Breaking into the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is not really forbidden. It was the home for 24 Emperors and it gets its name because commoners were forbidden from entering. It’s in the center of Beijing, and it is massive. We walked around for five hours and I quickly forgot that there was a whole other city surrounding us.

Can you guess how many rooms it has?

I’ll give you a hint: The kingdom of heaven has 10,000 rooms.

The Forbidden City has 9,999 and a half rooms, because the Emperor who built it was extremely humble. A room is considered to be the space inside four columns. You might be wondering what constitutes a half room. I’m guessing it only has two columns.

Mike and me at the first entrance for the Forbidden City

Mike and me at the first entrance for the Forbidden City

A giant picture of Chairman Mao was hanging at the entrance of the City. While on this trip I had to question what I learned about Mao in high school. I was told that Mao forced the Chinese people into slave labor and millions of people died of famine and disease. I considered him an evil dictator, but while in China I learned that he is celebrated for defeating the Japanese invaders and Imperialist forces. He also greatly increased literacy and life expectancy rates. It’s similar to my experience with Nicaragua. I had learned in school that the Sandinistas were terrible, but when I visited that country, so many of the Nicaraguans I met loved them because they fought for equality and ended the Somoza dictatorship. While they were in power literacy rates jumped from 45% to almost 90%, and their health care plans helped to eliminate polio and measles. Sure some of their practices were controversial, but I hate how skewed our education system is when it comes to any culture that does not accept capitalism as the end all and be all.

But like a lawnmower…I degrass!

The Forbidden city is protected by a moat and walls that are 26 feet high.

The first wall

The first wall

Next you enter the outer court where the Emperor would do his official duties.

Notice the stair case in the distance...I'll talk about that further.

Notice the staircase in the distance…I’ll talk about that further.

All the stairs have a ramp in between them. This is because the Emperor was always carried around on a bed, and the stairs were just for the servants who carried him on either side.

The Emperor was carried on a bed about all the carved, decorative ramps.

The Emperor was carried on a bed above all the carved, decorative ramps.

Then you cross the five bridges. Each one represents one of the five Confucian virtues that everyone should possess: humanity, sense of duty, wisdom, reliability and propriety. Only the Emperor was allowed to use the middle bridge (wisdom), but the empress got to cross it on one day in her life. Can you guess which day? Her wedding day, duh. I crossed the middle bridge because I guessed the right answer.

Sorry I didn't get a good picture of the bridges. This pic is from http://www.kinabaloo.com

Sorry I didn’t get a good picture of the bridges. This pic is from http://www.kinabaloo.com

And finally you enter the inner court where the Emperor actually lived. I have to admit by this point we stopped taking pictures because everything looked the same: Massive, red and yellow. Here’s one more panoramic pic to show you the scale:

Mike taking it all in

Mike taking it all in

I had to take a picture with this crazy guy, although now that I look at is again, I realize I’m dressed just as crazy as him. It was so cold there, and I did not pack accordingly.

Me with the Chinese Hippy.

Me with the Chinese Hippy. Check out his wooden platform shoes!

I’ll leave you with one last image:

2012-11-14 03.50.46

I wouldn’t want to ride in this taxi.

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