Saturday, June 16, 2012

Treasures of Forbidden City

                  The Forbidden City is so massive and has several courtyards , you enter a courtyard to be led to another one that looks almost the same as the last one. If all that was left in the palace was just the courtyards surrounded by walls then there's nothing much to see. But when I did some research about the palace I learned that there's a section that contains some interesting artifacts of various types including ceramics ,jewelry, paintings , jade sculptures , and bronzes. I paid an additional fee of 10 RMB to see these interesting collection. I was surprised that there were ceramics as old as a thousand years.The jewelry worn by the royalties were also on display and not just ordinary jewelry but really expensive ones like diamonds.Since there are thousands of artifacts in the Forbidden City the exhibits are changing from time to time so don't waste your time looking for those items that you've seen on this blog that might not be on display at the time that you visit the palace .There were so many things to see and of course so little time.
phoenix crown

I didn't know what this was but believe it or not it was labeled "pillow".


golden globe
This sculpture is made out of jade and is taller than me.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Forbidden City No More

          Located at the center of Beijing, Forbidden City was the home for emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is a vast palace complex , in fact , it is the largest in the world. According to books it has thousands of rooms. The distance between its southern gate and northern gate is 960 meters. Having known this I had prepared myself for a walkathon that I'd be getting myself into.One of the preparations I did was studying the Beijing map. In the early days , ordinary people were absolutely forbidden to enter the city and if one got caught he'd be sentenced to death. Nowadays, for an entrance fee of 40 RMB anyone is allowed to explore the complex ( some parts though are still restricted to tourists ). The Forbidden City has become one of the main tourist attractions in Beijing. Unfortunately , I had to schedule my tour of the palace complex on a Saturday , a day when more people are expected to visit the palace than any other days of the week.
Side of the Forbidden City facing Tian'amen Square
        To avoid the crowd I'd planned on exploring the Forbidden City when it opens at 8:30 AM. I got up early but I went to " The Egg " first , (yes, if there's a structure called the " Bird's Nest", there's also one called "The Egg", aka The National Center for the Performing Arts) which is located just across the street from the Forbidden City.

       It was already 9 AM when I got to the palace complex. I passed through the Tian'amen gate (technically not part of the Forbidden city) and stared at Chairman Mao's portrait hanging on the gate. I was trying to measure it in my head. It's really a huge portrait but visitors can't get close to it. I walked northwards until I reached the Meridian gate where I bought my ticket, maps of the Forbidden City were also sold at the gate.Surprisingly , despite the number of people visiting the complex that day I didn't have to queue up to buy my ticket and to enter the complex. Inside I was trying to imagine what it was like then during the Ming and Qing dynasty. I could just picture Chinese warriors marching in the courtyards , or the members of the Imperial family watching the activities in the complex from the balconies of the gates. Everything inside the Forbidden City was just grand. I was overwhelmed by the tall gates , the high and thick walls and the massive courtyards. All the buildings, gates and courtyards almost look the same though. You enter a courtyard only to be led to another one that looks similar from the last that you wish it would end already so you could rest from the leg-breaking excursion.
Touching the Golden Knobs on the doors of the Forbidden City is believed to bring good luck

         I got to enter some of the buildings that had been converted into exhibition halls like the one that displays ceramics that are hundreds of years old. Another hall displays old canopies used by the emperors during ceremonies. I also paid an additional fee of 10 RMB to enter another section of the complex that displays the treasures of the Forbidden City like crowns, jewelry and other accesories (made of gold, pearls, and precious stones) used during the Ming and Qing dynasties. There was just too much to see inside the Forbidden city that it took me 4 hours to reach the Imperial garden at the northern end of the complex. 
large bronze vats were used to store water to extinguish fire
         The Imperial garden was not to be missed as it had been a witness to several important events in the lives of the first family. During ordinary days it was also where the members of the Imperial family sipped tea, played chess and meditate. The garden must have been one of their favorite spots in the complex because of all those pine trees that provided shade to them and all those well-built man-made structures like the artificial mountain with a cave and fountains playing around it. On top of the artificial mountain is a pavillion where the Qing emperors would climb up to enjoy the scenery. Since it was spring time , flowers were already starting to bloom adding more colors to the surroundings . The garden must have been a relaxing spot then but not now that it's teeming with tourist. By noon time I could no longer bear all the jostling that I rushed to the northern gate to exit.


                                             Old canopies used during ceremonies                                          

The marble ramp in the forbidden city is the largest piece of stone carving. The emperor would be carried in  a sedan chair over the ramp and no one else was allowed to step on it. 

A pair of 400-year-old pine trees intertwined, symbolizing the unity of the emperor and empress. It was awkward to pose in front of it as the line of those who wanted to have their photos taken in front of it was composed of lovers. 
               Forbidden City as seen from the Jingshan Hill and yes I walked from the southern gate to the hill.