From the scars of Tiananmen to beholding Buddhas

Published: Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 12:43 PM.

Going to Beijing and not seeing The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square would be like going to the Emerald Coast of Florida and not going to the beach. So naturally our "23 Big Noses" visited many sites in Beijing but most certainly these two.

Everyone has seen photos of The Forbidden City (see the film, “The LastEmperor of China” if possible), but how many know why there is such a barren space in front of the major edifice? I do not think anyone in our group had heard before, but the reason was very simple for an emperor/total dictator: Being surrounded by trees would afford coverage for would-be assassins or others intent on harm.

Additionally, trees would lend themselves to fires. As the royal buildings were of wood, all precautions were taken to protect this hallowed compound. There were many huge cauldrons that were used to hold water; underneath these were places for fire. So the cauldrons served two purposes, to put out fires should they occur and to provide warm water for the emperor, his family, closest security, and his numerous concubines.

As one would imagine, the Forbidden City compound was enormous, consisting of many, many buildings.

We saw all that we could then went to the infamous Tiananmen Square. It is guarded by Tiananmen Gate — ironically, the name meaning Gate of Heavenly Peace.

That is hardly appropriate when one considers what began there the night of June 4, 1989, when hundreds, then thousands, of Chinese — mostly youths — began to protest various Chinese government stances. I have a special interest as my older daughter who was going around the world with a friend was in the square the night it all began.

Today the Chinese government calls the atrocities that commenced that night the “June Fourth Incident,” noting it was a “counterrevolutionary riot,” but historians estimate “hundreds to thousands” were killed. Needless to say, my daughter and friend fled the area and fled Beijing the next morning. She had seen small protests in the U.S. but what she witnessed in Tiananmen Square has left a not-to-be forgotten scar.

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