Today after our lecture we walked to the Forbidden City. The city was shrowded in mist, at least that’s what I told myself. I am pretty sure it was a thick layer of smog. The sun was barely visible, only appearing in the sky as a dim orange disc hanging above us. It barely warmed us, as we walked through the crowded streets in the 30 degree weather. It was hard to imagine what it must have been like 500 years ago when they first built the city given the throngs of tourists and the persistent street vendors that kept circling near by. We had visited the Summer Palace yesterday, so the Forbidden City, though still impressive, was a little underwhelming. The Forbidden City was (is) also undergoing considerable renovation in time for the 2008 Summer Olympics, so some of the buildings were covered and closed to the public.
The Forbidden City lies in front of Tiananmen Square, site of an infamous massacre in 1989. The square itself is one of the largest in the world (not sure if Moscow’s Red Square is larger). Supposedly, up to 500,000 people can fill the square, a site of many public speeches during Mao’s reign. On the main gate of the Forbidden City is a large portrait of the Communist leader, Mao.