Sunday, November 23, 2014

Day Two: Tienanmen Square, Forbidden City

After a really weird night's sleep (I woke up for a couple of hours every couple of hours. I wrote a to-do list, and did PiYo, and watched Brandon really close until he opened his eyes) we got up early, got dressed, and went to breakfast at the hotel. I wish I'd taken a picture. They had two kinds of congee (rice porridge), white and black, and lots of toppings. Pickled and salted and cured things to put on top to flavor the porridge. So I had some of that, because I've been studying congee a little bit and even made some a few weeks ago in case XinQin likes that. I really like it and it makes a good breakfast. I also had a little bit of french toast, a sausage, A little fried dough thing, a turnip and pork dumpling, and some fruit. They had lychee, which I already loved, and dragonfruit salad mixed with cantaloupe and watermelon. Very colorful, very fresh. The fried dough thing was kind of flavorless and I didn't finish it. I don't know why I'm telling you that.
I finished my congee before I remembered to take a picture.
 After breakfast we met our other GWCA families. I wish we could spend the whole trip with each other because we all just really got along well. Lorraine, Matt, and Matt's mom, Margaret all from Florida. Tiffany and Mark from Texas. And us! We have the continental US covered. Roughly. After our time in Beijing we will all split up to our kids' provinces, and then meet back up in Guangzhou the last week. I'm really glad we didn't have to say goodbye after Beijing.
We loaded our own little bus and Emma taught us about Beijing, modern and ancient, all the way to Tienanmen Square. I love her. I like her point of view on things and she knows tons of stuff. Very good sense of humor, very down-to-earth, respectful of her history but can also laugh at some of the stranger things. She was great.
I think I'll just post pictures and include captions. This was an AMAZING DAY. One of my favorite days of travel in my lifetime. I'll show you the first half in this post.

From the bus. Weeee. Traffic in Beijing was a little crazy. Brandon and I agreed it was similar to Mexico driving, except more graceful. The cars glided around each other within inches, like leaves on water. Just as noisy, though. HONK.

This is Emma. Isn't she sweet?

First Gate building to Forbidden City. There were a few more of these in the city, but they were torn down to make things more modern. AAK!

Arrow building and Gate building make up first gate to forbidden City. The city wall used to be here. It has also been torn down.

Tienanmen Square.

I don't know this woman, but the strip of pavement she's standing on is called the Dragon Line. The first gates to Forbidden City, this monument, and the remaining gates and front entrances all line up on this "line" all the way to Forbidden City Emperial Throne. Buildings must be of extreme importance to be built along or near this line.

Here we're standing on the Dragon Line stretching opposite the monument in the above picture. It was pretty chilly that morning, but the sun was shining. Gorgeous day for sight-seeing!

A lot of tourists from all over China. I heard French and German, too.

Dragon pillars and lions at entrance to 3rd gate. There are 5 tunnels through each gate. Only the Emperor could use the main center tunnel. 

9 is a lucky number in China. All of the doors of Forbidden City are crafted with these 9x9 rows of knobs.

Looking back through the main center tunnel, you can see the Tienanmen monument and the Chairman Mao memorial building (important enough to be built on the Dragon Line).

Looking forward you see another gate to Forbidden City. This huge complex (only 1/3 of Forbidden City is restored and open to public) was very fortified. All these gates had walls, and some had moats. The smooth, high bases are rock, and the buildings on top are wood.

Beyond this gate was a village-type square. Here they sold tickets to get into the rest of Forbidden City.

Through another gate to the Emperial ceremonial square gathering place thing.
That's not the official name.
This is the gate leading to the personal living spaces of the imperial family. Nobody was allowed back here up until the 1920's. Which is why it's called Forbidden City.

A bow shaped moat slices through this courtyard. The stone is quartz. This waterway intersects with the Dragon Line, which leads directly to the Emperial throne here. So the dragon line becomes as an arrow, with the water feature as the bow. Also, with feng shui, a water feature and stone feature are needed to represent rivers and mountains, so these are a necessary part of the design.

It was kind of thrilling to even touch this stuff. Hand-carved quartz 600 years old.

These dragons are at each corner and throughout Forbidden City. They function as downspouts for the rain.

The sun was hitting these pavers so beautifully. It's said there are 15 layers of these bricks laid criss-cross over each other, so tunneling into the city would be impossible. Also, after so many years, running across this courtyard would result in some very serious ankle damage.

Restored paint on the underside of the buildings. 
The final gate to the palace, which is straight ahead, still centered on the Dragon Line.

My neck got sore from looking up. Just gorgeous.

The number of animals on the corners signify the importance of the buildings. 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. Also, the number of  eaves or levels showed the importance.

The palace itself is the only building with 2 eaves and 9 animals. Of course.

This building to the left of the palace square housed all the Imperial wealth.

The building on the right of the palace housed all of the imperial stamps, or chops. Very important, those.

Emma took us around the outside of the palace, which isn't open to the public, and we explored the Forbidden City.

If I'd lived here I would have been lost all of the time and the imperial family would have been rolling their eyes at me all of the time.

Entering one of the concubines squares. They each had a square of their own with family dwellings.

Emma brought us to her favorite part, the Imperial Gardens. Absolutely stunning. I would have loved to see it in spring or early summer.

Everybody needs a dragon who protects against fire.

Some of the trees are 100-200+ years old. If I was that old, I would need a little bracing, too.

And we're done! 600 years of architecture still standing in this condition. Absolutely incredible.

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