Tiananmen Square and The Imperial City 

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In the heart of Beijing is a vast empty square a kilometre long by half a kilometre wide, it is named after Tiananmen Gate, the gate of Heavenly Peace Originally created following the Boxer Rebellion in the late nineteenth century,  it has since gained notoriety as the scene of much civil unrest and protest 

 

Between the square and the gate runs Chang an Jie, Beijing's ceremonial boulevard.  Four soldiers form an honour guard working in 4 four hour shifts around the clock

A large portrait of Mao Zedung has presided over the square for over half a century.   It is replaced annually with a newly painted copy.  He is depicted without wrinkles, perfection personified.   Either side are the slogans  'Long Live the Chinese People's Republic' and 'Long Live the Great Unity of the World's Peoples'
Tiananmen Gate
In Imperial times it served as a rostrum from which to make official proclamations.  It was from here that Mao Zedung proclaimed The People's Republic of China on October 1st 1949

The Imperial City

Laid out between 1406 and 1420.  It comprises an Inner City for ordinary working people, an Imperial City for the court and civil service and the Forbidden City for the imperial household.  From here the Son of Heaven ruled the 'Middle Kingdom' as intermediary between heaven and earth.  The Emperor entered to cries of  'ten thousand years', the same cries  would greet Mao Zedung centuries later

 

Wumen or Meridian Gate to the Hall of Supreme Harmony

The courtyard Leading to the Hall of Supreme Harmony can hold 90,000 spectators.  The largest building in the Imperial City, containing the Dragon Throne  and the scene of all major ceremonies
 

The ceiling above the throne features a dragon with a pearl in his mouth. According to legend the pearl can distinguish whether the emperor is the legitimate inheritor, if not, the pearl will fall
The Emperor was the incarnation of the dragon, there are dragon designs on the throne, columns, windows and ceilings. The golden throne sits on a platform an ornate wall screen behind and three gilded columns on each side.  In front of the throne, there are mythical beasts, cranes symbolising longevity and incense burners
 

Golden Water

One of the five marble bridges fording the stream

Ning Shou Men - Gate of Peace and Longevity

Bronze guardian lion-dogs known in the West as Foo Dogs, flank the entrances to the halls.  This male lion has a ball under his paw symbolizing control of the empire, his female counterpart on the other side pins a cub beneath her massive paw symbolizing continuity of empire

Zoomorphic Watch
 Given the national fascination with fireworks and lantern festivals it is not surprising that the four corners of the roofs featured mythological creatures led by a god astride a phoenix to ward off destruction by fire.   They were not totally reliable however, these buildings date from the 18th century although they look much as the originals would have done 500 years ago 

 

Having ones photo taken with foreign visitors is a favourite pastime for Chinese visitors,  as is dressing  up

 

 

'Pu Yi 'the last emperor of China
 

The colour red is everywheree
Dragon Screen

Dragons they say, rise into the sky in the spring and plunge back to earth in the fall.  As the creature between heaven and earth they have come to be identified with the emperor
Imperial Gardens

 Pavilion of 10,000 Spring Seasons.  One of 8 pavilions in the gardens

 

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