It's the height of summer. Beijing remains stuffy and shrouded in a fog that its heavy traffic and less and less tricycle thickens.
Even so, the multitude of passersby walking along the promenade along the southern wall of the Forbidden City is clearly visible.
In the middle of the vacation period – even for millions of the ever-busy servants and new Chinese entrepreneurs – curious and enthusiastic citizens from almost every province arrive in the capital.
They are joined by expatriates and outsiders who, like us, are more intrigued than ever by the success and global power newly gained by the Han ethnic group.
The common destination of this pilgrimage is the front of the Portal of Heavenly Peace. There, for several decades now, the paternalistic image of former President Mao Tse-Tung seems to oversee the events around and the destinies of the nation, protected by a small army organized geometrically around it.
Tianamen Square: Monumental Work, Mausoleum of Mao Zedong
It was Mao who had the vision of building the largest and most spectacular square in the world, with a capacity to accommodate at least 500.000 subjects. To this end, in 1950, the Portal of China was demolished, like many other buildings, largely residential.
Eleven months after its start, the works were completed. The new square gave the people a vast space of stone and concrete in the symbolic heart of the Sino-Universe.
The founder of China Popular Republic he had also expressed a desire to be cremated after his death. But the successor leaders found the whim compromising the greatness of the leader.
In late 1976, they disrespected him. Zedong's body – the untransliterated version of his name – was mummified and placed for eternal rest in a mausoleum purposely erected in the middle of the square, in place of the ancient Portal of China.
The authorities took the opportunity to widen the square a little more. It now measures 880 by 550 meters and can accommodate 600.000 people.
Chinese Patience That Some Consider Frustrated
Similar to what happens during the summer to enter the Forbidden City and so many other attractions in the center of the capital, endless lines of suitors form to contemplate the mausoleum of Mao Zedong.
And even if history has taken it upon itself to prove the atrocities inspired by the Great Leader in terms of red ideology and his Great Leap Forward, not all Chinese are aware of the reality or are willing to accept it.
Many spend a few yuan on a flower that will offer their controversial memory.
After the long wait, some suspicious visitors feel cheated. Despite the exhaustive security procedures and the obligation to remove the hat, accusations that what is on display is nothing more than a wax doll are common.
The body appears in a kind of crystal capsule, covered by an old communist flag. We are protected by national army guards who harass the beholders as they hurry to the next room.
Wanderings on the Sunset of the Dragon's Heart
We continue to explore the corners of Tianamen Square. We pass through the underground passages under the road that separates it from the wall of the Forbidden City and the Portal of Heavenly Peace.
Underneath, dozens of sellers of souvenirs and street drinks, several illegals, protagonists of a game of cat and mouse to which the police seem to have gotten used to, have settled down there.
The end of the afternoon is marked by a diffuse sunset that oranges the western slope. And for the agglomeration of yet another patient international crowd, now around a delimited area around the pole on which the Chinese flag is soaringly fluttering.
And the Bell-Banner Military Ceremony
At the right time, soldiers stationed in front of the Portal of Heavenly Peace invade the road and stop traffic. A small battalion of soldiers with swords and rifles at the top appears on the other side of the walls, crossing one of the bridges and the wide road that separates it from the homonymous square.
Soon, they enter the restricted area and are distributed in an organized way. Some of them face the noisy public that points them to hundreds of mobile phones so that they can film and photograph the ceremony.
Others climb the red carpet covered pedestal. They salute towards the portal and the figure of Mao already artificially lit.
Two of these soldiers, raised at the base of the pole, lower the flag and roll it up using sudden gestures and tugs, provided for in the protocol.
When they are done, the battalion regroups. It re-crosses the return road on the other side of the portal, a resting place for the flag that will only be raised again after a similar ceremony, in the following dawn.
However, night had fallen. The crowd dispersed across the square but, engrossed in conversation and photographing and filming the surrounding illuminated panoramas, insisted on not disbanding.
This permanence goes against the precepts of the authorities. Accordingly, several vehicles driven by agents coming from the road come into action. Supported by a deafening message in Mandarin, they force people, like cattle, to move towards the side exit stairs.
A few minutes later, the last resisters who continue to ignore or bully authority surrender to the power of authority and evidence. The Tiananmen Square, built for the people, is once again emptied of people, by force.
These tourist clashes do not claim victims.
Tianamen: The Macabre Days of 1989
From 15 April to 4 June 1989, Tianamen was the scene of successive political protests involving its occupation mainly by students and hunger strikes.
On the last day of the contest, Chinese Communist Party Chairman Deng Xiaoping and Prime Minister li peng responded with the declaration of Martial Law. When they were unable to expel the demonstrators for good, they ordered a massacre believed to have caused between 300 and 800 deaths and many thousands injured.
Instead of tanks, the crowd, unhappy with the lack of political openness and rampant corruption within the CCP, was confronted with reinforced military forces. Most of the victimized protesters were shot dead. Some were crushed by tank caterpillars.
Who watched the images that arrived at the rest of the world, hardly forgets the most emblematic moment of events: a casual Protestant, in particular, displayed supreme courage.
He remained in front of a column of WZ-120 armored vehicles with two shopping bags, one in each hand, to the point of forcing the tank in front – shortly after, also others – to change direction to avoid him.
The unknown man even climbed into the tank and yelled into the turret. Shortly afterwards, unidentified people, dressed in blue suits, rushed from the surrounding crowd and led him away from the tank.
To date, little is known for sure about the identity of these actors and their fate.
It is known and felt, however, that Tianamen is anything but a Peace Square.