Immediately after leaving Tiananmen Square, our tour group walked into the Forbidden City, so named because it was off-limits to commoners from its establishment in the 15th century until 1925. The site of the Chinese imperial palace, the Forbidden City is essentially at the heart of Beijing, both literally and figuratively. Here are some photos of our few hours inside.
Immediately after walking through Tiananmen gate, we approached a remarkably similar gate, nearly identical to Tiananmen. This is known as the Upright Gate.
Looking back toward Tiananmen gate.
Our group approaches the Meridian Gate, the true entrance to the Forbidden City.
Completely unexpected = a basketball court inside the Forbidden City.
The Meridian Gate, the largest and most southerly gate of the Forbidden City.
I used my wife's red beanie as a marker to tell her apart from all of the other tourists (most of whom were actually domestic Chinese tourists in town post-Chinese New Year and pre-Lantern Festival).
The architecture of the Forbidden City was quite striking from a Western orientation. This is on top of the Meridian Gate, to the left.
Jing gives a talk before we go through the Meridian Gate. The emperor would give decrees from this gate.
The Meridian Gate
There are multiple doors with 81 ornamental knobs on them (9 x 9, which is extremely lucky in Chinese numerology).
We were now inside the Forbidden City itself. This is the Gate of Supreme Harmony, with the Golden River bridges in the foreground.
Golden River bridge
Looking across a Golden River bridge.
The Gate of Supreme Harmony with a harmonious Golden River bridge.
Crowds near the Gate of Supreme Harmony.
The "male" lion, guarding the Gate of Supreme Harmony.
How can you tell it's male?
The male lion guards this orb.
The imperial roof decorations represented the highest possible status in China.
Looking back to the Meridian Gate.
My wife in front of the Gate of Supreme Harmony.
The female lion, on the other side of the entrance to the Gate of Supreme Harmony, is identifiable because it guards its cub.
Side gate, Gate of Supreme Harmony.
My wife near a side gate next to the Gate of Supreme Harmony.
Gate of Supreme Harmony
The Golden River, iced over due to the February temperatures.
The Golden River with the Meridian Gate behind.
Wonderful colors below the roofs, near the Gate of Supreme Harmony.
Zhendu Gate, to the west of the Gate of Supreme Harmony.
My wife walking back to the Gate of Supreme Harmony; note the vastness of the space.
More intricate colors.
Once through the Gate of Supreme Harmony, we were treated with a view of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the largest wooden structure in China and the center of the Forbidden City.
Looking backwards at the Gate of Supreme Harmony.
Jing continues the tour. As good as she is, I'm too captivated by the sights to really let her words sink in (apologies!).
One of the bronze incense burners flanking the Hall of Supreme Harmony.
The crowds were considerable before, but here at the Hall of Supreme Harmony, they became downright pushy and aggressive.
Many were clamoring to get photos or see inside the Hall itself.
The sandalwood throne, where the emperor would sit for ceremonies.
The Chinese tourists were quite numerous.
Looking back to the Gate of Supreme Harmony.
Looking west of the Hall of Supreme Harmony.
Unsure of what hall this is...
Likewise this one...
Hall of Supreme Harmony
The plaza in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony.
Large urn ornamentation.
To the west of the Hall of Supreme Harmony.
The Bai Ta (white pagoda) in nearby Beihai Park, northwest of the Forbidden City.
Looking to the north of the Forbidden City.
This gate was north of the Hall of Supreme Harmony.
Many soldiers were stationed inside the Forbidden City. No funny stuff, no sir...
Crowds rest before moving on.
China's toilets are infamous, so it was hilarious to see the Beijing Tourism Administration tout their "star-rated" Western toilet inside the Forbidden City.
Another cub being guarded by a female lion statue.
This girl's expression is priceless.
Rooftop of Forbidden City.
The ceiling of the Hall of Mental Cultivation.
Inside the Hall of Mental Cultivation. Three emperors died inside this hall.
Hall of Mental Cultivation
The palace continues...
...and so does our tour!
Time to head outside to the Imperial Garden.
Looking up from inside the Imperial Garden.
The ground even had a design to it in the garden.
The garden had unusual rock formations.
These were prominently arranged throughout.
Building in the Imperial Garden.
This might be the Drum Tower in the distance, but I'm unsure.
Finally, it was time to exit the Forbidden City. The complex is far too vast to see in one day, although, sadly, one day was all we had.
The frozen moat surrounding the Forbidden City.
Our group walks to our waiting bus just past the moat and the corner wall turret.
Coming up next = a brief stop at the Olympic Park.