on March 8, 2006
There is clearly no point writing about the Forbidden City without quickly making it explicitly clear that the place is stunning. The first taste of this comes without even getting remotely close to the gates. I remember being struck as I wandered through Tiananmen Square and saw the vast paved area stretch away to the red facade of the city. Then as I got closer I was simultaneously impressed, awe-struck, and amused by nthe giant portrait of Mao that hangs above the entrance; the size and position gave it a dominating effect, but I could not help but chuckle at the large mole on his chin. For a man with such power, it seemed strange to me that he didn't get the artsiot to gloss over the little blemish.Once inside, the delicately poised architecture of the wooden buildings are genuinely captivating, especially as recent rennovations have seen everything repainted, giving the colors a whole new edge. The downside of that though was that when I visited, large areas of the complex were out of bounds.I have to say that my favorite area of the whole place is the Imperial gardens at the far north end of the city—the final thing on any standard tour. They are filled with small pagodas nestled amongst large, imposing, and decidedly antiquated looking trees. Despite the beauty of the gardens though, I am unsure whether I enjoyed them because of their relaxing green atmosphere or for the fact that they represented something of a change. This may sound like the observation of a Philistine, but if I am honest after half an hour or so in the Forbidden City, all of the buildings began to blend into one. As stunning as it is, it seems to me that ancienty Chinese architecture is distinctly samey.I left the Forbidden City feeling culturaly stunted, asking myself how I could have got bored at such a beautiful place. However, after visiting the Temple of Heaven the next day and the Summer Palace later in the week, I began to see I may have been onto something. Then again maybe I should learn to apprecaite culture a bit more.
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