It was a sad feeling to leave Kyoto after staying there for more than a week. Even though we had seen all that we had to see, we loved the pace of the city and the friendly people. Going from Kyoto to Beijing felt like a progression from intimate spaces to large behemoth structures. Beijing was a fast moving city where people were still busy trying to settle in and not get swept away by the currents of economic change.
Ethnically Chinese, I always felt an affinity to China. After all, there is a Chinese saying that 500 years ago, we were all from the same family. However, the spiritual connection with the local people is not as easily found.
We had a day to stay in the city before we set off to the Commune by the Great Wall, where one of my good friends was going to get married! With only a day in the city, of course we had to visit the Forbidden City.
Before we reached the City walls, we passed a long moat. I wonder how many soldiers have stood guard here through the ages and stared at the same waters.
There were long queues and large tour groups gathered in front of the City Gates. The sun seemed to shine just a little hotter here too. The Forbidden City is HUGE. Large squares followed by a key structure and large squares and then key structure and then lots of corridors and chambers.
It must be quite tiring to work in such a huge palace and face these giant red walls all day long. The Emperor did not have an easy job either as he had lots of meetings throughout the day and different structures to discharge different governing and administrative duties. After visiting the concubine chambers, I began to understand why there was so much scheming and suicides throughout history between these ancient walls. Being cooped up in such places can drive one mad!
We were tired after walking for a few hours and headed back for a rest. I felt a little sadness as I had wished for a little more inspiration after visiting such a monumental piece of history.
One little story I learnt was that after the last dynasty was overthrown as recent as a century ago, China’s last Emperor continued to stay in this Palace and as he was still a kid, he would cycle around with his servant friends and he cut down some of the gate beams so that he need not keep getting on and off the bicycle to go across the gate. He is just human and like everyone else after all…