SHORT ESCAPADE - MAY 2002
Beijing, «Northern Capital», in the northeast part of the country, is one of the Eight Ancient Capitals of China (note Nanjing, Luoyang, Xi'an, Kaifeng, Hangzhou, Anyang, and Zhengzhou as the other seven). Beijing was probably the largest city in the world from 1425 to 1650 and from 1710 to 1825. Presently, it is, after Shanghai, the second largest city of the People's Republic of China in terms of population. It's also its main political, cultural and educational centre, leaving the primazy in economic terms to Shanghai and to the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.
In 2002, Beijing was fast preparing itself for the 2008 Olympic Games. Hutongs (alleyways formed by lines of siheyuan - courtyards surrounded by four buildings) were disappearing and susbtituted by skyscrapers, works were everywhere. It seems Beijing is running the risk of having everything ready well ahead of time. Rumours are that the International Olympic Committee is concerned with the possibility that the facilities do not look «brand new» when the Games come into action...
"TIENANMEN - The Gate of Heavenly Peace - at the northern edge of Tiananmen Square, is the main entrance to the Forbidden City (the former Imperial Palace Grounds). The main gate entrance is below the giant portrait of Mao"
"TIENANMEN - Lions - There are two lions in front of the gate and two more protecting the bridges. There are also two stone columns, each with an animal on top, which apparently supervised the emperor's activities: the one facing outside would reprove the emperor if he stayed out for too long; the other, facing inside, would censure him if he stayed inside for too long..."
"MUSEUM PIECE - Late Chairman"
MUSEUM PIECE - Late rocket"
"WANGFUNJING - By night, a major commercial pedestrian area"