The Forbidden City Part 2 of 2.
23.12.2012 - 07.01.2013
Beijing, December 29th 2012
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum. For almost 500 years, it served as the home of emperors and their households, as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government.
Built in 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 720,000 m2 (7,800,000 sq ft). The palace complex exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture, and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
Here is 保和殿 Bǎo hé diàn (Hall of Preserving Harmony). During the Ming Dynasty, the emperor changed clothes in this hall before an important ceremony. In the Qing Dynasty, the emperor held banquets here for his princes, dukes, and ministers of ethic minorities on the Lunar New Year's Eve and the Lantern Festival.
Let me make a little close up and contrast with the beautiful blue sky.
It's actually about the stairs that's most interesting. I'm quoting from the information board of English version:
It is the largest stone carving int the palace, 16.75 meters long, 3.097 meters wide, and 1.7 meters thick, and weighs more than 200 tons, hence the name Large Stone Carving. It was carved out of a huge natural stone in the early Ming Dynasty, when the three main halls were constructed. In 1761 (the26th year of the Qianlong reign period of the Qing Dynasty), the old patterns on the stone were all torn away, and new patterns were carved. With beautiful interlocking lotus patterns all around, the huge stone carving has curling waves at the bottom and nine dragons amidst clouds in the middle, as the dragon is an imperial signal. The stone was quarried from the western suburbs of Beijing. It was transported to the Palace Museum by sprinkling water on the way in winter to make an iced road. Then it was pulled all the way to the Palace Museum along the iced road.
That last part reminds me of the construction of Jiayu Pass. In such a freezing air I cannot believe anything more than that. Splash water on the ground and it would turn into ice, slippery enough to slide a huge stone all through the way.
This is just an example of freezing water which I shot on the way back from the Forbidden City. Maybe the snow on top of the car had melted. So freezing was the air that the water never made it down but froze in action, as if time had come to a still.
坤宁宫 Kūn níng gōng (Palace of Earthly Tranquility), as stated here, was built for the chief consort of the emperor. During Qing times, the Palace was remodeled into a Manchu-style house, which was dubbed "pocket house” (koudai ju): the house has its main door off center to the east rather than in the middle; wooden panel doors replace lattice doors; windows open from the bottom (swinging out on hinges fastened at the top) and are propped up by sticks. Inside the Palace, along the north, the west, and the south walls are linked heated brick kang platforms. The Palace of Tranquility was at once the Shamanism sacrificial hall and the imperial bridal chamber. It still retains the original décor today.
Thank you, Wind, for not sweeping the entire snow off the roof.
A view of the other side.
It's called Palace of Earthly Tranquility. But in winter like now, it looks like an earthly hard work. Someone has to clear up the hardening ice out off the passage for visitors to walk through. The longer he takes, the harder the work will be, as the air won't wait. Remember the drips of water at the bottom of the car just now?
Look! 'Hamburg'! You want to go to Hamburg?
In this Palace Museum, there are several canteens. You should not be worried in case your tummy cries for food. I went into one cafeteria, but not for coffee. I walked around the souvenir shelves pretending to look for something -- warmth.
According to Virtual Palace Tour:
The British tutor Sir Reginald Johnston gave English lessons to the abdicated emperor Pu Yi (1905-1963) in this hall. With its secluded and beautiful surroundings, the lodge was traditionally a place of repose and study. The Emperor Jiaqing (r. 1796-1820) and Daoguang (r. 1821-1850) often came here to rest or read.
Oh ya, mentioning Pu Yi, I remember I peeped through the window into Pu Yi's living room. Visitors weren't allowed in and the window was covered with heads with all colors of hair. First, I wondered whether there's such as 'low-season' for The Forbidden City. Second, I wondered how warm Pu Yi had felt inside during winter.
Here's the Gate of Loyal Obedience, or 顺貞门 Shùn zhēn mén. The sun was really being at its best. Nevertheless, it failed beating the freezing wind.
Quoting from The Palace Museum's website:
The Gate of Loyal Obedience (Shunzhen men) is the north gate of the Imperial Garden (Yu huayuan), the north end of the inner palaces. North of the Gate of Loyal Obedience is the Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwu men). It serves as an important gateway to enter the Inner Court from the North side, thus usually remained closed except for special occasions.
Actually this was a shot I made aimlessly. Then when I viewed it on the computer, the man in black coat on right caught my attention. He seems to be checking a map or sort of. Why is he facing close to the wall? To avoid the glaring sun? Or to avoid the wind from flapping his map? Look at the bottom of his coat. It's obviously driven by the wind. Can you imagine that? The wind goes under your shanks and then up to your back under your coat...
A view of the left side.
Here we are, back at 神武门 Shénwǔ mén (Gate of Divine Prowess), the North part of the Imperial Palace. The tower on top formerly housed a drum and a bell, which were used to announce the time.
That's me with the fake Kipling handbag-turned-into-waist-bag. How that 'turned-into' happened has been mentioned on first post about The Forbidden City.
In the past, during those 500 years, nobody could enter or leave without the emperor's permission. Hence the name 'forbidden city'. Today, both Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty remain history only -- without any emperor's permission.
It's freezing, but it's yet beautiful. Frame it up! Because nothing is to last forever.