Tian'anmen Square watercolor and ink by Meera Rao
Tian'anmen is in the center of Beijing and it's name means "Gate of Heavenly Peace." It was designed and built in 1415 during Ming Dynasty. The area around it, Tian'anmen Square, was designed and built in 1651 and enlarged four times its original size in 1950s. At 109 acres, Tian'anmen Square now is considered one of the biggest city squares in the world and is lined on four sides by the Monument to the People's Heros, The Great wall of the People, National Museum of China, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong - all of which we checked out from outside only.
The square was packed with thousands and thousands of people -our guide informed us that there is a cap of about 80,000 visitors a day! Our guide expertly ushered us past the crowds and whisked us past security and ID checks. There was very heavy security and I was impressed with crowd control ! I felt really eerie to stand around the square as a tourist with the memory of the most recent massive show of military force and the resulting massacre there.
Tian'anmen Gate Entrance to Forbidden City by Meera Rao
The Forbidden city is a HUGE Palace complex of the Ming and Qing dynasty 1420-1912 and is now the Palace Museum. Even though it was crowded with long lines of tourists to get in, once inside the crowds got dispersed in that massive, sprawling place! The Palace Museum complex highlights the unique architecture of the palaces, beautiful gardens(only at the edges of the complex - no plants, trees inside!), colorful and decorated Temples, Royal Court Halls, art and artifacts, and Chinese history. There are also 10 meter high walls and a moat around the complex :) This is also an UNESCO designated World Heritage site.
It was awesome to get a glimpse into a world of wealth and power of Emperors that was off-limits to all but a few for over 500 years. We walked around the complex for 3-4 hours, put in over 3 miles and barely scratched the surface of things to see - especially since there are close to 9000 rooms covering an area of 74 hectares. I had read about Forbidden city in novels and history books, seen the complex in movies but it is absolutely impressive in person with regard to scale and imagination!
Rows of water sprout and One Spout in detail by Meera Rao
Fantastic creatures on walls, doors, and Grills by Meera Rao
There was no time to sketch inside the complex but I hope to someday paint more images from this iconic place.