The Forbidden City


Beijing's Forbidden City is at its heart both geographically and figuratively. The original purpose of the Forbidden City was to house the emperors. The southern section of the city was where the emperor held court. The northern end was the private, family quarters.


Nowadays, Mao's portrait adorns the gate to the Forbidden City at the north end of Tiananmen Square, as a reminder of the father of the modern China state. The emperor may be gone from China, but from the portrait, it would be hard to tell all-encompassing power has moved on.


The dominant color of the buildings inside the Forbidden City is yellow, specifically the roofs, since that was the color of the emperors. Most of the buildings roofs and decorations are yellow. The one exception is the royal library, which has a black roof. At the time of construction, it was believed black represented water, which could extinguish fire, and keep the books safe. This, of course, is quite ironic since the man whose portrait adorns the walls of the Forbidden City ordered the burning of thousands of books during his rule.


Inquisitive tourists could spend days wandering the buildings inside the Forbidden City. Tours can help clarify and provide insight into many of the buildings and statues, though one could just as easily wander around the city and be awed just the same.