When I visited Beijing years ago, The Forbidden City was the top list of my to-visit places. It was the place I've seen countless of times in movies, Chinese drama, historical documentaries and spent my entire second senior year reading about the magnificence of it (I did a year in China history).
Gate of Supreme Hamorny
To get into the main palace was no small feat, much like my experience walking through Angkor Wat, it was a long road in, but with the majestic-ness of the forbidden city, you would have to walk through three grand gates (much like the two photos above) to get to the main Hall of Supreme Harmony (where most of the initial imperial scenes in films were shot).
Hall of Supreme Harmony
I know, I'm such a geek.
I grew up a pretty genius student actually. I was good in maths but not so good in memorizing stuff; but I have always loved my history, despite being on the brink of failing all the time. You see, in my high school, the way they mark your history papers wasn't based on your knowledge of history but by how much you can memorize, word by word (in the thousands), right out of the text books. It's ridiculous when I think of it. I was never good in memorizing stuff, I was good in handling logical solutions and understanding concepts. Basically I was really good in subjects like calculus, algebra, chemistry, physics; heck I was second in my class at one point (would have been better if my Malay language and history subject didn't suck so bad); and even represented my school in a national math competition against those university students.
But I do remember having a great history teacher, with a penchant of bright red lipsticks, who would tell tales throughout the dynasties of China in absolute detail, up to every gruesome bit in imperial tortures, war tragedies and internal palace conflicts. What a charmer.
Anyway, here are photos taken during my visit to this wonderful UNESCO site.
All the knobs on this gate door was rubbed off color by visiting tourists, Asians no doubt. Seriously, what's with the rubbing. Almost every significant tourist destination I visited from mosque in Istanbul to statues in London has been rubbed till the paint peels by Asian tourists; so long it's within reach, they'll rub it hard till the cows come home. Apparently by doing so brings good luck. Oh sure... -.-
I did realize the guards in the Forbidden City were of equal weight, size and height. It must be a China thing to be OCD-ish symmetrical in everything. I mean, sure, it's visually pleasant.
Rather impressed by this cheap looking but brilliant audio guide device in the Forbidden City. For every area you have visited, the audio guide will auto detect and plays the recording based on your area so you don't have to press on any button. And the red lights will disappear for the places you have already visited. Such convenience. I can even bet you a hand that many Chinese tourists here will bring this device home as souvenir instead of returning them back for their deposits.
As you can see, the Forbidden City was so huge that I didn't manage to finish it even after spending an entire day there. In fact, I had to sprint-walk through the right hand side of the map because it was about to close soon.
Hall of Supreme Harmony, where the emperors of the last two dynasties hosted grand ceremonies like coronations and weddings.
Believe or not, this was their fire rescue system back in the days. In winter, hot coal was placed underneath the giant pots to prevent the water from freezing.
My favorite place in the palace has to be the imperial garden, a playground for the empress and the favored concubines. I have heard wondrous description of the beauty of this place, in books, historical documents, novels, movies, etc. I didn't imagine it to be so small, though I could imagine this to be an absolute paradise back in those days. What with pagodas and ponds, age old trees perfectly grown into such demeanor shapes and artificial life-like miniature mountains topped with a pagoda for moonlight watching.
Qin An Dian (Hall of Imperial Palace)
This was the corridor connected to 'hou gong', the bedrooms of all of countless concubines that has been recruited into the palace. Sadly, it's not as pleasant as you might think.
Then there's the garden for the emperor himself. What a diva.
I call this, the Entertainment arena. Of course it's not the real name, but you can guess its purpose.
Empress and emporer can view performances from this room. Life of a royalty's always good.
This mountain of jade was enormous. You could see my reflection on the glass and gauge just how big this jade was.
Beautiful carvings on a giant jade
A very significant area in the 'hou gong' was the Zhenfei well. Rumored to be where the famous and most favored consort Zhen (by Emperor Guangxu) to have fallen and died. Read more about the story of consort Zhen here, you can also see her photo in the link.
Though how could anyone fit into this well was a mystery to me. I knew people back in the days were smaller in size, but this well couldn't even fit the width of my shoulder in.
A reconstruction of the well.
A last view of the empty Hall of Supreme Harmony as I make my move towards the exit/entrance of the Forbidden City - a rare sight.