Day By Day

Monday, June 08, 2009

China Diary -- Part 4 The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City lies just across the street from Tiananmen Square. We, along with several hundred other people passed over a bridge, under a portrait of Chairman Mao, through a couple of dark tunnels, and entered a series of ever more impressive courtyards. The whole point of the elaborate series of structures that make up the Forbidden City is to impress visitors with the power and glory of the emperor. Today, it is a memorial to the power of the state.

The scale of the structure is impressive, but I was struck by the extraordinary detail to be found everywhere.

Check out the detail work on this roof, for instance. Nearly every surface in the entire complex is similarly decorated.

There simply is too much to see. One passes from courtyard to corridor to another courtyard to another corridor and with each step you are confronted by an overwhelming complexity of images. And that, after all, is what the entire thing is designed to do -- to overwhelm visitors.

The deeper we went into the Forbidden City the more there was to see and at last a glimpse of some greenery in the distance.

At last we arrived in the imperial gardens where at least shade trees blocked the sun. Temperatures in Beijing that day were pushing 100 degrees and some of the members of the group were really suffering.

I wasn't in great shape myself. I was hot and sweaty, my feet hurt, my head ached, and the tour wasn't fun any more. Still I kept going, determined to see it all. But then we passed through the gardens into another set of courtyards and saw this before us.

Me climb that hill in this heat? I don't think so! fortunately the rest of the group had similar feelings so we turned around and retraced our steps to the entrance where buses picked us up and took us to lunch. There was still a long, long way to go before the day would be over.