After our abortive attempt at visiting the Forbidden City on New Years Eve, we gave it another go the next day. The opening hours worked in well with our hangovers so we donned our sunglasses and braved the crowds.
The Forbidden City (aka the Imperial Palace, the Palace Museum or Gugong) served as home for the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties from 1420 until 1912. The Palace Grounds cover 72 hectares but I might start switching my measurements because 178 acres sounds heaps bigger! The Palace has a 26 foot fence around the outside and a moat, which was frozen solid and covered in corn cobs and trash. The City has a tumultuous history, but I find the eunuchs the most interesting.
At the end of the Ming dynasty there were around 70,000 eunuchs employed by the emperor, with a few thousand serving in the Palace. Up to half of the men who were castrated died from blood loss before they could serve, and their severed organs were preserved so the men could be buried 'whole.' And I hope you weren't reading this over lunch.
There weren't any obvious eunuchs when we visited but there were plenty of tourists. Amongst these tourists were adorable babies, and after a while we realised we could see naked baby butts everywhere. It seems that toilet training is a little different in China. Instead of disposable nappies, toddlers have pants with a split in the crotch, so they can (and will) squat and relieve themselves anywhere. Here's the google image search you're about to make: clickety-click. I tried to explain this to my co-teacher when I got back to Korea, which was one of the most interesting conversations I've had in the last 6 months.
Okay, enough rambling! Here are some pictures.
|The City at night, with the iconic image of Chairman Mao.|
|Inside the city. Tourist central!|
|The Accumulated Beauty Hill, which I didn't learn the name of until today.|
|This sign makes more sense now. Only a little more.|
|Two cats warming themselves on a manhole.|
|Aww yeah, fruit kebabs. Wish they had them in Korea!|
The Forbidden City really is worth a visit, it's absolutely fascinating and the painting and carving on display are exquisite. Also: baby butts and eunuchs.