Hello Steem gals and guys.
I last left you at Tiananmen Square on a rare blue-skied, smog free day in Beijing.
It was still early morning leaving us plenty of time for what I was expecting to be a highlight of our stay - The Forbidden City. I hope you enjoy today's adventure!
Ever since watching The Last Emperor, The Forbidden City has held a mystical appeal for me. Sitting to the north of Tiananmen Square, the contrast between the modernization of Beijing into a world city, and the romanticism of a more magnificent and mysterious time in China is stark.
24 emperors called the Forbidden City home. It was so named because only the emperor, his immediate family, his concubines and the thousands of eunuchs that served them, and Chinese officials could enter. The last emperor - 5 year old Puyi fled the city in 1911. He abdicated the following year and China was never to have an emperor again.
The Gate of Heavenly Peace from Tiananmen Square
Leaving behind Tiananmen Square, the Portrait of Mao that hangs over the Archways of the Gate of Heavenly Peace, it's easy to be transported back in time.
(Of course this would be much easier if it wasn't National Holiday and there weren't thousands of other people trying to occupy the same space as you chattering away in their native dialects)
Crowds waiting to enter The Forbidden City through the Gate of Heavenly Peace
In front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace presides a Huabiao. The stone obelisk carved with dragons and clouds stands guard as visitors from all over the world file through the archways, leaving modern Beijing behind.
Huabiao in front of The Gate Of Heavenly Peace
The history of the Huabiao can be traced back to Yao and Shun, legendary kings of the past. Wooden crosses were erected in public places - where people could leave complaints. These were later replaced by stone pillars during the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-- 220 A.D.).
Huabiao are usually found in imperial gardens and mausoleums. On the top is a plate-like flat called Chenglupan (dew-collecting) on which squats an animal called kong (a legendary animal for watch-keeping) facing to the south. They were called wangjungui or "looking forward to the emperor's return," who watched over the emperor's excursions and called him back. Source
Huabiao in front of The Gate Of Heavenly Peace
Once entering through the Gates of Heavenly peace, you enter a different world and before you stands the Forbidden City. It is ringed by 3 and half kilometers of scarlet citadel walls. IT is China's largest and best preserved collections of ancient buildings and it is the largest palace complex in the word. This was indeed a mighty tick on my list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Map of the Forbidden City
The Meridian gate is the main entrance, though it is one of four gates to enter the city. The emperor believed that the Meridian line went straight through the Forbidden City and that his residence was the center of the cosmos - well emperors did have a god complex. The emperor would announce the new lunar calendar on the Winter Solstice from this spot.
It's also believed that capital punishment was carried out outside of this gate.
The Meridian Gate
Many of the gates within the Forbidden City had the famous red doors and touching them was touching a piece of history.
The traditional red doors of the Forbidden City
Brass door knockers
The Gate of Supreme is the second major gate. While built in the original style this is not actually the original gate. The first one burnt down in a fire started by a tipped lamp in the guards room.
The Gate of Supreme Harmony
Big cauldrons filled with water were placed near the gate to avoid that very catastrophe and the handles on some of the m were intricate lion heads.
Water cauldrons in case of fire
Intricate handles on the water cauldrons
At this point I felt sorry for Michael - our guide (Waving his hands madly in the photo above) Trying to keep track of the 10 of us in his group was proving difficult. A good thing he was tall for a Chinese guy! Easier for us to spot!
The Gate of Supreme Harmony
And then, through the gate is the Hall of Supreme Harmony - the quintessential image of the Forbidden City! Where emperors had stood and ruled for 500 years. The hall is the heart of the city and arguably seen as one of the most important buildings in China. It is the largest wooden building in the world and at the time of it's use no building in Beijing was allowed to higher.
The Call of Supreme Harmony
The lion guardians or Imperial guardian lions, were a common representation in China and the Ming dynasty lionsstand guard at the Gateway of Supreme Harmony.
The hall is built on a three tier marble terrace with intricately carved balustrades.
Dragon head water spouts
Intricate dragon carvings
The afternoon was spent wandering at leisure around this huge complex - colorful, exquisite. I could only imagine the inhabitants in their day to day chores and the emperors living in their domestic bliss in such an opulent place. There is so much to see it was hard to know where to go next.
Mosaics are scattered through out the complex.
The sundial (or Rigui) was placed to show that the emperors were fair and just.
Tourists dressed in traditional garb to pose for photos
The roof architecture of traditional Chinese buildings has fascinated me - with its carvings and bright yellow tiles, making it distinctive anywhere in China.
Imperial roof decoration
Exquisite patterns brighten the traditional buildings
The final stop in the Forbidden Palace was the Imperial Garden.
The Imperial Garden lies outside of the Gate of Terrestrial Tranquility. (I really love the way things were named in China). The garden was the private retreat for the emperor and his family. It is built in the traditional Chinese garden design. Like many other thigs in China, garden design is about harmony, balance between all the elements within the garden. Balance is not just on the aesthetic level but also on the spiritual level in trying to attain the balance between heaven and earth.
In 2015 - unfortunately after we visited sections of the perimeter wall were opened to the public providing amazing views across the complex. But it would definitely be worth seeing.
An aerial view from above Tiananmen Square shows the sheer scale of the palace complex.
It easily can take a whole day - and it does get tiring - to see and appreciate the entire complex. ut a trip to Beijing without visiting the Forbidden City would be sin!
I hope this has inspired you to get out and see a bit more of this big amazing rock we live on!
Til next time, steem on in love and light
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!steemitworldmap 39.9178340000000 lat 116.39585499999998 long The Forbidden City - D3SCR