Pritam Rohila Travels

Reports of my travels along with some pictures

Nov 3, 2010


May 25 Continued

On the north end of the Tinanmen Square is the Forbidden City, a UNESCO’s World Heritage site. One has to go through the Tiananmen Gate adorned with flags of China and a large portrait of Mao to enter the Forbidden City, the world’s largest palace complex, which was home to China’s rulers for 500 years, until monarchy crumbled in 1911.

Now, every day, thousands of people visit the complex, where no one, except the emperor, his select family members, concubines, and eunuch servants, was allowed to enter.

The complex has more than 8,000 rooms, in 800 red-green buildings. Buildings are covered with turquoise and gold embellishments, and with yellow glazed-tile roofs.

Lion statues, as symbols of royal authority, and

brass water-cauldrons to extinguish fires were strategically placed throughout the palace.

The Meridian Gate is the main entrance to the Forbidden City. Chinese emperors believed that they were sons of Heaven, the Forbidden City was situated at the center of the universe, and the mid-line of the universe passed through the Meridian Gate.

Only the emperor used the central arch of the Meridian Gate. An empress could pass through once in her lifetime, only on her wedding day. A selected few others were granted the honor, like three finalists in the national examinations.

There are several
halls were used for various royal functions. Some have sandalwood thrones. A marble central path ran through the main palace, over which the emperor walked from one hall to another.

Then you come to the Hall of Mental Cultivation. It was here that many emperors lived and from where they ruled the whole empire. Also, the emperor consulted with his ministers. And the books of instructions for a new emperor on how to rule over his empire were kept here in a bookcase behind the throne.

The Imperial Garden is next. Besides a variety of trees and flowerbeds, the garden has rockeries, and

sculptural objects such as the gigantic bronze incense burners.

Exit is through the Gate of Divine Might. A moat surrounds the Palace.

Across the road from the exit, and located north of the Forbidden City is the Coal Hill. It is an artificial mound north made of the earth excavated for the moat. Although some people believe that the hill contains a hidden coal supply for the imperial family, very likely it was created to guard the Palace “from evil northern spirits”, which bring only death and misery according to Feng Shui.

It was a hot day. At some places no iced-water was available. Many people used umbrellas

or sought shelter under trees.

I developed sunstroke-like condition. I had to rest, make do with lukewarm water, and Kundan put a wet hand-towel on my head.

People were generally pleasant. Some readily agreed to pose their children for me to photograph.

After the Forbidden City, we were escorted for a special Peking Duck dinner at a local restaurant. Unfortunately, most of us did not like either the taste or the amount of food (including vegetarian dishes) there.

Eating out for included meals in China was an experience for our group. We were allowed only one glass of water, coke or beer. (For coffee one had to pay extra). Water and coke was always served at room temperature. They grudgingly gave you a couple of small cubes of ice, if requested. Therefore, after a few days, even I changed to beer for lunch as well as dinner, since beer was the only drink they served cold.



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