The Forbidden City ~ Beijing and Beyond

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The Hall of Supreme Harmony

With the recent change of leadership with Mr Xi Jinping taking the helm in the People’s Republic of China, many people are watching to see if transformation will take happen in the politburo and Beijing is once again brought into focus. Modernity and westernization has crept into China and Beijing has her fair share of skyscrapers and MacDonalds restaurants to boot. It is sad that many of the ‘hutongs’ have been demolished to make way for commercial buildings within central Beijing but thankfully the National Monuments & buildings have been well preserved for posterity.

Stairway leading to the Hall of Supreme Harmony

The Forbidden City was the Imperial Palace from the Ming Dynasty till the end of the Qing Dynasty (1420-1912). It came under the Palace Museum since 1925 and houses an extensive collection of artwork and artifacts from the Ming and Qing era. This impressive and massive complex is rightly declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

Beautiful nail-free gilded pillars with Dragon motifs symbolic of the Emperor’s imperial power and strength

What I found interesting was the symmetry and balance found in Chinese architecture that has strongly influenced the architectural styles of Korea, Vietnam and Japan and is still a living architecture in Asia. This symmetry and balance is seen whether in the humble farmer’s house, the nobleman’s residence or a palatial mansion and finds harmony with its surroundings.

Intricately carved marble balustrades complimenting the tiled and symmetrical roofs

It is a pity that large sections of the Forbidden City has been closed off to the general public. I would love to wander down the labryrinths and quarters that was once used by the army, eunuchs, concubines, maids-in-waiting, man servants and royalty. This very complex was the political seat of China for half a century and has seen the reign of 14 Ming and 10 Qing emperors. Imagine the whispers, treachery, treason, intrigue and stifling atmosphere of the court!

Exiting the ‘Palace of Heavenly Purity’ complex and entering the Imperial Gardens

Chinese gardens are looked upon as works of art. They fuse nature, architecture, poetry and painting together and are designed for solace, solitary contemplation or to be enjoyed with close friends where drinking, a concert, poetry recital or literary discussion was engaged in.

Tiananmen – Gate of Heavenly Peace

Most people would have heard of Tiananmen Square when the protests of 1989 was broadcasted on all the major TV stations the world over. I find it ironical that those violent uprisings which ended with several hundred deaths should be staged right before Tiananmen which translates to be “Gate of Heavenly Peace”.

Mausoleum of Chairman Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square

There is a perpetual queue outside the Mao Zedong Mausoleum and I once again decided against waiting in line but for the hundreds who so patiently did, I applaud you. Still revered like a god, many Chinese have a Mao pendant or tiny Mao portrait talisman hanging in their vehicle believing it would ward off evil.

Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square is the largest square I have visited and some purportedly say that there is standing room for 1 million people. It is the 3rd largest city square in the world and it is about 109 acres big. It was overwhelmingly dwarfing to just stand right smack in the middle.

The 2nd largest economy in the world today, no wonder China’s flag is flying high

China’s economy is closely watched by investors and economists but as for me I am contented with watching the Chinese people and the many fascinating scenic spots that hopefully will remain unspoilt.

Mid Morning snack

I stood in a distance watching this heartwarming scene where a grandpa was sharing a bite with his grandson. Used a telephoto lens to capture this special moment as I did not want to seem too obvious and I also did not want to be asked to pay for this shot as it would just ruin the sentiment completely.

Wangfujing Food Street
Exotic fare, if you dare!

Heard about Wangfujing Food Street and decided to check the place out. Sadly, the Black Bean Sauce noodles and some steamed dumplings at one of the shops were sub-standard and totally unsatisfying. Then I chanced upon the deep fried grub and creepy crawlies and witnessed some of the locals devouring them and actually enjoying it. That was good enough to kill whatever was left of my appetite.

Section of the Great Wall of China at Badaling
Great Wall Graffiti

Did a day trip out to Badaling to see the Great Wall of China. In a matter of minutes, we were taken up to the walls in a convenient luge ride. There were some others who took the arduous route trekking up.

Great Wall of China
Lookout at one of the Beacon towers

The view at the Great Wall is just awesome. You can see the undulating hills and valleys in the distance and I truly felt on top of the world!

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