"The echoing halls of fading dynasties...Part 1" Top 5 Page for this destination Forbidden City - The Palace Museum Tip by mke1963

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by mke1963
 
 

Looming large around you, the walls of the Meridian gate seem to represent Chinese authority: stark, blank, smooth, monolithic slabs. They are disturbinglt attractive in their flawless immensity, carving three sides of a wide, cobbled square. The southern side remains open, the end of the monumental walkway from its more famous sister gateway - Tian'anmen. The northern wall is pierced only by three tunnels, like tiny mouse-holes in a vast red skirtingboard. Through these damp tunnels, you enter the spectacular, echoing yards and halls of the Imperial Palace - the Forbidden City.
Standing in the inner quadrangle, the power of the Chinese imperial civilisation is palpable, and causes a shiver. The walls around you create a sense of human frailty, of inconsequence and mortality. This is, of course, the whole point: no-one except the emperor, with the mandate of heaven, was ever supposed to feel comfortable here. Worldwide, through history, the power of monarchs, dictators and regimes has been best promoted through vast areas of stone and marble.
Within the gates, beyond these tunnels, the fragility, and human scale increases, as the sense of fear decreases, the further back you go. The more you wander into the personal space of the emperors, into the private areas, the scale reduces until it feels human again. Beyond that Meridian Gate, the power was exercised at a human level, and the emperor was seen only by the vetted few: ministers, guards, officials, eunuchs and concubines. All depended upon the emperor for their lifestyles, their livelihoods and ultimately their lives, so it would be a brave person who challenged the authority inside those walls. To the many outside the palace, the power was the walls.

Address: North of Tiananmen Square
Directions: Ming and Qing directions: At the centre of the universe
Chinese directions: at the centre of China
Tourist directions: north of Tianan'men

Phone: 010-85007422, 85007421
Website: http://www.dpm.org.cn/

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jan 18, 2004
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