Back in the day, when China was broken into many parts, and the Emperor held a position similar to Kim Jung Un today in North Korea, the Forbidden City was exactly that. Only royalty, the rulers and workers were allowed in. For almost 500 years the rest of the nation was forcefully excluded until the civil revolution in 1911 overthrew the system.
Firstly an apology for some of the pics being slightly over exposed. It was so bright, it was very difficult to see the end result.
What remains today for tourists to visit is a wonderful snapshot of a bygone age.
A huge walled site, with 980 buildings (according to the blurb, I’m thinking it was more), once you pass through the outer walls you begin to see the scale of the place.
A vast labyrinth, with paths and alleyways and buildings whichever way you turn. We were there in late June, it was over 40C the day we went and we easily spent 5 hours here. Something to be aware of if you burn easily.
Be prepared for a bit of this:
We probably spent about 45 minutes in the queue. As with all tourist attractions the world over there are guides to get you in quicker, there were also “ticket touts” offering them for a few Yuan more expensive if you didn’t want to wait. We toughed it out in the queue and eventually we were good to go. From memory (although I am old) I think the price was 60 Yuan per person.
If its your first time in Beijing (as it was ours) you’ll probably have already noticed the Chinese aversion to petrol in public places, so once again, its through a check point to be searched, and then:
Massive. Huge spaces with little bridges promising wonder once crossed.
The journey begins, the city is laid out with the holy of holy in the middle, the building where the Emperors were crowned, radiating out with each building further away being less important. They all have the same form, its the size and orientation that differs.
Around each building there are smaller ones, antechambers, and these often house mini museums, really interesting to go and look round, plus on the day we were there, they provided a little welcome relief from the sun.
The Chinese love their dragons, even today they symbolise good luck, here they are absolutely everywhere. You dont move very far within the City without seeing one somewhere.
These were placed around the walls, filled with water, ready to be used to fight fires in the summer, should they occur. The locals were very diligent about touching a dragons head as they passed.
The buildings just go on and on. Wherever you look, buildings, all the same, some with different decorations on the roof, others with carvings outside, but the basic structure of the building was identical, Quantity has a quality all of its own.
After a couple of hours of having my head fried I began to realise that the umbrellas most people were walking around with weren’t because of an imminent threat of rain.
We moved on and came to the garden area. This was where the young female courtesans amused themselves, and where new arrivals stayed before the Emperor decided if they were to be taken into the Royal Harem or flung back outside the walls.
An area of calm, with fish ponds, gargoyles and plenty of greenery. Quite distressing to see the young Chinese kids, in full view of their parents, throwing stones into the pond to try and kill the fish, and lobbing their empty plastic water bottles in too.
The Emperors Palace. Almost all of the buildings in the City have small figures on the roof. The palace, I believe, is the only one to have ten, all being led by a dragon. There is huge symbolism attached to these figures, I’m ashamed to say the Chinese lady who explained it to me tried her very best but her accent made it very difficult for me to understand.
The building is the epi-centre of the City, and where the majority of the crowds head for. Like almost all of the important buildings, entry is forbidden, but to stand and gaze in wonder is not only accepted, its almost obligatory.
There are walkways:
Grown women taking their doll out for the day:
It’s a place to be visited. There are sculptures of stunning beauty, hewn from a single piece of rock, by skilled craftsmen working under fairly cruel conditions. Some pieces were so heavy, that they could only be moved into place in winter, on roads made of ice.
It’s an incredible place, a symbol of former absolute power. If you’re in Beijing, even if only for a short time, this and The Wall are the two must see things.