Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Forbidden City Outer Court [紫禁城外朝] - Last Imperial Palace & Current Palace Museum [故宫博物院] @ Beijing, China

There is so much online information about the Forbidden City that i shall spare you the details of regurgitating them on my blog.

Following up on my inaugural visit to Tiananmen, it is time to continue the straight pathway towards Duanmen (端门), the final towering gateway before entering the imperial palace, which is now named as the Palace Museum since the monarchy rule has already been abolished for more than a hundred years. 

Visitors would not miss these marble pillars with carvings of dragons and might wonder if they are purely for ornamental purpose. 

The pillars (topped with a mythical oriental beast) are known as Hua Biao (华表) and were originally used for directions and subsequently as a mean for commoners to paste suggestions/advice for the emperor's attention. 

Trees laden with fruits lined the way to Duanmen. 

Persimmons! My dad would have loved to pluck some of them for tea break but to put it nicely, i am 163cm, i am the tallest in the family and the persimmons were way beyond my reach. 

Wumen (午门) - the Meridian Gate is an imposing structure that takes the position as the largest gate of the Forbidden City. Tiananmen pales in comparison.

Imagine standing in the middle of the square with skilled archers ready to shoot you from the top! That's such a scary thought and definitely not one i would want to encounter.

There was a Chinese saying "推出午门斩了" which means to push out to the Wumen for execution. According to my tour guide, the Wumen in question refers to another gate and not this one. 

Sad to say, i was not given the option of climbing up the gate! That is such an irritating impediment for my adventurous streak! Oh well, tour packages are like that anyway.

Apparently, it was not only my mom who feels that rubbing things would help to improve her lady luck!

One of five golden water bridges towards yet another major gate. As you could see, the dragon markings were relatively corroded which were supposedly a result of heavy pollution in the capital.

Iconic lion that always seems to represent the Forbidden City in tourist maps and guide books. 

Gate of Supreme Harmony (太和門) - the entrance to the traditional administrative seat of the emperor. 

The information counter for The Palace Museum [故宫博物院] is also stationed here. For free and easy travelers, i think you can request for a guide here (likely with a nominal fee). 

Finally, a map to tell me where i was situated and give a rough gauge on how much more we needed to walk! Honestly, i could spend the whole day in the palace! 

Seat of the Emperor in the middle - Hall of Supreme Harmony (太和殿). This is the largest hall within the premises of the Forbidden City and the three-tiered marble stone bases reflect its ceremonial importance in the past.

This contained city might have been brushed aside by many as 'just a place with many old buildings'. They are not wrong although it was really enlightening to hear the history behind it and the interesting references like odd number is good (it symbolises the yang in Taoism), the use of yellow-gold coloured tiles to signify royalty, number 9 is the biggest and 5 signifies the centre; hence the term 九五至尊 for emperor etc.

Those big dark urns were supposed to be bronze incense burners. Guess they were purely decorative to inject some visual 'surprises' to the otherwise sparse surroundings. 

Antiques no doubt - most of the items in the palace have an identification number but shouldn't this kind of labeling be considered as defacing a national treasure?

太和殿 's majestic air could not be ignored as you step nearer. Look at the amount of people scrambling up! It's going to get a lot worse during China's golden week. 

Everyone was rushing to this specific spot after reaching the Hall of Supreme Harmony. Being the curious person i am, i was determined to see what the big fuss was all about.

The emperor's throne! Could not understand what the big hoo ha was as the entire hall was off limit and the most everyone can do was to take pictures. And more pictures. For your information, i had to resort to take this picture on tip toe as there were too many people crowding the area!

A metropolitan like Beijing (it has a population of around 20 million people) should be dotted with loads of skyscrapers and they were conspicuously missing around the forbidden city! 

The lack of any towering structures was due to a government restriction back in 2004. Thank god. 

Note the roof decorations - they were allowed only on official buildings and yellow was reserved only for the emperors. Heading the statues was a man on a phoenix, followed by nine beasts (it must be an odd number) and a guardian and finally ended with a dragon that represented the emperor's authority.

Colourful underside of the roof. Can you spot the CCTV camera? 

Another decoration piece; the laughing tortoise. 

Don't assume this was useless; in the olden times, such vats served the important purpose of being water containers to fight fire in the Forbidden City! This particular one in the picture is one out of eighteen that was inlaid with gold but the gold was scrapped off by the Japanese when the city was invaded in 1937. 

Back of the Hall of Supreme Harmony. Benches are available to rest your feet! Possible only if you are on a free and easy itinerary! 

Gates were everywhere to block your access. I can understand the rationale for installing them although i personally find them as hindrances to fully appreciate the beauty of the imperial palace. 

Hall of Central Harmony (中和殿) - a square-shaped hall mainly used by the emperor as a resting spot.

Yet another throne! Given that many have tried all means to take pictures of the throne in the first hall, there was a much smaller crowd in the Hall of Central Harmony, resulting in a more decent picture of the dragon's seat.

Grass growing on the rooftop! I am not sure if they were planted on purpose as i didn't find any on the rooftops of the other main halls in the Outer Court. 

The last 'harmony' themed hall - Hall of Preserving Harmony (保和殿). The last fight for the top scholar in the imperial examination was held here. 

Yet another throne. Yawnz... I would only be marginally excited if i can sit on any of them! 

Specially constructed steps that would allow better access for visitors. 

And which might be safety hazards during the Golden Week. According to a news article i read today, the second day of the golden week saw a total of 180,000 people visiting the Forbidden City!

I wanted to go to that pavilion on the hill! It would be a great spot to snap a top-down picture of the entire Forbidden City.

Walking down another pathway to the Inner Court which is more famously known as Hou Gong (后宫) where the empress and the emperor's many concubines live. 

Regretted not exploring this side building that seemed as if the vegetation had taken over most of it. I so wanted to back Beijing again! Definitely as a free and easy traveller! 

Passionfruit trees! Since they were way shorter, the museum deemed it necessary to station someone to guard the fruits! As you can see, they were in pots and should be transportable. Why the need to place the trees over there? Anyone has the answers? 

I am only halfway through the Forbidden City! Look out for part two (Inner Court, 后宫) tomorrow! :) 


  1. Hi! It was very interesting to read, and the photos are very beautiful! :) My dream is to see something like this in my life.

  2. Hi Ira,

    Thank you for your comment! You better visit China soon as the place is getting really expensive!

    Have a good weekend!


  3. Thanks for your posts. Very informative and interesting :)

  4. ★★★★★This Travel Story is listed on BEST TRAVEL TALES★★★★★

    Thank you for submitting :)


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