After my rather amusing stalker have left, “The Jerry” led us to safety within the gates of the Forbidden City. Named so because no one was allowed to enter or leave this palace without the emperor’ permission, the Forbidden City use to be the imperial home of the Chinese emperor and his household as well as the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government. Today, the Forbidden City is well over 500 years old and with its 980 buildings, 8707 rooms and 720 000 square meters, it is the largest collection of preserved wooden structures in the world. I’m just thankful that I wasn’t a cleaner in this majestic place because its really big and it took us over 3 hours just to walk from the one side to the other. But this huge imperial “city” with its red buildings and golden yellow rooftops is really interesting and gave us some great insight in ancient China. Today we are lucky to browse as we please and could even sneak a peek into the emperors bedroom, but before China became a republic no man was allowed after a certain point and the Forbidden City was strictly reserved for the emperor, his concubines and the hundreds of eunuchs that served as servants. Not that any space was wasted because some emperors had more than a thousand concubines and it was the eunuchs lovely job to carry these ladies to and fro the emperors room (which he was not allowed to share with anybody, not even the empress – partly for safety, party to avoid jealousy under the concubines)! The last emperor was thrown out of the Forbidden city after China became a republic in 1945 and after spending 20 years in jail for war crimes (he joined forces with the Japanese during WW2), he worked as a gardener in one of the University gardens. He died in 1967.
We walked and walked and "oohed" and "aahed", and had a really great time chilling under the big willow trees, feeding the koi in the ponds and listening to all the inside info that Jerry so willingly shared with us but by lunch time we were starving and I could hardly wait for the tea ceremony that awaited us next! (to be continued)