Beijing, China

The Forbidden City was amazing…  It felt like a real privilege to walk around an area that, only 60 years ago, had been closed to all but the highest ranks of the Imperial government.

Built during 1406 – 1420, the Forbidden City was home to Chinese Emperors for close to five centuries.  No one could leave or enter the city without the Emperor’s permission.

The picture above is a single marble carving of 9 dragons.  It weighs over 200 tons and took 20,000 workers 28 days to move into the Forbidden City.  I wish I could have fully captured the detail on this beautiful marble stairway, because it was outstanding.

Something unfathomable to me was the amount of buildings needed for the Emperor.  He had buildings for sleeping, mating, eating, meditating, writing and the list goes on.  These buildings weren’t exactly tiny either.

Particularly humorous to me was a set of three rather large buildings, in close proximity.  Each building had a different purpose but they were apparently always used in succession.  The first building was solely for the Emperor to change clothes.   Basically, it was a giant closet.  He would then walk, 20 feet, to the second building “to take a rest.”  This building held nothing but a giant couch-like object in the center.  After his rest, the Emperor would then walk 25 feet to the third building.  This final building would be similar to what I think of as an office.  Government officials would meet to discuss business with the Emperor.

In the Forbidden City, everything you see has some sort of symbolism.  Each color, animal and number is chosen carefully and with purpose.  Odd numbers are used for men and even numbers are used for women.  Nine was considered sacred and the Emperor’s building and throne was surrounded by groups of nine statues, steps, animals…

Forbidden City

Animals and their symbolism:

  • Dragon – Male, power, strength
  • Phoenix -Female, power, luck
  • Tortoise – Longevity, strength
  • Crane – Longevity, beauty
  • Tiger – Strength, courage

Colors and their symbolism:

  • Yellow – Color of the emperor
  • Red – Wards off evil spirits
  • Green – Earth (or wood) and growth
  • Black – Water (also meaning fire protection, so for example the library had a black rooftop)

Forbidden City (from Jingshan Park), Beijing Tile work, Forbidden City, BeijingBronze tortoise, Forbidden City, Beijing

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