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An occasionally belligerent mother of five and an autism parent / advocate who believes that traveling, good food and good company are vital to keep one sane. I've worked as a news writer/newscaster, a quality systems auditor, a ISO9001 consultant, an FM radio DJ, a Filipino tutor, TOEFL reviewer and have gone into the food industry both as an entrepreneur and as a mommy chef, giving a sponsored demo on healthy cooking in a mall and on local TV. My favorite job however, is being a mom and a wife.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

You Had Me At Forbidden (Our Forbidden City Tour)

the place was so big that getting a picture without the crowd was actually possible

In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit...oh wait...wrong tale...

this place would have probably been creepy cool at night

In a place above ground, in the heart of Beijing lies Zǐjinchéng; (translated literally as the "Purple Forbidden City" a.k.a.,  in English,  the Forbidden City).

the ticket booth

Unlike the Hobbit hole that allowed strange old men and diminutive human like folks to enter without it's owner's knowledge, the Forbidden City, back in the day (around 1420 AD) gained this monicker due to the fact that the emperor called the shots on who enters and who leaves.

20 RMB allows you in. Our toddler got in for free
BTW, the "Purple" in the name was due to  purple or "Zi Wei" (the North Star) which had nothing to do with Oprah or Prince's The Color Purple. Zi Wei was the Celestial abode of the Celestial Emperor and his family, while the earthly abode was the one found in Beijing. (Simply as fantasy filled as The Hobbit, I tells ya).

The walls are also guarded by a moat that circles the Forbidden City that is 6 meters deep, 52 meters wide and 3,800 meters long.Beautiful moats and ponds may be found in and out of the Forbidden City

moat in front of the north tower
Renting one of those GPS activated tour devices for just 30 RMB a unit, Phil, MAX and I wandered around the 7,800,000 sq ft grounds of the walled city. The place was MASSIVE. In fact, it was so huge that the whole thing took 14 years and a million workers to build. They did not hold back on the palaces, the cut stone paths and the intricate designs and symbolisms that went into it's construction.

using those GPS tour guides is waaay much cheaper than a real one. highly recommended if you're in a group of 2 or 3

To even describe just the main structures would be so hard as there are several areas in the whole compound of sorts. I'll just give you a rundown of the places we went into, along with a shot and caption.
a stroller can be hard to maneuver as there are parts with uneven (ancient) stonework flooring. There isn't always a wheelchair ramp too. We ended up carrying MAX like a little emperor

Declared as a World Heritage Site in 1987 by UNESCO it houses the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world, and taking a picture of most of it, as well as trying to get through the hundreds of local (yes, you read right), tourists was just insane.

there are stairs everywhere!
Speaking of symbolisms, here are a few points of interest that was mentioned in the electronic guide:

the number of beasts indicates the importance of the duties performed within the building, in this case, more than the usual maximum number 9. The Hall of Supreme Harmony has 10, the only building in the country to be permitted this in Imperial times. The 2 extras are supposed to be guardians.

The ninth son of the dragon  (in the Chinese culture)says that 'Pixiu', a fierce but auspicious beast, had a dragon's head, horse's body, kylin's feet, a long beard and wings but no anus, which was its most distinctive feature and symbolized the bringing and accumulation wealth. In the art of Feng Shui, it also functioned to exorcise undesirable influences. Jade was considered the most effective.

Ri Gui  (Sundial)- a round marble structure at the front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony. The sundial symbolizes that the Emperor had the highest power to grant time to all people in the country

Hall of Central Harmony & three tier marble base

By the way, if you're thinking of buying souvenirs within the walls, you'd be pleasantly suprised to know that they're cheaper than the ones in the shops outside the city. And the best part is, you DON'T even have to haggle (a first in the Chinese countries we've visited).

souvenir items for sale right in the area where I rented out the GPS travel guides @ the Hall of Supreme Harmony
Quick tip, as always, when traveling with a little one, bring some food. If you don't there are some snacks and soda at the souvenir kiosk above.

yogurt time!
For something more modern, try the Forbidden City "Flying Tour" where you put on some ancient Chinese costumes and be shot with a green screen and it will show you "flying" over the landmark.

you'll find this shop when you head on out to the Hall of Preserved Harmony

as my Chinese reading skills are limited to numbers, here's a list of what's included in the package
I think one of my favorite places in the Forbidden City would have to be here:

Fabulous metal, jade and woodwork from the Qing Dynasty are on display. Personally, it was the cool names given to the sword that piqued my curiosity.

meet Icy Sharpness :)
There were so many sights that I would love to show you, but this blog, as I alluded to earlier, just isn't enough. A beautiful, cultural exposure if I may say so. And for that, I am so thankful to have seen this side to China and their contributions to the world.

From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours!

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