Monday, April 13, 2009

China recap--segment 2 (Forbidden City)

The Forbidden City is the largest and most intricate imperial palace in China. 24 different emperors ruled from this palace for over 500 years. It was the symbolic center of the Chinese universe and was the exclusive domain of the imperial court from its completion in 1420 until the last of the emperors was forced to abdicate at the beginning of the 20th century.

There were a lot of people here. This is just one of the courtyards and buildings. There were MANY. Some even bigger.

As you look over the roofline of the Forbidden City you see one of the pavilions from Jing Shan Park which was the park reserved for the emperor himself.

The roof details have a great deal of meaning. This was the only palace to be allowed to have 11 animals. This was strictly reserved for the emperor. Other palaces could have 9 or even 7 but they were considered "over-ambitious" and would typically be in some trouble. Usually people stuck to 3 or 5. (you don't count the one in back)

Some of the side buildings on the outset of the huge courtyards. Some of them were just passageways while others were buildings where people either lived or worked. Some were the quarters for all of the Concubines--hundreds of them--and some for the 1500 some odd Eunuchs that took care of them.

These were sitting at regular intervals inside the courtyards. Any guesses as to their use?
They were filled with water and were there for fire control. In case anything caught on fire--they had ready water available to put the fire out.

If I recall correctly, I think that this was one of the Imperial wedding beds.
It's a bit dark. Part of that is because we couldn't really go inside any of the buildings with displays in them. All you could do is either look through the windows or look through the doors. I was a bit disappointed by that. I noticed that they must not go in there very often either though because everything inside is very dusty and dark. I'm assuming it wasn't like that when they were actually living there.

All of the imperial palaces were built pretty much the same way. There is a series of buildings all surrounding a courtyard. So as you walk straight through the complex, you walk through one building and into another courtyard with buildings surrounding it. etc. etc. The only difference is the size of the buildings and the size of the courtyards.

The other thing I noticed is that the courtyards don't have any grass. It is all just concrete or cobblestones. This is because the emperor was "above" or more important and more powerful than every other living thing and so nothing was grown in the courtyards where the emperor walked.

I seem to have a bit of a "door" fettish. No matter where in the world I go--I always come home with numerous pictures of doors.
You have to admit though, as far as doors go, these are pretty impressive.
The funny thing about doors in China is that they all have a raised stoop. It doesn't matter if it is in the Forbidden City or in one of the houses down in the Hutongs. You actually have to step OVER the threshold in order to get in. They build them this way in order to keep the "spirits" out of the building. I guess the spirits can't step across.

Look closely at these two Bronze Lions. You'll notice that the first Lion has its paw on top of its cub. This is symbolic of the woman.
The second has his paw resting on top of --what else--a big ball--representing of course, the power and authority of the man.

The detail work on all of the buildings was pretty great. They just recently finished renovating everything--to the tune of $75 million--just in time for the Olympics.

There are 5 marble bridges symbolizing the five virtues of Confucianism. The Bridge in the middle is wider and taller than the others and was reserved only for the emperor. The columns were also decorated with Dragons which was the symbol of the emperor.

I just loved how all of the rooflines and detail work came together.

This is one of the Imperial Gardens inside the Forbidden City. The rock formations and odd tree formations were pretty cool. The Pavillion was fun too. I'd love to have one of those in my back yard.

Here is the moat that surrounds the entire Forbidden city.

Stay tuned! I think tomorrow(???) I'll try to do some of the quirky, totally-chinese, things that we witnessed the Chinese doing.


The Prestwich's said...

Thanks so much for sharing! I remember traveling to asian places when we lived in Phillipines, so seeing this stuff really brings back a lot of memories. I am so glad you enjoyed it. I am not glad you are sick ( a little birdie told me).

Sabrina said...

What an amazing opportunity for you and Jeff. Thanks for sharing the pictures, they are great. My son Cameron served his mission in Hong Kong and Mar-Kell is serving his mission amongst the Chinese people as well. I would love to go to China someday.

Aubry said...

Jules- I am thoroughly enjoying these snippets of your fabulous trip China. What an awesome experience for you and Jeff. Sounds like we are interested in the same things on trips. We love learning about where we go... we would much rather do that than sit relaxing the whole time. Keep these coming!

Karen said...

WOW!!! What a fabulous experience! Can't wait to see what else you post! I'm really glad you got in touch with us!