As we entered into the Forbidden City through the wide nail studded doors, walking through an arched entry tunnel that gave access through the thick wall that encloses it – we entered another world.
Gone were the soldiers and police that had populated Tiananmen Square and despite the crowds of visitors there was a sense of peace and calm. The UNESCO listed ForbiddenCity is a huge complex covering 720,000 square metres which is 3 times larger than the Louvre. For comparison the Vatican is 444,000 sq m and the Kremlin 275,000 sq m. It is huge.
You find yourself in a huge courtyard surrounded by buildings. It wasn’t the buildings that caught my eye however. I was intrigued by the special pants that the toddler wore. It was explained to me that these pants are an aid to toilet training which starts at a very young age.
The palace (Forbidden City) is now home to the Palace Museum. It houses Chinese historical artifacts and is considered one of the best museums in the world, despite the fact that some of it is now housed in Taiwan – removed during WW11 to prevent damage from Japanese attack. Apart from looking through a few windows we did not enter any of the rooms. The place was so huge that just walking from one side to the other took most of the afternoon. Certainly you would have to spend a couple of days to see it properly.
The Forbidden City is also the world’s largest collection of well preserved ancient wooden structures. There are over 980 buildings with around 8,728 rooms. Built between 1406 – 1420 the architecture has influenced cultural and architectural developments all over Asia. The detail demonstrates every aspect of Chinese architecture and culture.
Through another tunnel into yet another huge square.
This time with a water filled channel crossed by many curved bridges. The crowds were massive but the grounds even bigger preserving that sense of peace and calm.
The buildings were ornate and colourful.
We were given a set of headphones enabling our guide to explain the buildings to us as we walked without him having to shout. We were expected to keep our eye on the blue flag. I did most of the time but I was distracted by the reflections in the channel.
There were few trees and statues because (it is believed) it gives the would be assassins no place to hide but it is also possible that the trees may overshadow the imperial godliness. In the inner sanctums which were predominantly residential a few statues were found. The Chinese Imperial Guardian lions sit on either side of an entrance way and symbolise strength, stability and superiority.
Noticeable by their absence were birds on roofs. This is due to the unique design of the roofs. They made the slope steeper and the roof spine wider than the width between a bird’s claws thus preventing them from landing. The tiles are glazed and are thus very slippery acting as a further preventive.
Into yet another courtyard entered from a higher level and leading down into the courtyard was a set of stairs on either side of a ramp, identical to what can be seen on the far side of the courtyard. The ramp was for the litter chair. I can see in times past those seeking an audience with the Emperor would probably crawl from one side to the other and look up to the godly being.
Only three obedient party members – the rest of us either lost in the magnificence of the palace.
Setting up for a selfie in this area was a complicated business that had to be got just right.
The Forbidden City was the Imperial residence of twenty four Chinese Emperors. Emperor Yongle from the Ming Dynasty commenced construction and 14 Ming Emperors lived there until the Manchurians took possession in 1644 and moved the Capital. When the Qing Dynasty regained control they moved back to the Forbidden City with 10 Qing emperors living there until the last abdicated in 1912 with the creation of the Republic of China.
Told you I was fixated on the nappy toilet training saga.
Every bit of the architecture meant something. Mostly I didn’t know what.
Dragons, phoenixes and lions adorn the roof ridges of the most important buildings to invoke prosperity and good fortune.
The place was as clean as a whistle and everywhere people, with what I would call witches brooms, were sweeping and emptying garbage bins. As the biggest tourist attraction in China (greater even than any part of the Great Wall) over 14million visit annually so the rubbish generated must be enormous.
Most of the gates in the palace complex are decorated with nine by nine gilded door nails. Nine symbolises supremacy and eternity in the Chinese Culture.
Only 40% of the palace complex is open to tourists but renovation work is being undertaken that should see up to 65% open by 2021. You’d then need three days to visit and imagine if there was a fire with all these wooden structures. Apparently there are underground hydrants, 4,866 fire extinguishers and a number of fire plans. A daily exercise is performed running along the walls with the fire hoses. Every fireman has to commit to memory the plan of the palace and have orders to run as fast as they can if a fire breaks out. Lets hope one doesn’t.
Again outside the Forbidden City an impenetrable wall surrounds the palace.
And a channel runs parallel to the wall. Next we will visit another wall – The Great Wall of China.