Published: June 20th 2012June 5th 2012
Lions are important in China!
Can you tell which gender this one is?
Today we decided to tackle the ever famous forbidden city of Beijing. The structure was finished in 1420, taking 15 years to complete and used the labor of over 1 million workers. In China’s imperial times, it served as the boarding house of China’s emperors and empresses and as a meeting place for many political decisions. Only certain people were allowed to enter and exit with the permission of the emperor himself, thereby making it the “forbidden” city. The forbidden city is surrounded by a giant walls, spanning 26 feet high and 28 feet deep, effectively, keeping it secret from the rest of the city. Additionally it is surrounded by a large moat, spanning 20 ft deep and 171ft wide. The city itself is massive, containing over 980 building and roughly 9,000 rooms.
As you enter the outskirts of the city you see many giant sculptures of lions. The lions were thought to protect from evil spirits and the Chinese believed keeping them near an entrance to a building would scare the evil spirits away and provide protection to all whom enter. The male lion has a ball under its paw to symbolize power and control
The forbidden city is lines with indicate ramps and bridges.
The ramps were used to carry the emperor up and down the levels in his sedan chair.
while the female has a lion cub under its paw because in ancient times the Chinese people believed lions excreted milk from their paws to feed their young; weird, right?
Once you get passed the lions, you come upon 5 beautiful marble bridges, lined with guards and packed with people ushering into the forbidden city. In ancient China odd numbers were associated with males while even numbers were associated with females, since the city was built for the emperor 5 bridges were built to symbolize the male spirit. Once you get passed the bridges you go through many halls and buildings covered in intricate décor and painfully skilled wood carvings.
You also begin to notice that dragons line EVERYTHING this is because in China dragons represent the emperor while the phoenix represents the empress. Therefore, since the whole city is basically a tribute to the emperor the overkill of dragons is understandable.
The city goes on and on and its sheer size is breath taking. You could spend all day exploring and learning but after walking for a few hours in 90 degree weather we were out of water and needed
to find a place to rest, so we headed home. On our trip home we walked through the ever famous Tiananmen Square, the site of the famous political massacres of 1989. It was larger then I pictured and is not the resting place of Mao. The area is still plastered with billboards of Mao’s face and communist flags line the square. We opted to skip the crowded line to see his body wrapped in the communist flag but our friends who went through said he looked like a wax figure.
China is weird.
Random fact: Since Beijing was the home of the emperor in imperial times, all of China bases their singular time zone off of the city. Therefore, whether you are in the north, south, east or west it is always the same time in China.
Hope you’re enjoying my adventures thus far, more to come soon!
There are more photos below