Saturday morning at the Crowne Plaza. Every Chinese hotel I've stayed in I've received a room upgrade of sorts. Ivy tells me it's because I'm a foreigner and they cater to foreigners in hotels every chance they get. Today is a bucket list item day. Breakfast and then we meet our guide in the lobby. The buffet breakfasts in these nice hotels are great. I'm always a bit shocked to see traditional American foods, but sometimes it's goes over the top. Waffle fries for breakfast? Thinking of Moira on her birthday I had to mix it with some dragonfruit.
600 year old palace. That's more than twice the age of our nation. Home to the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Qing dynasty is an embarrassment to the Chinese people. It marked an end to the old world here and the beginning of foreign imperialism. Chinese people view the one hundred foreign domination years from 1840 to 1940 as a time of shame. They were invaded by eight different countries in one way or another. If you view modern politics through this lens it explains a lot of mistrust from Chinese people when dealing with foreigners. Can things that happened that long ago really impact modern affairs? Race relations in the states? Yeah. Certainly.
We met our guide and made our way to Tiananmen Square. While walking through the throngs of visitors I got a chance to talk to Dong Mei about American perceptions when referring to Tiananmen Square. We never used the words tank or protest and understood each other clearly. The space between was enormous. Several iconic buildings and monuments celebrating the birth of the current government.
So many people. Dong Mei told me they have 80,000 people per day here. We eventually made our way to the front of the square and faced the famous mural of Chairman Mao on the wall. Dong Mei told us the mural of Mao is redone every year, but they change his age from year to year in the representation.
Beijing was built around the The Forbidden City as a series of concentric squares. The original outer wall of The Forbidden City is now a road called 2nd Ring Road. There are some old sections of this wall still remaining, but almost all of it is gone now. The Forbidden City was built 600 years ago at the start of the Ming Dynasty with a similar concept in mind, but more like concentric rectangles the inner most area being The Hall of Supreme Harmony.
So, what's "Forbidden"? Men were forbidden from being in the city after dark if they still had their balls. That's no joke. Only eunuchs we're allowed after dark. The emperor had many beautiful young wives and they didn't want anyone on the premises at night who might soil one of them. Most of the eunuchs lost their equipment as punishment for committing crimes. Some others were unwanted children that were sold into a sort of slavery to make money for the family. Here, take my son. What's that? His nutsack? Sure, do what you have to do. Oof.
This road separates Tiananmen Square from The Forbidden City. You have to go underground to pass under the road. I nearly forgot to take this picture of Schmelmo outside the main wall.
We had to go through several gates to get to the Hall of Supreme Harmony. I was psyched to see the throne that Pu Yi last sat on. I thought we were about to pass through the last gate and took this video. Oops.
The penultimate gate had an impressive courtyard. I liked the two lions. Dong Mei explained to me that they were male and female. The male had his paw on a sphere signifying power and the female had her paw on a baby. We were also taught how to differentiate between Ming and Quin animals. The Ming ones all look serious while the Quin ones had a general smile on them.
And we made it. Gate after gate they started to look the same, but the Hall of Supreme Harmony had a much larger marble staircase in front of it.
It was a bit disappointing that we couldn't enter the throne room, but we could see into the chamber. I wish I could have gotten a better picture, but with most of the doors closed and no lighting it was very dark inside.
After the Hall of Supreme Harmony we got into the living quarters for the Emperor, his wives, and assorted other family members. There was a lot of heirarchy to who was important and who was there to be part of the show. We heard things like "favorite wife" a lot in listening to the descriptions. There were also other official government buildings and storage areas.
Odd note. The large gold water vessel has lots of scraping all over it. Dong Mei told us that was from foreigners attempting to steal the gold plating by scratching it off with knives. Okay then...
There are three main gardens in The Forbidden City. We toured through two of them. The wives garden was very popular with the locals that dress up in traditional outfits to get their pictures taken.
The Emperor's garden had many cool looking rock decorations as well as the home for his tutor. The last emperor's tutor Reginald Jennings (wrote Twilight in the Forbidden City) lived here. That was a highlight for me. The book and movie led to me being here.
As we made our way through the north exit of the city we walked along the outside wall towards a location where we could get a taxi. Our guide did a great job detailing stories for us about individuals that lived in The Forbidden City in different eras. I could tell she enjoyed sharing the tales about the famous women that lived here more. The grand dowager empresses we're her favorites. That's understandable living in a society that has such embarrassing levels of misogyny.
Bucket list item checked! So happy to have made some lasting memories today on our four hour walking tour. A nap at the hotel and then onto find some Peking Duck.