Monday, October 18, 2010

Beijing, China, Part 3: The Mausoleum of Mao and the Forbidden City.

[For more videos by Anthony Trotter, view here:]

I woke up early the following morning and visited the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Mao was head of the People's Republic of China and the country's most prominent communist from 1949 until his death in 1976. And despite Mao's wishes to be cremated, China had his body embalmed and quickly constructed the mausoleum after he died. The mausoleum is located in the middle of Tiananmen Square, and just a short walk from my hostel. I definitely wasn't going to miss the opportunity to view an embalmed corpse of one of the most influential albeit controversial figures in modern world history. The queue to the Mausoleum of Mao - which is available for viewing only a few hours each day - was exceptionally long. I mean really, REALLY long. The line was so long that I had difficulty locating the beginning of it which resembled a serpentine, curving in and around Tiananmen Square. [Watch below]

There were not enough security guards to patrol the sheer amount of people that formed the queue. Just imagine thousands upon thousands of ill-behaved Chinese shoving and overtly cutting their way in line, who, like untamed animals or young toddlers, couldn't control their impulses. Seriously. Why can't they? It's as if the growth or development of their minds have stunted or something. I was really getting annoyed with this parochial mentality. However, I'll hand it to the guards who were patrolling the "unpatrollable." They did the best that they could. Anyone who was caught cutting in line would be removed - and rightly so. What I didn't understand was why the people who were patiently waiting in line tolerate such behavior, and not say a single word?

You can best believe that I didn't tolerate it. One time I noticed a man - that's right, a grown man - waiting for the patrolman to turn around before he quickly ducked under the dividing rope and cut directly in front of me. I felt like I had won the lottery. I was waiting, just WAITING for someone to cut in front of me! I waited a few seconds to see if the people around me were going to say anything first.

They didn't.

"I don't think so, hombre," I told the man, before reaching around him, gripping his shirt and forcefully pushing him out of line. "Get out of here."

And do you know what? It worked. The man embarrassingly walked away with his tail tucked between his legs.

Boom, roasted!

It took about an hour and a half before I entered the mausoleum. And despite the signs that read "silence" the security officers continued hollering and screaming at everyone to be quiet and to form proper lines. Not that I was offended or anything, I just thought it was humorous as I past Mao's eerily looking corpse. How weird.

Back at the hostel that night I used the Internet. But before I could use the Internet, I was forced to fork over a large deposit, equivalent to three hours spent on the Internet. I debated with the receptionist, and tried to understand why the hostel - as well as the rest of China - always require a large deposit before using anything. I knew she wouldn't know why, she was just following orders, but I just had to ask. Because maybe if enough people voice their dissatisfaction, the hostel will change its policy. Ya neva know.

"These deposits . . . well, they're just crazy. They're really getting out of hand. I don't understand them. Do you understand them? All I know is that it pisses off your clientele. You don't want your clientele pissed off, right? So could you kindly be able to explain to me the reasoning behind it?"

She looked at me annoyed, and requested that I'd hand over the deposit - which I did.

The next day I visited the Forbidden City, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. For nearly 500 years China's emperors would rarely leave this imperial palace, and people wouldn't be able to leave or enter the palace without the emperors consent, hence the name "Forbidden." I found the palace to be a bit dull and less aesthetically appealing than other palaces and temples that I've seen during my travels. The history here may be a bit more intriguing, but overall, I was a bit bored. I'd been told to allow half the day to wander through the palace; I managed to get through it in just two hours. Probably way too short. But for the first time during my travels, I'd begun to feel jaded - something I'll write more about in the following blogs.

That evening after I returned from walking around the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square (something I did every night), I used the Internet back at the hostel. The same girl who I spoke to the other day about the whole "deposit ordeal" was working at the counter.

"Hi, can I use the Internet, please?"

"Sure," she said and requested that I pay a deposit. And as I was handing her the money she smiled, clearly recognizing me from the previous day. "Hey, you're the guy who doesn't like deposits."

I laughed.

"Yeah, that would be me."



  1. reason why chinese always cut in front: overpopulation - the fight starts in childhood

    and why they dont say anything if someone else does the long term its better for them never to say anything...could be someone one day who is important

    but u can do the same... in trainstation always go to the refund counter and ask there for a tickt...u will get one even if there are none for sale and u dont have to wait in the line...its a great country, but u have to understand the rules :) takes 3 months...everyone who stays longer likes china, everyone else not


  2. and go to a bathhouse!!!
    they are around 2 dollars for 24 hrs, you can sleep there and have cinema etc...better then guesthouse and in every city...ask a chinese to write down the letters for asking

  3. Hey Frank,

    Interesting analysis as to why they don't say anything. I definitely need to return to China. One month there, like you said, just isn't enough. Bathhouse, huh?? I've never heard about that before. Nice.