I remember asking one of my friend, why was the city called the Forbidden City. I remember him telling me to try and do something scandalous there and see how forbidding it is! Well, I didn’t. The reason why it was called the Forbidden City was because here was the dwelling place of the Emperor in ancient times. The place was persona non grata as far as the common people were concerned. Now the place has been renamed as the ‘Palace Muzeum’. However, everyone still called it by its former name; and why not, it sure sounded more romantic and mysterious.
A city is a very apt description for this gargantuan place. It was indeed a well fortified palace/city, measuring 15×15 km and surrounded by a huge moat at all sides. That’s even larger than my home town! Walking through the city was a memorable event. It was like going back into ancient history. We entered the city via the South Gate and exited at the North Gate 2 hours later! I have uploaded a pictorial guide of our 2 hour walk that day.
The entrance of the Forbidden City. The tunnel into the city was packed. Our guide had to hold the green flag real high so that we don’t get lost. Still, 5 of our group got lost and we had to wait for them to be found…
After the tunnel we entered into a large square. In the background, you can see the first of many incredible ancient buildings. The square was packed with tourists and souvenir shops. We didn’t linger long here.
Atop the building were 2 persons dressed in traditional clothings. I suppose they were acting as the Emperor and Empress. We didn’t linger long enough to look closely.
We entered another large square after passing through another tunnel. This square was larger than the previous one. In the middle was a man-made river traversing the square. It was called the Golden River. Five splendid bridges were built across the river. The middle one was exclusively used by the Emperor. The next two were used by members of the royal family. The lateral most 2 bridges were used by high ranking officers. This was the square where the Emperor meets his high ranking officials. This was also the square where the wedding of Emperor Qian Loong was held.
There were no trees in the square. Trees were not allowed to grow for fear of being used by assassins as hiding places.
The tunnels were we emerged from
You can see the beautiful bridges in the background
A bunch of chinese guards. Probably time for the changing of guard.
Picture taken from the door way to the toilet. Soldiers doing their daily march.
I can’t remember what the sign said and it’s too small for me to read it now!!!
After the aforementioned square. we entered another even larger square! Here stood the most majestic of all the buildings in the Forbidden City; the Tai He Hall. The hall was where the throne of the Emperor is placed and here was where he proclaimed his edicts and conferred various awards.
Unfortunately the Tai He Hall was under renovation when we were there; all in preparation for the 2008 Olympics. It was such a let down as we learnt that within the Hall was the golden throne and various ancient wonders.
Buildings flanking the Tai He Hall. Now converted into muzeums.
Ancient stones at the square. We were told that there are 15 layers of bricks in the ground! The reasons, we were told, were to prevent any underground digging by enemies of the Emperor and also to prevent growth of trees. Trees were also considered as potential fire hazard. Definitely not a good thing to have in a place built mainly with wood!
The area behind the Tai He Hall. Here were 2 other buildings built on a 3 tiered terrace.
More than 3000 dragon heads adorned the walls of the complex. Each dragon has a sprout at its mouth to allow for water drainage. It was said that in summer when the rain comes, water will flow from each and every dragon head, giving a spectacular sight.
The ‘Hall of Preserved Harmony’ where the Emperor rested before he addressed his subjects at the Tai He Hall.
Another funny sign. I guess the message was ‘No graffiti allowed’
Posing next to a bronze vat. There are about 300 of these vats in the city, either made of bronze or iron. Some were even gold plated. Its function was to store water to be used in the event of a fire. Underneath the vats were small opening to kindling fire in winter so that the water does not become ice!
The throne room in the Hall of Preserved Harmony
Spectacular murals adorn the walls of the city. Everything in the city were big!
Passing the previous 3 buildings led us into another square, a sllightly smaller one this time. Beyond this square lies the Inner Court…the dwelling place of the Emperor and his Empress and his royal consorts of course. Will show them in another article later.