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    Forbidden Delights in Beijing

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Good day friends!

    I hope you all had a marvelous Fourth of July. It was just another day for those in Japan, but our hearts were sad as we said goodbye to our family. After two plus weeks together it's been difficult to imagine not seeing them every day!

    Thankfully we captured many memories and pictures from our time in China and Hong Kong. If you'll give me a moment more, I'll get to day one in Beijing.

    I've been asked many times if we're glad that we chose to live in Japan. And you know what? We truly are. Not only for the opportunities that it's afforded us, but the experiences our family has lived through and observing first hand what it means to immerse yourself in another culture. We are doing things most people never will, and it's something we don't for granted.

    We've been blessed and think it's important for our children to understand this. Taking an "Around Asia" trip was monumental, not only for the locations chosen, but because it's a part of their heritage as well. Maybe some of you are aware (or not) that Husband is Chinese. Taking them to a place where their Great-Grandparents and other ancestors lived was something I considered vital in knowing who they are and where they come from.

    For while they're certainly as American as their Father and myself, they're also part of a culture that spans tens of thousands of years.

    Let's touch on one such ancient spot that's centuries old:

    The Forbidden City

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    After a very long evening of travelling and a little sleep, we were up bright and early for a walk of this grand palace. Led by our wonderful tour guide, Jamie, we were escorted through the winding courtyards, kitchen and sleeping quarters. Jamie was a font of information and wonderful stories we wouldn't have known on our own, and this made him, in our opinion, part of what made our trip so delightful.

    But before we could walk through the final Imperial Palace China would ever have, we had to take the requisite family pictures.

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    Once we were done, Jamie loaded up our little guy (who was in high Stranger Danger mode) and strolled off.

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    As we began our tour with thousands of others, Jamie began telling the familiar story about the final Emperor of China, Puyi*. From the Ming Dynasty to the Qing, the Forbidden City was the home to the Emperor of China, his household, and was the political and ceremonial center for the Chinese government. Jamie elaborated that this city certainly wasn't the first of its kind. As a new Dynasty would rise, the former, and its city, would fall. Sometimes violently. Such was the case as China entered and evolved into a Communist Republic during Puyi's life. Thankfully the City was not destroyed, and people can visit, walking along the stones that thousands had centuries before.

    At the beginning of the tour, we walked through the Imperial Garden which housed a small temple. As the Emperor was expected to take three pilgrimages to the major temples every year, he had smaller ones built within the Palace walls for family. Some represented the seasons, others the elements.

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    This was probably my favorite part of the Palace~not only for the shade it provided, but for the natural elements that seemed to be in abundance. Heavily knotted trees that were hundreds of years old, paths that were designed with individual rocks and pebbles, archways made of stones weathered by the ocean...each was more wonderful than the next.

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    Also a favorite part of the Garden? The many different types of architectural details and the colors that helped to make the City so rich and beautiful.

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    We followed Jamie through the raised doorways, up and down steps, and carefully made our way across narrow and raised pathways through the main living quarters in the Forbidden City.

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    Through it all, we learned interesting facts. For one, the thresholds at each entryway was raised as the Chinese believed it would prevent evil spirits from entering.

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    Yellow was considered the Emperor's color and as such, there were many lacquered decorations and rooftops around the City in this color.

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    Only the Emperor was allowed to wear yellow, and those who dared break this rule faced dire consequences. Pointing to a fellow visitor wearing a bright yellow shirt, Jamie said with a grin, "See that guy? His head would be cut off for such an offense." Ouch!

    It was fascinating to learn that nothing was without meaning. Everything within the walls of the Forbidden City was done with purpose and intent. For example, behind the Phoenix atop every roof there rested a dragon. But they were not merely for decoration. It represented the station of the building or the persons dwelling within.

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    The more dragons present, the more important the status of the building and its inhabitants.

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    This particular building had nine dragons behind the Phoenix, meaning it held great importance within the city. In actuality, it was the sleeping quarters for the Emperors and called the Palace of Heavenly Purity.

    It's perhaps interesting to note that the Emperor himself was represented by the Dragon, as it was mythical and strong with limitless power of mysterious origin.

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    This dragon happened to keep its watch at the living quarters of the Emperor's most favored concubine. What does one have to do be thought of as the most favored? Have a child! From what I understand, there were quite a few, thus the necessity for many sleeping quarters, and as you might expect with such a large family, frequent squabbles to curry the Emperor's favor.

    Thankfully the only favor we had to worry about was Jamie's, and he was very attentive to the needs of our children as well as our own. This was a great thing as the heat quickly set in that morning. Can you tell by looking at the children?

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    After viewing the Palace of Heavenly Purity, we walked across the time-trodden grounds and saw many of the other Palaces within the City.

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    Of course, the most grand was the Hall of Supreme Harmony, where the Emperor exercised his power and political influence.

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    It was a truly awesome sight, and so was this!

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    After a young girl asked for a picture with Eldest, Jamie explained that it's a big deal for the Chinese to take pictures with foreigners. They're almost celebrity in their eyes and when sharing pictures after a trip, always make a point to talk about the foreigners they met and what countries they were from. Eldest was a little taken aback by the random request, but she went along with it.

    Afterwards, we made our way through the Gate of Supreme Harmony and towards the exit of the Forbidden City, the Meridian Gate.

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    The wee one had to be dragged in his stroller as the ground, ancient as it was, was terribly uneven and broken.

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    He loved it! It was a mini-roller coaster to him, and as much as the heat was rising, it was time for us to make our way to our next destination: Tiananmin Square and our lunch.

    But would we make it?

    There were tired children,

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    a babe was sleeping.

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    Were we up to this challenge?

    Come back to find out in tomorrow's much briefer, but deliciously fascinating look into our first day in Beijing.

    Thank you for stopping by!

    *Feel free to read/rent "The Last Emperor" if you want a more detailed account of the end of the Qing Dynasty and Puyi's life. In Jamie's opinion it's pretty accurate and filmmakers were actually allowed to shoot several scenes within the City.

    6 Responses to “
    Forbidden Delights in Beijing

    Katie@Yoga Gal said...

    Wow, beautiful pictures! And your little girl is as tall as you! We live in a neighborhood with a large number of Asian families. In fact, on either side of us are Chinese families, and Cooper's best friend is Chinese/Vietnamese. After growing up in small town TN where most everyone looked the same, I really like the multi-cultural aspect of our neighborhood. Happy Independence Day! :D

    Ruth said...

    Beautiful pictures! I love learning more about the ancient city. Your pictures are prettier than the ones I have seen in books.

    Katherine said...

    Great pictures! After reading this: "After a young girl asked for a picture with Eldest, Jamie explained that it's a big deal for the Chinese to take pictures with foreigners. They're almost celebrity in their eyes and when sharing pictures after a trip, always make a point to talk about the foreigners they met and what countries they were from. Eldest was a little taken aback by the random request, but she went along with it." I now know why my grandparents had pictures with Chinese people from one of their many trips abroad. It makes sense now!

    Suburban Princess said...

    Yay! You are back!!! Looks like an amazing trip so far!

    Ally Garner said...

    I just can't get over how grand (and i don't mean just in size) the palace is. The architecture, but especially the detail is magnificent. I love all of the goldenrod yellow and the pic of the dragon is an amazing shot. But my fave pics are the family images. Eldest is one beautiful, graceful young lady!

    I'm so glad y'all had such a fantastic time with all of your family. What special memories to treasure!

    Kerri said...

    Simply amazing! How wonderful to share in true family heritage and history!