Thursday, January 01, 2009

Taking The Flag Down

Every night, the flag flying over Tian'anmen Square is taken down with great fanfare. It is one of the few ceremonial rituals we have come across in a country that is surprisingly devoid of routine, ongoing expressions of faith, patriotism, and collective identity.

It's a pretty simply ritual. People gather ahead of time, and the mood at the north end of the square turns pretty subdued as dusk approaches.

Then, from under the ever watchful eye of the Chairman, out comes a procession of People's Liberation Army soldiers. The traffic on Chang'an Jie is stopped while the soldiers make their way into the square. With a series of precise steps and maneuvers, the soldiers bring the flag down and march it back over to the Forbidden City.

It's the kind of communist presence that many outsiders expect to see everywhere upon arriving in China. For us, though, such instances have proven few and far between. That's either a reflection of our law abiding nature, the state of today's China, or, most probably, a little bit of both...



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