Beijing / The Forbidden City (M to S)

By paying an additional (though small) entry fee, you can enter the eastern side of the City.   Not many people bother, and those that do seem to be interested in the various collections of historic artefacts (jewellery, clothing, Buddha statues, carvings) scattered around, although the more intimate buildings and spaces, not to mention the smaller crowds, provide a sense of relief.

This is another small thing that made the journey through the City more engaging … an audio guide that triggers every time you get within range of a significant item, be it a grand Hall or a lump of jade.  Our guidebook said that the guide was narrated by Roger Moore, so I was a little disappointed to find that they have been “upgraded” to a more generic Chinese woman’s voice, who – despite having perfect English skills – is not the third worst James Bond ever.

    

At times, the incessant narration did get a bit much, but it was easy to go unplugged and just enjoy the surroundings.

This part of the Forbidden City was mostly smaller palaces, where the Emperor’s concubines and children lived, and where untold scandals and struggles must have taken place.

    

This lump of marble, like many items within the Forbidden City, was transported from the far reaches of the empire.  From Xinjiang, thousands of kilometres to the west, it was supposedly pulled by 100 horses and pushed by 1000 men (approximate figures only … I’m sure no-one did a roll call).

And this a very sweet little doorway!

Each of the important buildings in the City are fronted by a sun dial and weighing device – symbolising that the Emperor himself controls the fundamental aspects (time and measurement) of all things.

    

And all buildings are equipped with large bronze vats (shuigang) that once stood full of water, available to douse all fires that may break out in the City.   The modern-day equivalent is so subtly integrated into the pavement, it actually needs a big loud sign above it … must be another example of the Irony Fire Extinguisher.

    

This is the NIne Dragon Screen, a mural made entirely of glazed tiles.  Well, not entirely … as Narration lady explained in a very long-winded tale, one of the workers constructing it accidentally broke part of a tile (the base of the body of the white dragon, as shown) and to conceal the mistake, fashioned a replacement piece out of painted timber, a fact revealed centuries later as the mural weathered.  The story ended with something like “Well, there is no proof that this actually happened, but it is a possible explanation” thus in my mind, expertly reforming all of her previous “facts” into “stories”.

     

In search of the toilet, I went off-track for a while (I was half-expecting to hear “you are now standing at a urinal” through my earpiece) and found a great little cluster of buildings hidden away.

I think that this is quite possibly the cutest first-aid facility in the history of forever.

And here ends the journey through the Forbidden City.
It is a big and somewhat overwhelming place to visit, but away from the Supreme Halls and sweeping courtyards, it possible to discover places of smaller scale and symbolic power, but of no less delight.

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One Response to Beijing / The Forbidden City (M to S)

  1. Pingback: Figuring out the last year … « That Look Crayzy!

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