Jun 3, 2015

The Forbidden City


Our wicked dream of invading the Forbidden City finally came true on our fourth day in Beijing. This time, we made sure to have breakfast (McDonald's to go) before getting into war. It felt warmer that day so I didn't wear much inners underneath my coat. I wore the Beijing shirt I bought from Qianmen street, a pair of winter shorts, black tights, Christmas socks and my favorite black boots. Living in a tropical country for almost all my life, I'm not really used to wearing scarves and gloves, so, I tend to forget them all the time! I even forgot to wear a coat one time!


We already know the quick way to reach the Forbidden city; we learned a lot of lessons the day before. This time, there would be no detours! However, I really can't help being a brat. I've been seeing security guards in those thick green coats with matching cool English-soldier like hats all over the place. So, in the name of having an epic story to tell my grandkids in the future, I misbehaved!

Before we left Tieling, our boss kept telling us to 'behave' and try not to get in trouble while in Beijing. I think I didn't believe him when he said that if ever we get in trouble or if we do something crazy out there, he will know it and he will have to face the authorities because he is our employer and he is accountable for whatever crap we get into. It was only after I have read from the Internet that what he's saying was true; Tian'anmen (and probably other tourist spots) maybe open to the public but is under heavy security. I have also learned that policemen, both in uniform and civilian, are always there. This is amazing and sad at the same time, because in our country, security cameras aren't that common yet. You would see some in private establishments, but rarely in public places. In Tieling, though that city is really tiny, the hybrid buses have at least 3 or 4 cameras even if the bus is kinda old. I have seen hybrid buses here already, but it's not yet that common. It makes me sad knowing that our country is a little left behind.

There were a lot of security guards everywhere. But the ones inside are not all wearing the fancy coats. The place is huge and there are people everywhere and since we didn't hire a tour guide for this trip, we're totally on our own again. First challenge was to get a ticket! I didn't know where to start but I was itching to get in, so, I just approached a random guard and asked our favorite introductory line "Do you speak English?"

Remember when I said in Tieling, only one in twenty people can speak English? Well, one of the things that I love in Beijing is that even though not everyone speaks English, there are more people who can. Luckily, the guard I approached speaks fluent English (with a nice accent!) and he told us where to go from where we stand.

my 'I can't believe I'm here' pose
It was a quick walk from the first gate (the one with Mao Zedong's portrait) up to the ticketing office. But I shit you not when I tell you there are a LOT of people there, to think that it's holiday. Anyway, this was yet again, a do or die experience. We are not leaving Beijing without leaving our footprints here! So, we happily queued together with the other people from different corners of the world, excited to get a whiff of ancient China (and a hell lot of smog!) 


entrance fee is 40 RMB for each person~  

I felt like I won a lottery once I got out of the queue at the ticketing office. After a few geeky poses in front of the camera and a series internal back flip, we marched inside the Forbidden city.

The Forbidden City was built according to the principles of Feng Shui (pronounced as fuhng shwey) wherein a house or residence should be built facing south, with water in front of it and a mountain behind. It was called 'forbidden' because during the old times, no one can leave or enter the city without the emperor's permission. It was built in 1420, and it has been the residence of 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasty. It suffered a lot of damages from wars (and from carelessness) and has been reconstructed few times. It is so far, the world's largest palace complex covering 72 hectares. It was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987 and is now also known as the Palace Museum.


map of the Forbidden City
You can click here to see a bigger version of the map of Forbidden city.

After passing through the Meridian Gate, you'll see the first court yard and the Gate of Supreme Harmony. From the Meridian Gate, you will see five marble bridges (though they used to be wooden) representing the five Confucian virtues : humanity, sense of duty, wisdom, reliability and propriety. During those times, the middle bridge was only for the emperor, the ones on each side of it were for other members of the royal family and the outer most bridges are for the officials and other members of the court. Right now, anyone can walk on whichever bridge they want. I didn't walk on the middle bridge though, haha! I wonder what the ancient emperors (in heaven) are saying or thinking as they see an army of disobedient and foreign people walking inside their palaces and sacred places EVERY SINGLE DAY!

Quick story about the Inner Golden Water river flowing beneath the five bridges: It was named 'Golden' because according to the Chinese system of five elements, water that flows from the west is associated with the element of gold.


standing at one of the bridges over the Golden Water River, and that's the Gate of Supreme Harmony behind me!
the lioness at the west side of the Gate of Supreme Harmony with its left paw on a cub symbolizes "thriving and prosperous imperial family"

Everything was 'surreal but nice'. Haha! Again, never have I imagined that just two years after I have seen the last Karate Kid movie, I would set foot at the same spot where Jaden Smith rubbed his hands on those golden knobs that people touch for 'good luck'. I didn't let the opportunity pass. This sounds gross but I really touched as many knobs as I could while my roommate gives a thousand reasons why she would never touch those things. Haha! She gladly took my photos though, and I would forever owe her for that!

The Hall of Supreme Harmony 
The second courtyard that you'll see is the Hall of Supreme Harmony. This is the biggest courtyard inside the Forbidden city where important gatherings are held such as birthdays, weddings, ascending to the throne/ coronations, New Year's day and sending generals to war. Remember the opening part of Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson's movie way back in 2000, Shanghai Noon? Ceremonies like the one from that movie are held at this courtyard.

The emperors used this Hall of Supreme Harmony to talk to their officials about political affairs. It's in the heart of the Forbidden city though it is still considered as the outer court. The inner court is where the emperor, his empress, concubines and other imperial family members reside.




The ancient Chinese emperors considered themselves as the Son of Heaven, meant to rule over the country. So, if you notice, not a single tree can be seen at this courtyard. It's because this is a very special place for the emperors and it is a symbol of imperial power, no other structure (nope, not even a tree) is allowed to be higher than it during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

overwhelmed? mesmerized?
a grander version of the hutongs (narrow alley)
no idea if this was a sick bucket back then or what~

living quarters


this is one of the rooms seen only from the glass windows~
lost and kinda tired~

We actually reached the northern most part of the Forbidden city where the Imperial Garden lies.This spot was the private place of the imperial family (the emperors, his empress and concubines). This is where they drink tea, play chess, meditate and relax. At the four corners of the garden lies a pavilion symbolizing the four seasons. There are a lot of old trees, flowerbeds and other man-made structures like the bronze incense burners and artificial mountain with cave. There is also one building at the center, the Hall of Imperial Peace. Very close to the hall, you'll see a bronze incense burner with a pair of 400-year old consort pines symbolizing the harmony of the emperor and the empress.

one of the pavilions at the Imperial Garden

I can't believe I actually walked through history at the price of 40 RMB (about Php 280). I can barely remember what happened during the Ming and Qing dynasty from my History subjects way back in high school, but walking at the exact location where the emperors and other historic people lived is a totally different thing. I wish one day, students can have even a virtual tour (instead of just looking at the boring pictures from the books) of the historic places while they are learning so they would be more engaged and interested in studying. Or was I the only one who dozed off during History class?

mission accomplished!

This was another trip that I would never forget, because really, that was one hell of a walk, man! We weren't able to visit each and every alley and palace, we pretty much stayed near the center. We started walking inside before 9 in the morning and got out around early afternoon. But our day did not end there! There was yet another stop we had to make which is kinda close to the Forbidden City anyway...the Temple of Heaven!

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