Discovering the Forbidden City

A visit to China would be incomplete without visiting the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square!

Staff and students made their way to the epicentre of China on Sunday morning to learn about the vast history and recent changes faced by the world’s most populous country. We began our tour at the Zhengyangmen Gate Tower where we learned briefly about the history and some interesting facts about one of the world’s largest civic squares. It was here that Mao Zedong proclaimed the foundation of the People’s Republic of China and it was also in this square where the student-led demonstrations of ’89 headlined China around the world.

This square is extremely significant to the Chinese that thousands flock to here to pay homage to Chairman Mao Zedong on a daily basis. Winding lines channelled visitors through and around the square as spectators waited for their chance to enter the site. People were handing out small flags for the students to carry as we continued to the north gate of the square. We also stopped for a series of pictures by the massive 17-meter flower basket that celebrates China’s national holiday.

The crowds were massive, but it was us who became quite the spectacle for many locals making their first journey to the Mausoleum of Chairman Mao. Time after time, our students were approached to take pictures with those who made their way to Beijing from other cities and rural China. Feeling like quite the celebrities, many of us stopped to smile and practice our poses from the beginning all the way through to the end.

Our next stop on the tour was a visit to the Forbidden City, the past home to China’s imperial families. An official World Heritage Site, the former palace hosts up to 980 rooms and was previously forbidden to anyone other than the royal households and their servants. The last emperor of China was allowed to live in the back rooms of the palace until he was ousted by occupying forces who took hold of the palace in the early 20th century.

Walking through the palace, students were awestruck by the traditional Chinese architecture, grand halls and vast inner courtyards that once held official ceremonies and imperial weddings. Our guide taught us about the various rituals and traditions that took place at this illustrious site while we gazed at the various symbolic animals that adorned the many spaces of the palace. Students were set free to explore the rest of the palace and meet just outside the Imperial Garden before heading back to the hotel for some rest before classes.

Stephen had this to share about his visit to the Forbidden City:

“I thought it was very extravagant. I was surprised at the lack of furniture in the various courtyards and halls due to pillaging from the past. I was also surprised to learn that the emperors had thirty wives and that they were not able to leave the palace. I would call it a city of palaces based on the grand scale and architecture… a city within a city. Definitely a place to see when coming to China!”

In other news, classes resumed this morning! Students and teachers hit the books to begin their studies in the humanities and mathematics before breaking for lunch and continuing with period two. International business opened with a trading activity where students got up and traded commodities for points. Our newest executive, Maija won the trade deals and made the most profit for her company. Well done, Maija!

Tomorrow marks another exciting day on Global High School as we set out to visit the Great Wall of China. We also have many other exciting sites to see, including the Birds’ Nest, Cube, and a guided tour of Beijing’s narrow alleyways (hutongs) this weekend.

But first: it’s time to grab our toboggans and slide down the Great Wall!

Yours among the hutongs,
Nic