Saturday, October 13, 2007

DongjiaoMinxiang (Embassy Street, 東交民巷)

Did you ever wonder what happened to 東交民巷, the street famous for the foreign embassies in the late Tsing Dynasty and the early Republic? It is still there in Beijing, just to the east of TienAnMun Square (天安門廣場); in fact, exactly due east of the MaoTseTung Mausoleum. But it is not easy to find from the direction of TienAnMun Square because the entrance has been blocked off but a flight of steps.

It is now a quite street with lots of government departments. Some of the buildings are still there, including 北京市公安局、最高人民法院、最高人民检察院, … When I tried to take a picture of the old French Embassy, which looks governmental now but seemingly without a label, the guard waved me away, politely.

Some of the old buildings are still there. The old Citibank (花旗銀行) is now the Police Museum. The old French Post office is now a rea staurant. The old Saint Michael’s Church (圣米厄尔天主教堂) is, well, still the Saint Michael’s Church – although it is locked up. I did try to take a better picture from a hole in the gate. But there was a police van opposite so I gave it up.

Like many other places in Beijing, there is surreal feeling when one walks in such a place with so much history. I couldn’t help but to imagine what it might have been like 107 years ago, at the height of the Boxers’ Revolution and the subsequent 八国联军入侵北京.

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