For many Chinese tourists, this gigantic square is a place of pilgrimage. Crowds flock to gaze at Chairman Mao’s portrait on Tian’anmen gate, then head south to see the fellow himself (maybe) in his mausoleum, quietly bowing their heads by the Monument to the People’s Heroes en route. The square itself is plain, and rather dull considering its colourful recent history. It’s sometimes better to look upwards, where you’ll often see incredibly long chains of kites disappearing into Beijing’s soup-like sky. It’s worth popping by at sunrise or sunset, when the national flag at the northern end of the square is raised in a military ceremony. Crowds are usually large for both.

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