The Forbidden City, April 2010. Home to a succession of Chinese emperors; Beijing’s incredible Forbidden City served as the very heart of China for over five hundred years and is said to be Planet Earth’s largest palace complex! And right enough you’d be hard pushed to doubt this claim as you walk under The Gate of Heavenly Peace, the disapproving stare of Chairman Mao tracking your every step.
The Forbidden City, April 2010. Boasting a dizzying succession of squares, courtyards and gates, nothing in the complex quite matches the amazing Hall of Supreme Harmony, the palace’s largest and most celebrated structure. And the thirty thousand square meter courtyard it sits in was the venue for many a coronation, wedding and royal birthday party over the years. Built in 1406, it was once the highest structure in the nation and no other building was allowed to be higher than it.
The Forbidden City, April 2010. My favourite part of the day was simply gazing out over the numerous balconies, with stunning views of the Forbidden City skyline and its huddled mass of symmetrical wooden roofs. The place had an almost contradictory feel to it, the orange-yellow sheen of the glazed tiles providing an eerie contrast to the thick, grey smog of the afternoon sky. This struck me as a typical Beijing sensation, a Beauty and the Beast vibe that felt somehow uplifting and unsettling at the same time.
The Forbidden City, April 2010. The Forbidden City is the perfect place for people watching, especially Chinese tourists who’ve travelled the length and breadth of the country specifically to see it. This old man chose to admire one of the pavilions from afar, while ahead a huge crowd of feverishly excited tourists poured up the steps to force their way inside.
The Forbidden City, April 2010. I can’t say I enjoyed The Imperial Garden much. It was clearly a beautiful place, a classical Chinese plot with wonderfully deformed Cypress trees, babbling brooks running under rockeries and four pretty pavilions in each corner. It would have been great to explore in peace; but sadly the obnoxious crowds made it impossible and all I could do was dodge, duck and dive my way through as quickly as I could in order to get away from them all. The tour groups were the worst, a noisy mass of trudging zombies following a giant yellow flag.