Tian’anmen at night

Walking along Tian’anmen square at night is an interesting experience. Everything along the vast and empty square is well-lit. As in most places in Beijing, there are guards and scanners at the main entry points: you put your backpack or handbag through the scanner, at night there was no pat down.

At the center of the square is the brightly lit up mausoleum of Mao Zedong. There seemed to be no entrance to the square at night. I did not explore this thoroughly, but if there was, then I’m sure I would have spotted some tourists at the mausoleum. There were none.

When you walk north towards the gate of heavenly peace (Tian=heaven ‘an=peace men=gate), you have to cross the wide Chang’an avenue. It is easy to walk east, skirting the national museum until you get to the entrance of the pedestrian underpass. You emerge near Tian’anmen.

The bright red walls, the iconic gate under a tiled roof with upturned corners, the gate with its massive portrait of Mao, the honour guard whose faces are impassive and stony as tourists click selfies with them, are among the most photographed sights in China. In spite of the gate and square being a symbol of the state, the atmosphere is distinctly relaxed. The panorama above was taken from the north-west corner of the square, and has the Tian’anmen at the left, the national museum in the middle, and Mao’s mausoleum to the right.

The lights go off at 10, and the subway gets pretty packed then.