Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beijing, part 5: Entering the Forbidden City

We popped out of the subway at Tian'anmen Square. Big, crowded -- although, we were blocked from the main area of the square by a major street. Tour groups all over, of course. We followed the flow of humanity through Tian'an Men (Gate of Heavenly Peace), pausing only for pictures with old man Mao. I mean you gotta, right?
r7 - Mark and Mao

r8 - Chunlin and Mao

r9 - Through the Gate of Heavenly Peace

Next was the Front Gate and then another large plaza full of people. We bought tickets and audio auto-guides, and then entered through the Meridian Gate.
r10 - Meridian Gate

We were finally inside the Forbidden City, the past home of the emperors of China.

r11 - Tour Groups in the Forbidden City
It's now home to millions of tourists.

The palace is big and harsh -- composed of unforgiving stone squares.
r20 - East Gate from the Sea of Flagstones

The only respite was the Golden Stream meandering across the first plaza.
r12 - Golden Stream at Forbidden City
With five bridges, I guess it was a bit of a moat, but I'm sure battles never got this far inside the defenses. At least not battles with armies -- just battles of diplomats, bureaucrats, and the like.

The palace squares may be harsh, but the buildings had lovely roofs. Ornate detailing on the eaves. Lines of animals on the corners of the roofs. Dragon heads for water spouts from one stone terrace down to the next. Wide stairs up to the fancy halls.

r16 - Taíhé Mén Lion

r18 - Taíhé Mén Décor

r29 - Taíhé Hall Roof

r19 - In the Gate of Supreme Harmony

r22 - Marble Carriageway up to Taíhé Hall
This was the marble carriageway up to the large Hall of Supreme Harmony. Only the emperor himself was allowed to use this carriageway, which is good, because I'm sure it would have long ago been trodden to destruction otherwise.

r23 - Crane at Hall of Supreme Harmony

r24 - Turtle Dragon at Hall of Supreme Harmony
Not all dragons have long, lithe bodies. Some have hard shells!

r27 - Inside the Hall of Supreme Harmony
No one is allowed inside the Hall of Supreme Harmony, hence it's empty. I fought for space to take a photo or two of the throne. This hall was used for the big, ceremonial shindigs with dignitaries and such. It's the first and largest throne hall in the palace, and thus designed for show. And now it is on display, instead of hosting the display.

The tour will continue in a while. For now, there's more photos of the Forbidden City on flickr.

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