Trekking Through China…Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square from across the street

We arrived there early in the morning of our first official day of the tour. Our first sighting came as our bus turned the corner into the already-overflowing parking area across the street. A massive expanse of cement bordered by security gates on one side, mysterious buildings along the other side, and at the far end, The Forbidden City.

As my feet touched Tiananmen Square for the first time, I was immediately bathed in sadness for the unspeakable – and still unacknowledged and unmentionable – horrors that had brought this place to the world stage all those many years ago. There wasn’t much time for reflection as the guide skillfully launched into her well-rehearsed – and government-approved – explanation of the ancient historical significance of the Square and how fortunate we were to be among those being allowed to explore the Forbidden City.

One of the things that surprised me to learn along the way was that the majority of Chinese residents still don’t know what happened in Tiananmen Square. From what we were able to glean over the next few hours and days of constant prodding against clear reluctance to speak, was that all access to information, including Internet searches, have always been and continue to be blocked. Many Chinese have never seen the pictures that splashed across the Western world…and if they have seen them, they have been told that they are fake pictures that have been doctored by professional dissidents in the West.

We learned that many who were in the Square that day weren’t there to protest at all, but simply to join in the celebration of the joyful gathering of fellow university students. But somewhere in that peaceful gathering, a few dissidents – we might call them professional protestors today – started causing trouble. The people at the far end of the Square may well have never seen or heard anything, because of the vast distance and the roaring of the crowds all around. All they know is that they were told to go home, and they did….most never knowing that anything at all happened at the other end of the Square that day, until tourists began showing up and asking questions.

It WAS very sad.  Sad to remember the loss of life. Sad to feel the echos of youthful hope being forever silenced right there where my feet were touching.  Sad to imagine the still-hidden ripple effect of the extensive loss of all of that brilliant, educated potential. Sad to hear the continuous spinning of denial and yet, impossible to fully hide the shadow of old wept tears still being swallowed down, deep behind the well-rehearsed – and government-approved – explanations and historical information being dispersed there that day.

We stayed there long enough to take a happy group shot, which would then be placed at the front of the souvenir book we were encouraged to purchase. We were then quickly shepherded across another busy street and through the modern turnstiles, ancient gates and ornate red doors of The Forbidden City.

I can’t remember the significance of this flower pot, only that it was a popular spot for pictures (on Tiananmen Square)

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2012. All rights reserved.

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About Sharon

I love to write. I love to write myself into being right here right now. Writing releases something in me that needs wings, writing opens doors and windows that I often don't even realize are possible, writing helps me breathe out the dusty old, and to breathe in the new and possible. My hope is that maybe writing here in this blog will bring new light into these dusty old hallways and help me to clear out the thinking processes and mindsets that just don't work for me anymore. I seek to breathe new light and life into the nooks and crannies of a soul that has been feeling somewhat lost and frayed because of the last few patches of road I've had to travel.
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4 Responses to Trekking Through China…Tiananmen Square

  1. Unfortunately, there is so much censorship of news, all around the world and in every country, that sometimes we never learn the truth. And I think that’s why social media is so important in these divisive times.


    • Sharon says:

      Yes, Ruth, many governments are very selective about what they allow their people to know…we see it clearly in Cuba in the news blackouts and in how newscasts are very rarely allowed to be aired “live” there. Unfortunately, they’re also restricted in their Internet access, with even emails being censured, though that might be changing slowly.


  2. Angelika says:

    I think there is hardly a city in this world, where blood wasn’t shed; the difference being, of course, that people from the western hemisphere know, the most part, of their countries history


    • Sharon says:

      I’ve noticed a bit of second-guessing within myself because of our experiences in China…we believe that we know (as you say, for the most part) our respective country’s history, but having seen how a government can hide truths and then make its people believe that what they know is all there is to know, makes me wonder. Like you, I do believe that my country has been transparent and honest about its history…but would we know if it hasn’t been? I keep using the word “insidious” and that’s continuing to be the most accurate articulation of my experience there thus far. It really made me appreciate even more profoundly our Remembrance Day celebrations yesterday, and I cherish our freedom with every fiber of my being.


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