Friday, November 5, 2010

Beijing - Forbidden City

Beijing, China. I was here for a few days of sight seeing after a work trip to some other Chinese cities in 2008 and, wow, how things have changed. I'll write more about my thoughts of Beijing in a few days but I wanted to share my visit to the Forbidden City first.

The Forbidden City is really big. I'd guess that you could spend a couple of days there if you really wanted to see everything in detail. I was there about three-or-so hours. This overview shot, which I took from the top of the hill in neighboring Jinshan Park, gives you some idea of how big since all the (hazy-blurred) gold-colored roofs (all 980 buildings worth) are within the City:

Construction started in 1406 and it served as the imperial palace until the early 1900s. The front entrance is behind this gate with the famous photo of Chairman Mao:

There are a LOT of buildings to visit/see. They all look similar to this one with the red columns and the gold-colored roof tiles with white walls around them:

The building above is the one of the first halls that you come to when entering from the south. All the halls have names like "Hall of Supreme Harmony" or "Palace of Heavenly Purity". The names start to run together after a while but you'll occasionally find one like the "Hall of Mental Cultivation" that sticks with you for some reason. I feel like I need more time at that one...

One of the things that struck me was the huge amount of Chinese tourists that were there. It's probably a lot like Washington D.C. or something in that almost everyone in the U.S. goes at least once. Even with the extra-large spaces between the buildings, the crowds were crazy. My guess is that, out of the 1.2 billion Chinese, probably a million of them were there during my visit. This photo, taken across a large plaza, shows a large tour group that was made up of over 100 people:

Here's a relatively empty space where you can see a few cool buildings and some nice walls:

The whole place is maintained very well and is super clean. You can probably get lost in the maze while checking out all the different halls and palaces. I particularly liked the spot below although I can't really explain why. I just had a good, relaxed feeling here.

Oh yeah, the big-black-pot-looking thing in the photo above was part of the fire-suppression system as they were all filled with water in case a fire broke out.

The photos of the buildings from a distance don't do the detail work justice. The amount of paint details, tile work, and roof features is pretty amazing. I tried to capture some of them in this photo:

I came across this "back-stage" spot while walking around. If you look in the center you'll see a couple of very old bicycle-work vehicles carrying cleaning and work supplies. They definitely do their job as the place is spotless.

The Forbidden City is an amazing place. Just walking around checking out the scenery, the people, the history, I'm reminded again how lucky I am. As I mentioned, I'll write about Beijing another day but you absolutely need to add it and the Forbidden City to your to-do list.

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