DiSCOVER: Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City

First day on our amazing trip to China, our definite first stop in the capital city of Beijing would certainly include Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. What better way to immerse yourself in the ancient history of China than to visit the site of one of the most historically significant locations. With the start of our day, we learned about the social significance of Tiananmen Square such as its central location in Beijing and how it is now surrounded by political buildings that have all shaped the revolution of the People’s Republic of China. To this day, Mao Zedong’s influence and presence within the square is still very powerful. It is amazing to see his success and the respect he still continues to have. Tiananmen Square is definitely a location that represents China’s cultural pride that still holds an iconic global significance.


So today, we visited the place where the emperor reigned over his domain, the Imperial Palace. If I had to describe it in one word I’d say MASSIVE. The amount of resources that it takes to make the two large courtyards and the chambers in the entire complex is simply staggering for something that was built 600 years ago. Luckily for us, the Beijing Olympics occurred, meaning that there was a restoration effort on many of the structures. After the restoration, we were able to see the full splendour of the Imperial Palace. We spent two hours there and yet I felt like I only saw half of it. After a traditional Chinese meal, we saw a more spiritual side of the Temple of Heaven. It was a place of worship and sacrifice, where earthly beings try to reach heaven. It was simply majestic.


After a brief lunch, our third stop for the day was Tian Tan (Temple of Heaven). A truly grand and spiritual place for an emperor’s worship, and the location of very ancient Chinese rituals that emperors believed would grant them access into heaven. Everything about the temple of heaven was made to perfection, and every detail followed strict rules and standards of symmetry, geometry, and aesthetics based on the ruling dynasty of the time. The architecture of the temple reflected the emperor’s, the Chinese practices and beliefs of numerology. Being that number nine is a very lucky number, it was very thoughtfully incorporated into the pillars of the building. All of the details in materials, imagery, and traditions still communicate a truly magnificent place of worship.


Authors: Jessica Fung & Steven Lee

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