Part VII: Dare to Enter the Forbidden City

We got up a bit late and we had a buffet breakfast inside the hotel. We had a slight tête-à-tête and went back again to our room for a little rest.

At lunchtime, we met our two English-speaking tour guides, Cristina and Jane together with the rest of our tour mates who just arrived from Manila at Jin Ding Xuan Restaurant (we were ahead of them one day before the scheduled date).



After a heavy lunch we went to the Forbidden City. We entered through the Gate of Divine Prowess and walked for more than an hour from the north to south end (Meridian Gate) of this huge complex.
I can’t believe that I actually entered a once known forbidden place for commoners
.
It was called the Forbidden City because it was impermissible for ordinary people or even uninvited nobility to enter its sacred precincts. Anyone who dares to trespass is put to death. It was also prohibited for any building in Beijing to be constructed higher than the buildings in the Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City also known as the Imperial Palace (Gugong) is the largest and best-preserved collection of ancient buildings in China. The square-shaped Forbidden City is surrounded by a man-made moat, called the protective river of the city, and a high red wall about 35 feet or 11 meters in height.


The walls encompass an area almost 8 million square feet, or 168 acres--about the size of 140 football fields. "Hmm... I wonder how the Emperors lived and ruled the immense country from within its walls".
The complex houses 9,999 rooms; nine is considered a particularly propitious number in Chinese numerology.

The Forbidden City was home to an enormous number of people, as many as nine thousand in the high point of the Qing Dynasty, including the royal family, concubines, servants, guards, and civil servants, many of whom entered service in the Forbidden City never to leave again during their lifetimes.

Doors in the Forbidden City and imperial gardens were often decorated with nine rows of nine bolts.




The aforementioned Perilous Hills situated near the gate. It is said that these rocks were about 1.5 meters high.



A round flat piece of Ancient Chinese Jade with a hole in its center, and a huge crystal stone is placed in front of the hall, implying frankness, open-heartedness and purity.


The red color of the walls symbolizes happiness and auspiciousness.



Chu Xiu Gong is one of the south courts and halls of Forbidden City. It was built in 1420 and rebuilt in 1655. During the Ming and Xing Dynasties, it was the residence of Empress and Imperial concubines. The inscriptions on the walls at the corridor in the yard are the poems praying for the empress dowager’s longevity. The interiors can only be viewed from the outside.

Chu Xiu Gong (Palace of Gathering Excellence)
a souvenir shop inside the Forbidden City

Inside the Gate of Celestial Purity, the first building you will see is the Palace of Celestial Purity or Palace of Heavenly Purity. The Palace of Celestial Purity is a smaller version of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, which used to be the bedroom palace of emperors. However, it is the largest and superior structure to any other halls in the Inner Court.

Palace of Celestial Purity

This is the Imperial Roof Decoration with Nine Mythological Animals. Yellow is a royal color, as exemplified by the glazed tiles on the roof.


The Gate of Supreme Harmony is the second major gate at the southern side of the Forbidden city. It leads to the center of the Forbidden City, consisting of the three main Palaces elevated on a three-tired terrace 8.13 m high. The first and largest (60 m wide and 33.33 m deep), the Hall of Supreme Harmony, towers 35.05 m high.

The rear view of the Hall of Supreme Harmony

In the middle of the hall is the ornately carver imperial throne. During the Ming and Quing dynasties it was the center of the court activities. All the important ceremonies such as crowning, imperial birthdays, royal weddings, etc. are held.

The Meridian Gate is the main gate south of the Forbidden City. It was a central point for ceremonial celebrations as well as for official communication from the emperor and the imperial courts. The Meridian Gate is 35.6 meters high, with five openings, and is the largest and main gate of the Forbidden City.

the Meridian Gate as seen from inside


The arches of the Golden River bridge


There were strict rules to follow when people entered the Forbidden City. Entering through the central opening was the Emperors' exclusive privilege; their empresses were allowed to go through the opening only once - on their wedding day.
The top three examinees in the national examinations, presided by emperors on the final stage, would be honored to strut through the arched hole after receiving emperors' interview. The east opening was for the ministers while the west opening was for the royal family. The other openings were for petty officials. Ordinary people were forbidden to enter the city during those days.

store inside the Central part of Meridian Gate

Overall, while walking around the Forbidden City, I was mildly disappointed because some parts were closed for renovation. It gets a tad boring for a while and we just swarmed through the palaces as fast as we could and we also ran out of time. I didn’t see the grandeur within the walls of the city. It was different from what I dreamed of. Maybe my expectation was way too high or maybe we had a quick and brief tour that we just overlooked to appreciate the place. :(

I still remember the movie “The Last Emperor” (1987). It was the first feature film ever authorized by the government of the People's Republic of China to film in the Forbidden City. It's the life story of Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the last Emperor of China, who ascended the throne at age three. Puyi, continued to live in the palace after his abdication until he was expelled in 1924. It's a very interesting and remarkable story. I fall in love with the classical architecture of Imperial splendor, the pavilions and gates with impressive painted colorful decorations and the magnificent grand sites on this movie.

After Forbidden City, we just had a ten-minute picture taking at the Tiananmen Gate.


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