Wednesday, 28 April 2010
07.04.10 Bank Notes Tour: Day One
The Forbidden City
dragon with pearl in the ceiling of one of the throne rooms in the Forbidden City
The Forbidden City
Peoples Congress Hall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Hutong tour
Cathy, our guide, is very pro Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution he instigated. She speaks proudly of the Chairman as being a saviour to the Chinese people, increasing their standard of living very highly since before him it was very low. Although dead and having been replaced by Mr Hu, today's President, Mao is still revered in a god like status, his portrait renewed every year on the gate of Tiananmen Square to prevent any deterioration. We visit the Peoples Congress Hall where the government sit and where representatives from each of the 23 Chinese provinces each have a specially designed and interior decorated meeting room. Our next stop is the Forbidden City which sits directly behind Tiananmen Square, which incidentally is the largest public square in the world. The Forbidden City was the palace of the emperors of China from 1404 onwards, at the beginning of the Ming dynasty when the capital was moved to Beijing. It continued to be used by the Qing which superseded the Ming, up until the abolishment of imperialism in 1912. The red painted halls with yellow coloured roofs run six in direct line with one another, the three at the front used for state business and the three at the back for family matters. The halls still house the original 600 year old thrones covered in yellow silk, an auspicious colour meaning longevity in life, which was used in abundance throughout the palace. Above them hang, in each hall, a sculpted dragon holding a giant pearl, another symbol of long life and good fortune. The dragon, as a motif, appears on all the doors in moulded metal and on the stone carved steps leading from the halls into the vast open air squares. Numbers are also important in ancient Chinese culture as there are five stone bridges which cross the palace's inner moat, representing the five elements of earth, fire, water, wood and metal. The emperor would be swathed in pure silk surrounded by his concubines and eunuchs being fanned if he was too hot or heated by underfloor coals if he was too cold. The ceremonies would've been vast affairs and even up until the beginning of the 20th century they still carried on. The sixth and last building was reserved for weddings and the Empress' birthday celebrations. It's full of red silk hangings carrying the symbol of double happiness and the colour red, we learn, also has the meaning of happiness in life. Surrounding the palace's high walls and moat, in a perfect square of at least 2.5 kms on each side, there are Hutongs, which are the ancient dwellings of the imperial servants and militiamen. These close knit community dwellings have been preserved by the government as a national treasure along with the palace and the families that now live in them are many generations under the same roof. Closed off grey walls with the occasional entrance door give way to tight alleyways on to which four different houses open out. We're unable to enter the private forecourts but we do have the privilege of dining in a renovated Hutong which has been turned into a restaurant and guesthouse. It has an inner yard with small doors leading off on either side. We think it very admirable the government is preserving these unique buildings by repairing and modernising them when they could so easily have deemed them unnecessary and bulldozed them to make way for another faceless apartment block.
Posted by Laura at 01:03