雄 People’s Heroes monument (shaped and set like an obelisk in the middle of the square) I saw the huge hammer & sickle emblem labelled “1921-2011.” Behind it, and across 长安街 Chang’an Street, sat the red Tian’anmen, hung with a portrait of Mao. I had imagined a larger gate. That a busy street cut right in front of it made for an anticlimax (much like Rome, indeed). Even so, and in such heat, the square was crowded. Vendors sold drinks. The curb before the Tian’an gate was packed with photo-takers. I walked through the park on the right of the gate, and the park on the left (dedicated to Sun Yat-sen). Around the corner, the sun set as a hazy orb and turned orange the water around the National Center for the Performing Arts, and reflected off the glass & metal exterior of the dome. A half dozen photographers stood tripods to shoot this golden hour. I returned to the square to wait with a crowd for the flag ceremony. At dusk a cadre of soldiers in green uniforms shouldering rifles with bayonets marched out of Tian’anmen, over the bridge, and across Chang’anjie. Two columns each flanked the flag post, and one soldier lowered the flag, whipped it over his arm and tied it up, and handed it over. They marched off. The ceremony took about ten minutes. The square was packed. I was stuffed into Line 1 and rode the subway back to 北新桥, where I had photographed the law offices the day before. Someone was still in his office. I ate some sautéed greens with nuts, mapo tofu, rice and plum juice for dinner. Plum juice tastes like barbecue sauce. And, my sandalwood soap smells like Coke. Back to the hostel.

KM

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