Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is often described as a 'city within a city'. After our visit there, I most definitely agree.

As the Chinese imperial palace from the mid-Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty, the Forbidden City is located in the middle of Beijing, literally. For almost 500 years, it was the home of the Chinese Emperor and his household, and the ceremonial and political center of the government. Today, it is now open to the public and is the home of the Palace Museum.

Entrance to the Forbidden City can be through one of 3 gates. In the time of the Emperor, only the Emperor and his Empress entered through the center gate. Each of the large doors has 81 'knobs' on them, 81 = 9 x 9. Nine was the royal number and there are many places, within the Forbidden City, to see signs of this, such as a display of 9 small dragons on a roof.

After passing through the doorways and short corridor, we found ourselves at the top of the stairs to the first of several huge squares.

We climbed stairs to view inside the large pavilions. It was very difficult to see inside the one housing the throne room. Besides being very dark inside, the crowds made it very difficult to get to the front to see. We, literally, had to push and shove our way to the front. I've never been in a situation like that and it got scary as I found myself being carried along by the crowd.

It was amazing as we walked from one huge courtyard to another. One area even had its own canal.

We were constantly awed by the architecture and the colors. Yes, we had a very cloudy (smoggy?) day, but the colors in the artwork were still beautiful and, fortunately, we were able to capture some of this.

We then had the opportunity to really find out why the Forbidden City is called a city within a city. There are doorways all along the outside walls of the plazas. Most lead into rooms off the plaza that now house the exhibits that make up the Palace Museum. But some of these doorways lead into small courtyards.

And off those small courtyards are living quarters and doorways leading into other courtyards and alleyways. Without our guide it would have been extremely easy to get lost in this part of the city within a city.

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