Forbidden City (Chinese Imperial Palace)

The Forbidden City in Beijing is the world's largest collection of ancient preserved wooden structures, and for nearly 500 years it was home to Chinese emperor after Chinese emperor, from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty (early 15th century to early 20th century).

My interest in Chinese history is diluted by my ignorance, my unfamiliarity with its various dynasties and emperors. It's easy to walk around something like the Forbidden City and think of China's emperors as a single entity, when of course that's not the case.

If you're intimately familiar with Chinese history, then the Forbidden City would be of more interest to you than it was to me. For me, it started to feel like one huge wooden palace after the next, without much context, even with the audio tour, which was poorly done.

The Forbidden City is located in the center of Beijing, adjacent to Tiananmen, which today I learned is not just a square: Tiananmen, just Tiananmen that is, is a gate also known as the Gate of Heavenly Peace, which leads to the Meridian Gate, the entrance to the Forbidden City.

Meridian Gate, entrance to the Forbidden City; only emperors were allowed to walk on the white stone path leading toward Meridian Gate, the largest gate in the Forbidden City.

Tiananman, Beijing: portrait of Chairman Mao; Chinese soldier.

A rare sight inside the Forbidden City: an area with few tourists.

Northwest corner tower, Forbidden City; the defensive moat is six meters deep and more than 50 meters wide.

Hall of Union and Peace: Kangxi Emperor wrote the words hanging on the board behind and above the throne, and translated to English, it says, Doing nothing. At least he was honest.

Chinese girl in the Forbidden City.

One of the many gates inside the Forbidden City.

These large brass cauldrons were filled with water, to be used only in the event of a fire; in the winter they were heated so the water wouldn't freeze.

This was used to measure grain; measuring devices [and time-keeping devices (e.g. sundial)] were allowed to be used only by emperors, and even then only on behalf of heaven.

Sundial, to be read only by the emperor.

Interior architecture; Forbidden City, Beijing.

The more beasts on the edge of the roof, the more important the palace; with 11 beasts, this is the most important palace in the Forbidden City.

Inside one of the palaces or halls in the Forbidden City.

Palace of Prolonging Happiness; inside the Forbidden City, Beijing; it burned down in 1845.

View of the Forbidden City, as seen from Jingshan Park (Prospect Hill).