The Qian Men (front gate) at the southern end of Tian’an Men Square was once part of the inner city walls. These divided the imperial quarters of the Manchu emperors from the “Chinese city,” where the massed populace lived apart from their overlords. Walking south from the gate you are immediately plunged into a network of narrow and lively hutongs (alleys), the remnants of the old quarter. Continuing south down Qian Men Dajie eventually brings you to the western perimeter of the grounds of the Temple of Heaven, one of Beijing’s most evocative sights.
The Boxers, a band of xenophobic rebels from north China who rose up to rid China of the “foreign devils,” drew from superstitious rituals that they believed ...