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Frozen History in Frozen Air

The Forbidden City Part 1 of 2


Beijing, August 29th 2012

"Ah, this hotel should consult Uncle Google," I thought while comparing the transportation direction given on the map from my hotel with the one from Google Map. The one from Google Map was simple and needed not a change of bus.

I arrived safe and sound in front of 神武门 Shénwǔ Mén (Gate of Divine Prowess) just to be met with a notification board telling that I should enter from 午门 Wǔ Mén or The Meridian Gate which was on the opposite side of The Forbidden City. I thought entering from which gate didn't matter as it had been at the Summer Palace. Aye. My hotel knew which gate was the entrance, but Google Map didn't.

I refused taking a bus to Wǔ Mén. Just turning around from the outside must be not so far, I thought.
This is 角楼 Jiǎolóu, The Corner Tower. There are four of them because needless to say, there are four corners. And that white blanket of snow is frozen river.

A public park outside one corner of The Forbidden City.

And a little close up of the tower.

This is iwhen I had to acknowledge to myself that the decision to save 1 yuan from the bus fare was a stupid idea. When I arrived at Gate of Divine Prowess, I wasn't the only one who got to the wrong gate. However, I was the only one who didn't get on a bus as suggested by the information board, but walked around instead. Now, on the contrary I seem getting away apart from the Forbidden City.

Here's the map of the Forbidden City which I downloaded from their website. Half circle of this city was huge indeed.

Before yet getting into the Forbidden City I was already half exhausted. All along the way I already experienced dropping my lens cap on the road accidentally. Luckily still, I wasn't too far when I realized it and I could find it. And then I almost dropped my CPL filter on the snow because I tried to fix it on my lens without taking off my hand gloves. As I was ready to move on, I felt a heavy click from my shoulder. My brand new Kipling handbag's hook came off. Fake, fake! No doubt. Luckily still, this handbag had another strap which can be tied around the waist. I prayed hard that this strap will last until the end of this serious winter adventure.

Not yet inside the Forbidden City, but getting closer.

At last! Inside the Forbidden City! This was the day when sun and wind were competing their best.

In order to capture the motion of the wind, I turned down the shutter speed. However, I couldn't keep my hands still. It's not exaggerating to say that the wind nearly plugged me off the ground. I pressed my feet as fast as I could on the ground. My heart stopped beating. If I had not a camera backpack, I would have been thrown by the wind to the bridge, I guess.

Furthermore, forget about a shot of the Forbidden City blanketed with white snow like the photo in "Insight Guides China". Most likely that photo was taken during a windless day. Today, the wind has smashed the blanket snow up. I chilled. Last summer it was sand which I saw flying into the sky. Now it's ice-sand a.k.a. snow.

Entering 太和门 Tài hé mén (The Gate of Supreme Harmony) now. I'm quoting from The Palace Museum here:
The Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihe men) is the grand formal entrance to the Forbidden City's Outer Court... Built during the Yongle reign (1403-1424) of the Ming dynasty... The gate you now see was rebuilt in 1889 after it was destroyed by fire the year before... Three sets of stairs lead up to the 3.4 meter high white marble terrace.

During the Ming dynasty, emperors held morning audience here and accepted memoranda from officials. The Hongxi (r.1425-1425), Xuande (r. 1426-1435), and Zhengtong (r. 1436-1449) Emperors of the Ming dynasty were enthroned here. In 1644 following the Manchu conquest, it was at this gate that the Shunzhi Emperor (r. 1644-1661) ascended the throne and issued the proclamation of Qing dynasty rule over the country.

It's hard to identify which is land and which is water, isn't it? On the left is frozen river and on the right is land.

That's the frozen river beneath. Do you see the traces of snow swept by wind? Swept away, and the ones left behind froze...

The Forbidden City was the most crowded site I had ever knew in winter. How crowded would it be in summer? Regardless of the freezing wind, people from both ends of the world and in all colors of skin, cramped here. Their feet, together with Wind, smashed up the blanket of snow from my dream-frame. Among them were unsurprisingly, tourist groups from my country. Yeah, everybody goes to The Forbidden City.

I overheard a teenage girl complaining to her Mom in desperate tone, "Where are we going next?" like, "When will we be done?" Ke mana lagi nih kita?

If this was her very first snowy winter experience, I have to be terribly sorry for her. Even for me, it's the worst of worse. I imagine she might not want to encounter snow anymore whereas it's actually the wind's fault, not snow.

That grand hall you saw just now was 太和殿 Tài hé diàn (Hall of Supreme Harmony). I hope this photo is clear enough for you to read.

Herewith is another paragraph about Hall of Supreme Harmony which I copy-paste from The Palace Museum's website here:
The Hall of Supreme Harmony sits in the center of the Forbidden City, on the Imperial Way (yu lu) – the remarkable section of the invisible central axis of the city. As the Imperial Way ascends the white marble three-tiered terrace it is carved with dragon patterns that extend all the way through the throne hall. During grand rituals or ceremonies, the emperor ascended the throne to imperial music, inspecting the empire as far as he could, receiving greetings and congratulations from his subjects.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony is the largest hall in the Forbidden City, and architecturally the highest-ranking building of the surviving traditional architecture in China. Golden dragon designs dominate the hall's exterior and interior décor. The ten figurines at each of its roof corners distinguish it as superior to other ancient buildings.

景运门 Jǐng yùn mén (Gate of Good Fortune) was:
In the Qing dynasty, except for officials on duty or those who has been summoned for audience, no one was allowed to enter this gate without a thorough check. In order to ensure the security of the Inner Court, all comers had to halt 20 paces from the doors and state their business to messengers. according the information here.

Actually I didn't realize this until I viewed my shots on the computer. This frame has been cropped from a larger frame. It's interesting that next to the Chinese traditional characters are the Manchu script. Manchu people are descended from the Jurchen people who earlier established the Jin Dynasty (1115–1234) in China. However, the Jin dynasty could not withstand the Mongols' attack and was finally defeated by Ögedei Khan in 1234. Under the Mongols' control, the Jurchens were mainly divided into two groups and treated differently: the ones who were born and raised in North China and fluent in Chinese were considered to be Chinese (Han); but the people who were born and raised in the Jurchen homeland (Manchuria) without Chinese-speaking abilities were treated as Mongols politically. From that time, the Jurchens of North China increasingly merged with the Han Chinese, while those living in their homeland started to be Mongolized.

The show of history must go on. Jurchen Aisin Gioro clan conquered the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) -- the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic Han Chinese -- and founded Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) which became the last imperial dynasty of China.

Coming to realize how different the characters of Manchu and Chinese are, makes me think who are the Chinese people actually? The Han Chinese? Or can it be said that the aborigine of China is the Han Chinese? But unlike other countries, these aborigines managed to rise as majority of the country in modern today?

Wasn't China actually colonized by Manchu for much longer than Indonesia by Dutch? I'm thinking.

The significant difference is that over the course of its reign, according to Wikipedia, the Qing became highly integrated with Chinese culture. The Dutch did the opposite to Indonesia.

If Empress Dowager Cixi had never entered the Forbidden City, how would China be today? I'm wondering.

Posted by automidori 07:39 Archived in China Tagged china beijing forbidden_city

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