At dawn's early light
Every dawn, on the northern side of Tiananmen Square, between the Monument to the People's Heroes and Mao Zedong's portrait gazing out across the Avenue of Eternal Peace, China's national flag is raised over the gathered throng. On the day we were there recently, as part of Sino-Immersions Ignatian Pilgrimage Through China, we joined around 15,000 other early risers to witness this great show of national pride. At dusk, the flag is also lowered to great ceremony, but the late finish doesn't have the same feeling of 'accrued virtue' as does the dawn service.
Although the anthem's lyrics talk of 'building a new Great Wall with our flesh and blood' and 'braving our enemies' fire' the occasion is in fact quite festive and even joyful. In a large part this is because of the sheer number of young children who are present, lifted high on their fathers' shoulders as mum navigates the selfie stick and the best angle. The early morning snapshot gives a great insight into modern China, because one not only gets a telling glimpse of the immense diversity and raw energy of the people that embody China's demographic statistics, but also of the joy and pride they have in their nation. And why not, after all, even all the cameras and tablets being raised on high were like the early morning pilgrims likely made in China too.
While for most foreigners the major must-see China site is the Great Wall, for Chinese tourists their must go-to destination is Tiananmen Square followed by a trip through the Forbidden City. When we have a group adventurous and energetic enough, Sino-Immersions loves to make the trek to the Square to be one with the people, immersed in China's lived realities. Although, this is not to say that on occasion we go right back to bed too! And, if you want to cheat, here's some rough early morning footage too!