Monday, January 22, 2007

Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is a huge complex of preserved wooden buildings. Apparently there are 800 buildings, so I only chose a few. It was the Chinese Imperial Palace, but is now considered a museum. (Ronna has done a great job describing each picture below. It's quite fascinating.)

The entrance to the Forbidden City - across from Tiananmen Square. This is called the Meridien Gate. The portrait of General Mao is changed every year on the anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. It's hard to tell from this picture - but that portrait is HUGE.... The banner on the left of the portrait reads "Long Live the People of China" on the right - "Long Live the People of the Union of the World".

This is the Meridian gate where the Emperor would greet his subjects. To please the tourists - they have a mock emperor that sits up there and waves to the tourists. The color yellow represents the Emperor and ordinary people were not allowed to wear the color or use it on their homes. The roofs of all the buildings in the Imperial City where the Emperor would go are all yellow. The buildings of the Empress /wives/concubines all had red roofs.

This building is located in the Yu Hua Yuan (Imperial Gardens) and was the place where the Emperor (and his wives and concubines) would go to enjoy the gardens. In the entire Imperial City - this is the ONLY place where there are any trees or vegetation. The Chinese people believe very strongly in the concept of Feng Shui which dictates where everything in the Forbidden City is located down to the very last flower.

This is a natural rock (the holes were carved by water) that was brought to the Forbidden City and used as decoration in the gardens. This type of rock is often used through out China in other Imperial gardens. The building on top was used by the emperors to view festivals and events at the palace

This is us standing at the bottom of the rock with the building on top. The door that you see there is where the Emperor would climb to the top to view the city during festivals and celebrations.

The Imperial City is made almost entirely of wood (as dictated by Feng Shui). These enormous vats are located all over the palace grounds and were kept filled with water at all times in the case of fire. In the winter - fires were lit under the vats to keep the water from freezing. All of these vats used to be coated in gold - when the British first visited the Forbidden City - they thought the vats were made entirely of gold. They attempted to abscond with the vats until they realized that they were too heavy to move. So - they took sharp knives and tried to scratch off the gold - only to discover that the vats are just gold plated. You can still see the scratch marks.

The Gate of Supreme Harmony -- this gate leads to the three halls in the Outer Court. This gate is where the Emperor's weddings were held.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony -- this is the biggest building in the Imperial City. Most of the important ceremonies were held here because this courtyard is huge and can hold thousands of people. Since common citizens weren't allowed to set foot in the Forbidden City - all attendees were either members of the Royal family (Emperors could have hundreds of wives/children), military, or civil servants .

Inside the Hall of Supreme Harmony and this throne is the primary place where the Emperor would receive his subjects. There are dragons carved on the pillars and all around the throne. The dragon represents the Emperor and is seen all over the Forbidden City. Only the Emperor was allowed to use the symbol of the dragon. The blue "vases" in front of the throne are Cloisonné - a very complex traditional Chinese process of making copper vessels that are coated with enamel. These vases are over 400 years old.

This is the largest carved rock in all of Beijing. It's 16.75 meters long and weighs over 200 tons. It's carved with dragons (the symbol of the Emperor), the water (symbolizing money) and pearls (symbolizing power). It was carved in the mountains and transported to Beijing during the winter by pouring water on the roads and creating an ice slide for the stone. During ceremonies - the Emperor would ride in his sedan while his servants carried him over this stone (see the stairs on either side). He was the only one allowed to pass over the stone.


LouandAngela said...

Wouldn't it be strange to be an Emporer with all that power and hoopla?