Where We Be
Tiananmen Square -- Beijing, China
Tiananmen Square is the third largest city
square in the world. Certainly it's the most
massive open city space we've ever stood in.
There are no trees or benches, so it feels even
bigger than it would otherwise. Even on such a
cold day as this, plenty of Chinese tourists are
out and about, but the enormous size of this
place simply swallows them up.

Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City
stand right next to each other at the very
center of Beijing. In fact they share the same
gate, called the Tiananmen Gate, which means
"Gate of Heavenly Peace." As you walk across
the 100-acre expanse towards this gate, your
eye is inevitably drawn to the huge portrait of
Chairman Mao, who peers benevolently down
upon you. What a strange juxtaposition to have
Mao looking down from the gate that used to
house the emperors of China.

It feels like Communism is on full display here,
more so than elsewhere in China. Guards in
uniform stand with military erectness near the
red flag of China fluttering high up on its pole.
Numerous plainclothes security personnel
wander the square, identifiable by the cord
dangling from their ear and a certain forbidding
look in their eyes. Of course this square has
been a particularly sensitive place ever since
the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Anyone
speaking out or trying to start a rally here is
immediately approached by security. Our guide
normally speaks freely about every issue we
throw at him while we're touring around, but
here he advises us to be a bit more discreet
and circumspect.
Tiananmen Square is big -- like over 100 acres big. It would take a whole lot of people for this place to feel crowded.
Crossing the bridge to the Gate of Heavenly Peace -- the Forbidden City is just beyond!
Security is everywhere here. It can be interesting
to try to pick out the plainclothes security personnel.
Chairman Mao gazes at you as you walk across Tiananmen Square towards the Forbidden City