We spent 3 months working in Beijing in 2008. We really wanted to see as much as possible in and around the city, but our project timescale was pretty tight, so we had to work weekends most of the time as well. Then came the October holidays, when all the companies have days off, so we tried to squeeze in as much sightseeing as possible into those few days. The problem was, most of Chinese inland tourists also had the same idea, meaning that all the major places of interest were packed (same happened during our visits to the Summer Palace and the Great Wall of China).
The Forbidden City is majestic and enormous. It’s a series of palaces, living quarters for concubines, servants, vast squares, meticulously planned gardens. If you want to take it all in, set aside the whole day for this visit. Just to give you a bit of a scale reference – the moat around the Forbidden city is 52 meters wide, the outer walls are 10 meters high and 8 meters wide at the base, it originally housed 9,999 rooms.
We entered the palace grounds from the gates on Tiananmen Square. The scale of it all, size of the gate doors, grand square opening up to you after you enter – this is truly breathtaking and a must see in Beijing. You continue walking across the square, coming to yet another palace, through it and into another square and so on and so forth. The succession of palaces, all decorated with intricate wooden and metal details, all served their purpose – a palace where an emperor would meet guests, a pavilion, where he would eat, a pavilion where he dressed up and a separate pavilion where he would sleep with his wife after the wedding. The list of various single-purpose buildings is astonishing.
After you pass emperors grounds, you enter the back side of the grounds, which housed 10,000 emperor’s concubines. His favourites had beautiful houses, impressive in their own right, with inner gardens and large living quarters. All others lived in houses, reminding dormitories. Most of those ladies have never even seen an emperor – he hardly had time for all of them. The outer perimeter of the Forbidden City is occupied with all kinds of service buildings.
The side of the Forbidden City, which is opposite to the entrance on TIananmen Square, is a beautifully landscaped garden with water springs, shadowed alleys, rocky grottoes and pavilions. When you cross it, you get to another huge entrance gate. This gate was used for welcoming concubines, the most beautiful girls from every province, into the palace. They only entered once and never left again, spending their whole lives within these grounds, hoping to get noticed.
If I got you interested enough in this amazing landmark, you can read up more facts on Wikipedia, or better still – plan a visit ;)
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