March 8 2004
Can a travelogue which includes Beijing NOT have a picture of Tiananmen?
Tiananmen, whose name means ‘Gate of Heaven’s Peace’ is the main gate to the former Imperial Palace, aka the Forbidden City. There is a moat surrounding the wall, and three bridges span the moat to lead into Tiananmen. The center bridge was reserved for the Emperor himself, so when Chairman Mao crossed the center bridge when he entered the gate to proclaim the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on October 1 1949 he was graphically demonstrating the fall of the Imperial state. Ironically, today the center gate is again closed by chains, and overshadowed by a massive portrait of Mao (which is the backdrop for thousands of Chinese tourists’ photographs every day).

This is the one of the two towers which once guarded Qianmen, the front gate to the walled inner city area of Beijing. The remains of the walls were destroyed by government authorities during the absurd purges of the Cultural Revolution, but luckily the large towers were preserved well.