Tiananmen Square has been on my China list since before I left; it’s the sight of one of the most undemocratic actions in the last century (read more on google because I can’t post links at all). It’s kind of a
big huge deal– hundreds of protestors were shot #alongwithresidents by the government to quell their protest in the square. This happened in 1989. 22 years later, the government still has that square on lockdown so no more protests can happen #nofreedomtoassemblehere.
Here’s the kicker: Tiananmen Square translates to mean Gate of Heavenly Peace.
This weekend was Beijing time #Madie,Lindsey,Haley,Rachel,andIwent. We left to go to the Square as our first Beijing adventure Friday morning.
To get to the actual square, everyone has to go through security. Th square has lamp posts throughout, and every single one had at least 8 cameras facing in ever direction. There was literally #notfiguratively no place to stand in that square that was not being recorded. The square had a new addition since the massacre- there are now two huge TV screens on either side of a monument #forMao. The tv screens broadcast the highlights of China’s beautiful landscape while playing Disney-esque music. I was creeped out. There were many Chinese people milling about, and one couple brought a picnic basket and was eating lunch. There were quite a few tourists, but they all looked to be European, and none looked younger than 40. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that the massacre that took place in that very spot was being glossed over with TV screens and annoying music.
The atmosphere on the square felt like the atmosphere on the lawns in front of the Eiffel Tower- everyone was gathered in a famous location to hang out, have a meal, take pictures, relax. I felt so uncomfortable seeing no one reacting in a negative way– did they not know what happened here? Did they not care? Perhaps they didn’t want to get arrested by the overpowering number of policemen standing everywhere.
I get the feeling that the younger generations of Chinese seriously don’t know what happened in Tiananmen Square. Googling those two words together results in an internet fail. I hope ignorance is the reason the square was treated like a park and not impassivity.
Oh wait…it gets better. Mao was just across the street.
I was already feeling emotional at the square, and then we saw a huge building #framedinbetweentheTVscreens. It was Mao Zedong’s tomb. TOMB. We decided to go inside #RachelandLindseypassed. We tried to enter #number1- told we couldn’t take in our cameras. Tried to enter #number2-told we couldn’t take in our purses. There was a locker check but R&L held them for us. Tried to enter #number3 and were allowed to get in line #insteadofgettingyelledatinChinesebyaguywithamegaphone. We were halfway through the line and saw the huge sign that said ‘Valid ID required to enter.’ Guess whose IDs were in our purses? Obviously ours. We decided to just keep waking and see if we could get in anyway #actlikeyouknowwhatyou’redoing. No one asked us for our IDs #wentthroughsecurityagain, so we were in.
On the way into the actual building, we could buy a bouquet of flowers for Mao #pass. A sign on the entrance said ‘Quiet please. Remove your hats.’ We went into a large room with a huge statue of Mao and the smell of flowers was overpowering. There were thousands of bouquets. People put them down, then bowed to the statue #somewereprayingIthink. Cue me feeling uncomfortable.
From that room we were directed into the coffin room- Mao was in a glass tomb with an orange light on his face. He was covered up to the chest with the Communist flag. His face looked like a wax figurine; like a not real person. This dude died in 1976. I almost hope that’s a wax figurine and not really him #Isawadeadguy.
As we were looking at Mao, I was trying to get a handle on my emotions #introspectivetime. I realized my face had a look of derision mixed with disgust and made an effort to wipe it blank- could I get arrested for looking grossed out at the revered Chairman? #didn’twanttofindout.
I cannot fathom how the Chinese still love and respect a man who caused so many millions of deaths.
The reverence I saw for Mao was equal to the actions I saw when I was in Rome and saw the just-dead Pope in 2003. I mean, in America, we just don’t idolize people like that, do we? Neither Madie, Haley, nor I could think of a person that revered. Maybe it’s because he had all his opposition killed off.
Never in my life have I felt so lucky to live in a country that guarantees me rights. Yes, the US of A has some issues, but at least I can saw whatever I please without fear of being killed for it. I also, for the first time, realized I was truly in a Communist country with billions of people.
After we left the building, none of us could talk. The three of us were all in a funk, trying to understand how we felt. Of course, the man directly behind me who hawked a loogie and spit almost on Madie’s shoe snapped us back to the world. Only in China..