Not going for a run in Beijing

Before I started on this trip, I got the idea into my head that it would be nice to go for a run from the hotel around the moat of the Forbidden City. I am guessing it would be a run of about six or seven kilometres. Unfortunately, an accident with my racing bike just two days prior to my leaving on vacation left me with a fractured coccyx and some very sore muscles, which definitely put an end to my idea of going for a run.

Nonetheless, this morning I decide to go for a stroll down to Tiananmen square just the same. I leave the hotel just after five in the morning. The air is still heavy with pollution, but at least it is not so hot yet. I exit the hotel and turn left onto Jinyu Hutong. Eventually I reach a big square where Wangfujing Street intersects with Jinyu Hutong. Wangfujing Street has been turned into a pedestrian area. This is where you will find all the nice glitzy shops, including a large Apple store, Prada and the likes.

I turn left into Wanfujing Street and this is where things start to become slightly bizarre. First of all, in my European naivety, I had assumed that the place would be deserted at this time of day. But in fact that is not the case at all. The place is crawling with activity and most of the benches are occupied with people sleeping. Initially I am overcome by a sense of compassion and pity, until I realise that most of them are not homeless but are just lying outside presumably to escape the stifling heat indoors. A bit further down, I come across an elderly couple playing squash against the wall of a hat maker’s shop.

I keep on walking until I reach the end of Wangfujing Street. There is a huge hotel on the corner. It has no names but its three wings are marked as A, B and C. Everything else is written in Chinese. In the front yard of the A block they have set up a German beer garden which looks completely out of place in its surroundings…

I take a right and turn onto E Changan Avenue, which leads right past Tiananmen square and separates the square from the entrance to the Forbidden City. The place is literally crawling with Chinese tourists, including one family with a penchant for the partner look…

I think maybe the heat is just getting to me and I am just imagining all this. Somewhat dazed and confused I turn back to get myself some breakfast at the hotel.

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The Summer Palace of the Empress Dowager Cixi, Beijing

The Summer Palace is located about 20km away from the Forbidden City of Beijing.

The history of the Summer Palace is very closely linked to that of the Empress Dowager Cixi who, for all practical purposes, ruled the Qing Dynasty for nearly 40 years. The Empress Dowager is referred to by the Chinese as the Dragon Lady. Her reign is known as the reign of blood because of all the people she had murdered to retain power.

Cixi became the Empress Dowager following the death of her husband during the second Opium War in 1861. The idea had been for her to reign until her son was old enough to take over power. But when the time came, the Empress Dowager was reluctant to hand over power and instead had her son murdered. She then appointed one of her nephews to be the new emperor. He was only three years of age, which bought her some time before he too would make a rightful claim to the Dragon Throne, requiring her to relinquish power. Tragically, the little boy did not last very long and the Empress Dowager eventually had him murdered as well.

Dragon Lady then nominated a little boy that went by the name of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi, also aged three at the time, to ascend to the Dragon Throne. Which eventually he did, but only because the Empress Dowager died a little while after she made the nomination. Pu Yi went on to become the last Emperor of China. He died in 1967 in Beijing, as a simple gardener of the People’s Republic of China.