Beijing, Forbidden City

We spent most of a day at the Forbidden City.  In the south entrance is the Great Hall of the People, which appears to be the Communist Party’s way of asserting that they are the rulers; the symbolism of Mao’s portrait on the Great Hall of the People which is the entrance before you get to the Forbidden City seems deliberate.
The Forbidden City itself was both the imperial working space and living space from then Ming Dynasty through the Qing Dynasty.  It is a complex of rings of buildings, a central building flanked by buildings of less importance on either side. You have to progress through each ring, and as you get deeper and deeper into the palace, the higher in status and importance things become.  An official might have only allowed in the first courtyard to converse with other officials.  A high-ranking official might have been allowed to work in the second courtyard.  But very few people were allowed into the final hall to actually speak with and see the emperor.  You really get a sense of the grandeur and power of the Chinese empire when you walk through the palace.  Each hall has a wonderful name such as Hall of Supreme and Enlightened Harmony or Hall of Central Harmony… and had a specific purpose.  At the very back of the Forbidden City (called Gùgōng in Chinese or ancient palace/temple) is the imperial living quarters. The imperial family (and definitely the women) might never leave the compound.  People were born, lived and died in the Imperial City and never saw the world behind the walls. So, the world was brought in.  Faux cliffs and old trees suggest scenic mountain views.  Pools suggest lakes. One royal liked coral, so large chunks of coral were “planted” in pots around a pavillion.  As with the rest of the former imperial sites, the inner rooms were not open to the public.  Someday I hope they are restored so we can catch a glimpse of the former splendid prison of the royals.

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