Friday, June 14, 2013

Forbidden City

The North Gate (across the street from Tiananmen Square) was our entrance to the Forbidden City. The compound was the home of many emperors and their commands from Ming Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty. This imperial palace got it's name as one could not enter without the emperor's explicit permission; hence, "forbidden". Now it is being restored for cultural significance and tourism, although many of the areas were closed off and looked like they hadn't seen a soul (or a Swiffer) in a few hundred years.

It took fourteen years to construct the entire compound. Although "city" is definitely an appropriate nomenclature - it's huge! In many of the larger buildings, special stones ("gold bricks") were brought in for the floor. They are not able to be made anymore so the general public cannot walk on them as they are now irreplaceable.

Lots of guardians
There are over 900 buildings still standing (after ~600 years), most made from lumber imported from trees in the south-western part of China. The city is divided by a series of gates that would only allow specific people through. The Inner Court was home to the Emperor and family. The Outer Court was used mainly for ceremonies and political events. The sectioning creates large squares between gates.

The Guardian Lions are very large. They are often depicted in pairs, one male and one female. The male has his paw on a ball (depicting man's control on the world) and the female is resting on a cub (representing a nurturing spirit). We saw them many times during our visit outside various government buildings and cultural heritage sites.

Some areas of the Forbidden City have been restored. By hand. It was breathtaking to see up close. So intricate and detailed.

Everything is designed with purpose in China. The pillars depicted below alternate images of a dragon and phoenix flying in the clouds.

During construction the emperor wanted to ensure that no one could tunnel underneath his gates and enter his city without his permission. He built fifteen layers of alternating stones into the earth to prevent intruders. Many of the areas still have the original stones... after all these years.

A close up of the immortal man on a chicken. I found this a very strange custom.

Unrestored areas still display the original paint worn by weather and time.

Next to "double happiness".

In a small section was a garden area filled with cypress trees and statues. It was used exclusively by the imperial family for tea ceremonies and relaxation. A gilded unicorn guards the entrance from intruders.

Yes, a unicorn

Accumulated Beauty Hill is a little artificial mountain with a cave. It appears like a pile of rocks and stones from Taihu Lake. It was very expensive to import the rocks to create this scenic view for the woman and concubines of the palace. It was their view of the outside world as many were not allowed to ever leave the Forbidden City.

A view from outside the Gate of Divine Might.

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