Our morning began at the Forbidden City. Even after much reading about the Forbidden City, I was not prepared for how large it is. Legend has it that there are 9999.5 rooms. Because it is believed heaven has 10,000 rooms, the Forbidden City has ½ less, making it a heaven on earth. Each courtyard and building is like a series of Russian dolls nested inside each other. The buildings are well preserved and vibrant in color. What was most remarkable was the planning that went into every detail. Like Confucius’s stress for order, order is everything in the Forbidden City. All gates have 5 entrances: one for the emperor, two for the highest officials, and two for the lower ranking officials. Once through the entrance tunnels, there are even lines set into the ground with white paving stones to tell the officials were they were allowed to stand. Every detail is done with perfect symmetry, and the most important buildings are set on a north-south axis, while the lesser structures are set to the west and east. It took several hours to make our way from the entrance at Tiananmen Square to the exit at Jingshan Park.
From there we went to the Back Lake district where we toured the historic hutongs (ancient alleyways). Here we got a taste residential life in old Beijing. Traveling through here on a motorized rickshaw allowed us a leisurely view of the mix between beautifully restored courtyard homes and more rustic shelters.
We ended our day at the Lama Temple. It was originally a palace and therefore resembles the architecture of the Forbidden City. We traveled from hall to hall observing the large number of people worshipping the different Buddhas housed in each structure. Under each large Buddha were offerings made by visitors such as incense, peaches, and flowers.
On a side note:
Chris and I are being photographed non-stop! Everywhere we go, people (mostly children) ask if they can have their pictures taken with us. Once one person works up the courage to ask, we end up standing there for rounds and rounds of pictures. Perhaps it’s my reddish hair and freckles, Chris’s beard, or our stunning good looks?