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Sierra Leone Students in China tour Tiananmen Square and Bird’s Nest

Sierra Leone Students in China tour Tiananmen Square and Bird’s Nest

Close to eighty Sierra Leonean students toured one of China’s most visited sites; TIANANMEN SQUARE and BIRD’S NEST STADIUM. The visit was part of the annual convention city tour in Beijing. The tour started at the Tiananmen Square which is located at the center of Beijing City. At the square students glimpsed at the Tiananmen Tower, Monument to the People’s Heroes, Great Hall of the People, Mao Zedong Memorial Hall. Thousands of people come to the Square every day. It is one of the must places to visit in Beijing City.

At the north end of the Square is Tiananmen Tower. The Square was the front door of the Forbidden City. The most important use of it in the past was to declare in a big ceremony to the common people who became the emperor or empress. Until 1911 when the last feudal kingdom was over, no one could enter the Tower except for the royal family and aristocrats.

Tiananmen Square is the symbol of modern China and featured on the emblem of the People’s Republic of China. Students were filled with excitement and appreciation, as demonstrated by the volumes of photos taken at the square. Pictures were taken from every important part at the square as souvenirs. It’s an insatiable amazement.

Above the archway hangs a large portrait of Maozedong, on the east and west sides of which are two giant placards, the left one reading: “Long Live the People’s Republic of China” while the right one reading: “Long Live the Great Unity of the World’s Peoples.” In front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace is Golden Water Bridge. Outside the gate there are two lions and two more guarding the bridges. Lions are believed to protect humans from evil spirits in Chinese culture. I was told by a Chinese friend that Tiananmen Square is the largest square in the world.

The Chinese name of the gate, Tiananmen, is made up of three Chinese characters “heaven”, “peace” and “gate”, hence the translated version “The Gate of Heavenly Peace”. To be more accurate, this name is derived from the much longer phrase “receiving the mandate from heaven and stabilizing the dynasty”.

According to the information read from one of the booklets I read at the square, the Gate of Heavenly Peace began to be open to the public and common people in November 1987 so they can step on Tiananmen and overlook Tiananmen Square just as the state leaders once did. It has always been a lure for tons of tourists from all over the world including students from Sierra Leone. Hundreds of years ago, this is an unimaginable thing to do.

The granite Monument to the People’s Heroes is just at the center of the Tiananmen Square. It is the largest monument in China’s history. ‘The People’s Heroes are Immortal’ written by Chairman Mao is engraved on the monument. The Monument to the People’s Heroes stands in the center of Tiananmen Square, north of the Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao.

West of the Square is the Great Hall of the People. This building is the site of the China National People’s Congress meetings and provides an impressive site for other political and diplomatic activities. It is where the National People’s Congress is held and also where state leaders hold diplomatic meetings and the masses stage political activities; and recently, China’s 60th anniversary parade.

Another important place students took a glimpse of outside was the China National Museum at the east side of the Square. This National Museum faces the Great Hall of the People. According to a Chinese that I interviewed, inside the Chinese Revolutionary Museum are a lot of material objects, pictures, books and models to present the development of modern China

But the most important activity we missed was the Five Star Red Flag-the Chinese national flag that flies high in the sky above the Square through the flag raising ceremony every morning at the square. To see the guard of honor raise the Flag is a must for every visitor to the square. You have to get up very early and arrive at the Square before sunrise. Only by doing so can you see the ceremony clearly as there are crowds of people attending the ceremony every day.

Bird’s Nest Stadium

After this wonderful glimpse at Tiananmen Square, we drove to the Bird’s Nest stadium where the 2008 Beijing Olympics was staged. Is dubbed the “bird’s nest” because of its innovative grid formation. The twig-like structural elements and the bowl-shaped roof are the masterpiece of the project. The spectacular Bird’s Nest stadium, hailed as the finest arena in the world and the centerpiece of the most expensive Olympics in history, and is full of hidden symbolism. This masterpiece work which was designed by a Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, was chosen at the end of a six month long international competition. It is designed to last for 100 years.  The 91,000-seater venue has a four-star hotel with 80 rooms under one of its sides, a gourmet restaurant with views of the athletics track, and an underground shopping centre.

Olympics have come and gone since 2008, yet, this masterpiece work is one of the most visited places in China. Today the stadium is host to a lot of activities, both at local level and international. In July 2010 we were told, the stadium hosted a friendly football match between Premier League team Birmingham City and Chinese side Beijing Guoan as part of Birmingham’s pre-season trip to China, the homeland of the club’s owner Carson Yeung. Though some people are skeptical about how they could raise funds from the stadium after the Olympics, the stadium appears to be quite profitable, drawing some 20,000 to 3,000 people a day at the price of a 50 Yuan admission according to one of the staffers I interview about the current means of raising funds from this wonderfully man-made work after the 2008 Olympics.

Abu Bakarr Sesay, Jilin University, China

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