Tian'anmen Square

Trip Start Sep 30, 2006
Trip End Jan 16, 2010

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Flag of China  ,
Friday, October 20, 2006

I remember where I was when the student protesters stood their ground in Tian'anmen Square against the powerful Chinese military, known as the People's Liberation Army in 1989. I was canvassing for the League of Conservation Voters, at someone's house, getting a donation and being mesmerized by the lone individual standing before the huge Chinese tank. Now, as I stand in this fantastic public space, surrounded by other tourists and people milling around, my heart can only see the students and what they did here. Due to Chinese government censorship, numbers of how many died during the protests vary widely. Initial Chinese Red Cross reports of 2,600 casualties were revised after pressure from the government. Looking around, it is an incredible space to launch a protest. One feels so small here, even amongst thousands of people. To be alone in this immense square, standing in front of a military tank, must have felt like a mouse. That guy had to have the heart of 100 lions to do what he did. I stand here in awe of him and feel inspired by his action and of his fellow student protesters. There is no mention of what happened, no memorial plaque, nothing. That is the eery part of China, the authoritarian stranglehold on information over its people. While China is slowly changing to accommodate the new wealth and market capitalism, communism still rules. That is most evident in the flow of information. Without that, everything else crumbles. The only newspaper is the state run paper, which is posted on huge billboards all over the city for people to read. Definitely weird. Like everything else in Beijing, Tian'anmen Square (ironically, Square of Heavenly Peace) is massive. I tried to get the dimensions but accounts vary. I was told it is the largest public square in the world. It can hold 1 million people easily. It is hard to grasp the size, even being there. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other. The buildings surrounding the square are also mammoth sized, so it makes people look and feel like tiny ants. Perhaps this was the idea, to make the citizens feel small and unimportant as individuals, yet mighty in unison. It works. That is the feel of Beijing all over the city, as if it was built for giants. On a map of Beijing, it looks like 3 blocks to my hostel from TS. A quick and experienced city walker, it takes me at least 45 minutes to get back to my Beijing home. The exception is the colorful, homey huotongs, the ancient maze of alleyways that hide life between the main avenues. These huotongs hide behind their bland, nondescript walls a cozy world of comfort and quaint family life that is completely absent from the rest of the city. I am so glad my hostel is in a huotong, so I can experience the quiet solitude of Beijing life behind the scenes. My colorful, exciting days in Beijing come to an end next Wednesday, when I leave for Xi'an on a 31 hour train ride south to see the famed Terra Cotta Warriors. In many ways I will miss Beijing, as the people are friendly and I like where I've stayed for the past 10 days. And now, the sun finally shines, displaying an entirely different side to the city. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square
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