Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Of the Forbidden City;

A gate tower which separates some of the courtyards within the Forbidden City.
The major site to see in Beijing is the Forbidden City. It was built in 1406 as the emperor's palace. Today it is no longer forbidden to enter since it is now a huge heritage site and museum, but there are still some sections which are off limits for visitors. It is incredible how gigantic and elegant the city is. There are 9,999 rooms and it takes up 180 acres in the center of Beijing. It is surrounded by a moat and large walls with high gates and watchtowers.Within the Forbidden City are huge courtyards, gardens, narrow walkways, and large temples all decorated with traditional Chinese designs.

A view looking down at the Forbidden City and its moat and walls.

I spent several hours wandering around the Forbidden City. One of the first things that you notice are the huge crowds of people. The courtyards are filled with packs of tour groups and as you walk around the narrow corridors of the palace you feel like a cow being pushed through a stockyard. It was rare to find a nice quiet place to sit and appreciate the sites of the palace. I ended up taking a wrong turn through an unguarded door and entered a completely empty courtyard. It was amazing. There were no crowds, it was quiet, and I guess it was also forbidden. I poked my head into the Ancestral Temple and was spotted by several of the workers of the Forbidden City. They yelled a few things at me in Chinese and then escorted me back to the main palace grounds.
The Hall of Supreme Harmony, the largest of the buildings in the Forbidden City, was used for important imperial ceremonies during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

The whole Forbidden City is considered a museum because of all its history as the palace of the emperors, but within some of the buildings are museums (which you have to pay extra to visit) which showoff some of the valuable treasures of the Chinese empire. There were rooms of carved jade and other precious stone pieces and a huge collection of 19th century European clocks.

Every corner of the Forbidden City has little elements of Chinese design.

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