The Great Helmsman Requires Attention

On my first full day in Beijing, I had planned to visit the embalmed Chairman Mao in his hideously ugly Mausoleum, which lies in the centre of Tiananmen Square, however that plan was thwarted by the National People’s Congress which was being held that week at the Great Hall of the People on the west side of the square. At other times of year you may see this notice:

“Not always open when the corpse of the Great Helmsman requires attention.”

…which I find rather hysterical!


The general public was definitely being kept at arm’s length from the communist big-wigs with identical-looking PLA soldiers stationed along the length and breadth of the surrounding roads. With this in mind, I decided to take a stroll through one of my favourite places in Beijing: the Forbidden City. Since my previous visit restoration work had come on quite a long way but I found it slightly sad to see that the Chinese definition of restore seems to be “good as new” rather than preserving the original paintwork etc.


Whilst wandering about the many magnificent buildings which lie within I was particularly put off to hear an American tourist proclaim in a self-important tone that there was “nothing much to see here” at the same time as complaining that her Blackberry wasn’t working! This seems to be a trend amongst some American tourists who I’ve noticed many times being impatient, disrespectful, rude and generally condescending towards local cultures. It all makes me wonder why you bother going on holiday if you’re just going to stay at the Marriott, complain that locals can’t understand your thick accent and eat at McDonald’s???!


With a skyline somewhat obscured by a thick blanket of pollution, the view from the top of the hill in Jingshan Park was almost non-existent. The park, which sits opposite the northern entrance to the Forbidden City, was witness to the suicide of the last emperor of the Ming dynasty and a sign still marks the spot where he hanged himself from a locust tree. Today the park is popular with older generations playing games and the odd lost traveller!


After a short break to consult my torn and battered map it was time to continue my journey north…

David avatar

2 responses

  1. Yeah, but you have to wonder how the lights get enough sunlight to power them given that pollution blocks most of the direct sunlight.

    I found the air in Beijing to be quite dry and when you first arrive a bit uncomfortable to breathe but you soon get used to it. I wouldn't like to think what a lifetime of being there would do to your lungs though. I wonder how it compares to smoking…

    I think its a combination of heavy industry, cars, and other services which cause it.

  2. Solar powered traffic lights! Very green… and amber and red :). Interesting photos, the level of smog is hard to believe! Like playing a computer game with a very short draw distance. What does it feel like to breathe? What is the main cause of it – factories?


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