On our first day in Beijing, we decided to walk to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Both places are icons in Chinese history, both good and bad. This post is only going to focus on Tiananmen Square and the experience walking around. There are several memorials and monuments in the square and the surrounding areas. The tower of the Forbidden City (now known as the Tower of Tiananmen Square) is located at the north and this is where the heads of state and guess watch parades and tributes to China. In the center of the square is the Monument to the People’s Heroes. The monument is engraved with the saying from Chairman Mao…….”The People’s Heroes are Immortal”.
It is also depicts the development of China in modern history. On the west side of the square is the Great Hall of the People and is where the People’s Congress holds meetings and other diplomatic activities. In the south of the square is the Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao. Located in the hall is Chairman Mao himself…….and Frank says he is a nice shade of orange. On the east side of the square is the National Museum of China. The day was overcast and slightly raining but it didn’t stop the Chinese tourist basking in the glory of the square and jumping the line to see Chairman Mao. We didn’t get to go see the Chairman and drop off the basket of flowers Frank bought (okay I just made that up…….he didn’t buy flowers). We walked around the square and noticed they put up giant LED screens to broadcast commercials for Chinese Tourism. Walking around the square, I started getting a little uneasy, not from the people just the history. Earlier in the week, I typed in Tinanmen Square into Google images and it sent chills up my spine. Of course in China, Tiananmen Square is blocked as a search but I used a VPN in China……..take that Mao. In 1989, the Square was a prominent feature on world news and it wasn’t because it is beautiful. On June 4 1989, China laid down the hammer on the people. The world knows the event as Tiananmen Square Massacre but officially it is called the June Fourth Incident (funny how China sees it as just an incident). In 1989, several communist governments fell and Chinese students and intellectuals thought it would be a good time to see if China was wanting to change………..No it wasn’t. The protest started with the death of pro-democracy, anti corruption official, Hu Yaobang. About 100,00 mourners showed up at the square on the Eve of his funeral which was in April.
The protest lasted for several weeks until the Government decided for the people that was enough. Most of what happened on June 4th actually took place outside of the square on the surrounding streets. One of the most iconic images of the late 20th century is “Tank Man”. One student, said to be Wang Weilin, walked in front of the oncoming tanks and refused to get out of the way. At one point, he climbed on top of the tank to talk to one of the soldiers, climbed down, and began to run away. He was whisked away by a group of people and never seen again……..you make up your own story about his disappearance. It wasn’t this image that kept coming into my head but another photograph I saw. The army was told to retake Tiananmen Square by 6 am. One of the photos on line shows what it means to take back the square by 6 am. I am not going to describe the photograph but it still hasn’t left my head. To everyone reading this from other nations, I know the US has had its bad times and we are not innocent. There are several incidents in our history that are just as tragic…..slavery for one, the massacre of millions of Native Americans is another. The message I am trying to get across is how utterly tragic and horrible we as people can be……at what cost do we cease being human and become expendable. This is what was in my head as we walked across the Square. It was also on this day that I wanted to come home to the US and not face any more history. On a final note, the motto of the Chinese army is “Serve the People”.