Right in the center of Beijing, and walking distance from the apartment we are staying at, is the walled Forbidden City. Aptly named as the Emperors and Empresses lived here for over 600 years and it was forbidden to commoners. Obviously all that has changed, and now it is a beautiful museum in the center of the city, probably forbidden to many by its entrance fee.
We were not going to get a guide, but Victoria Yang approached us, she seemed really knowledgeable, was licensed and her fee was only slightly more than the audio tour we were going to take. She added a level of understanding and some really interesting facts that we otherwise might have missed. For instance:
- Did you know that some Emperors had up to 3000 concubines and they selected these women when they were between the ages of 13-16.
- The Forbidden City has 9,999 1/2 rooms.
- The Emperor had 27 beds, so no one would know exactly where he was sleeping,
- The brick ground is actually 15 layers deep, all brick, to prevent an enemy from making a tunnel.
- Only the emperor and empress could use the center doorway, and they were always carried up and down the stairs.
On the way out of Forbidden City, just beyond the gate, we were bombarded with beggars, and people trying to sell us tours and souvenirs. It was all I could do to hold on to my belongings and children – I do realize the girls are not little anymore, but this was more frightening than crossing a street in this town – and that is pretty scary. No way my camera was coming out.
All photos on this page © Rhonda Albom 2012
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