China - A Planner's Journey


The photo was taken at the Gate of Heavenly Peace, entrance to the Forbidden City at the northern side of Tiananmen Square. The image, with Mao Zedong the Great Helmsman overlooking the scene, is emblematic of Beijing.

Beijing is the capital of China. At its heart lies Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. This ancient center of many dynasties now lies at the administrative hub of the emerging juggernaut called the People's Republic.

Tiananmen Square

These days this vast square knows not political discussions, demonstrations or protesting throngs. With the watchful eyes of police, both overt and covert, it is dedicated as a place for tourists. The air pollution, so ubiquitous in this northern city near so many coal fired power plants and the deserts of the northwest, partially obscures the bright colors of the scene.

The upper image gives a sense of the immensity of this central plaza. The workers' statue brings back memories of a Communist past prior to the current market economy. The lower right image finally recognizes my presence on this trip.

Forbidden City

The Forbidden City was once limited to the presence of the court of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Today the people are welcome and the tourist throngs can be overwhelming. Currently, a major effort to refurbish structures throughout this walled inner city is evident.

Click on the box to the right to generate a series of photos taken within and on the northern periphery of the Forbidden City


The traditional residences of Beijing are located in Hutongs, or narrow alleyways. These Hutongs are rapidly disappearing as Beijing modernizes with the highrise structures rising in every Chinese city. Nevertheless, a few Hutong areas remain. We took a ricksha tour through one of these not far from the Forbidden City.

Great Wall

Construction of the Great Wall began some 2000 years ago. Although it never succeeded as an impenetrable barrier to invaders from the north, it did provide an early warning system. It also makes for a fascinating tourist destination about an hour's drive north of Beijing.

We visited the Mutianyu section of the wall located on mist shrouded mountains. Our walk up to the wall began at a line of stalls meandering up the slope and laden with tourist goods. The wall itself wanders within a forest along a ridge crest on the heights above.

H Graem © 2007