China Diary 6: Inside the Forbidden City
It’s funny, there is an exhibition on the Forbidden City running in Melbourne at the moment. I decided to spend the extra few bucks to come to Beijing instead.
I learnt some things (thanks audio guide thingie):
- The Forbidden City is super old (construction started in 1406).
- The emperor was believed to be an ambassador from heaven. His symbol was a dragon, while his empress’ symbol was a phoenix.
- Imperial food was pretty boring and guests would pay off eunuchs to smuggle in salt. Not eating would be deemed an insult to the emperor and would result in punishment.
- The beasties on the corner of the roof of a building or gate signify the importance of that structure. The more beasties, the more important it is. No other building in the country can have more beasties than the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City.
- There are heavy gold vats scattered throughout the city to hold water in case of fire. They were put to quite a lot of use throughout history, as can be seen by the scarring and scuffing along their sides.
- Empresses got to choose the emperors’ concubines. Fun. If they were lucky, rejected candidates married high ranking officials.
- Once, an emperor died and there was quite a bit of controversy about who was to be his successor. After this event, the system for announcing successors was changed: a locked box containing the name of the next emperor was stored inside the Palace of Heavenly Purity. The name in the box had to match that which was written on a piece of paper carried by the emperor upon his death.
- During peak season, the Forbidden City sees around 80,000 visitors per day.