Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

46. Beijing, China - Day 7 -

Forbidden City, Again……. 
Long Lines to Enter the Forbidden City

From my previous visits to Beijing I knew that there is much more to see in the Forbidden City than what we saw a few days ago with our ‘guide’. So I thought this huge Palace deserves another visit. We took the subway to just one block away from the main entrance. And again, like the last time, we had to go through a police barrier with hundreds of people in line to go through a metal detector, a backpack x-ray and a pat down. Everybody who was Chinese had to show their ID card,
Entrance Gate to the Forbidden City
which was electronically scanned and I am sure filed in some computer bank. I had to just show my passport, was patted down and then moved along. The waiting time to go through this barricade was about 15 minutes. Did I tell you I do not like being stuck in huge crowds? To feel bodies in front, rear and each side just makes me cranky. I need space. I don’t like crowds of pushy people. I don’t like to be pushed.

Mao Still Guarding the Entrance

To finally be through this checkpoint was a relief but left me a bit on edge. I noticed that a lot of cigarette lighters were confiscated. I saw a lot of people just throwing them in to a big pile, voluntarily. No clue why, I did not know you were not allowed to carry them. Did you? Anyhow, a new lighter cost only 17 cents U.S. so I guess it was not too expensive to leave one behind. Still it made no sense to me. We were not entering a building; the check point was on the sidewalk in front of the Forbidden City. Chinese logic, I suppose. Before you can enter the Forbidden City there is a maze of barricades. There are police and soldiers everywhere. It seems this is the way daily life is in Beijing. The people just accepted this as ‘normal’.

Main Portal Into the Forbidden City

Carol and I entered the main gate to the Forbidden City, ready to buy a ticket but…. No ticket booth. I could still see the old spots in the floor where turnstiles used to be but now……nothing. Just walk in. We did and so did lots of Chinese. Benches and food trucks greeted us along the wide walk; with the Meridian Line in the middle of it. Remember, the center of the Universe line that only the Emperor was allowed to walk on? Now of course, everybody walks everywhere. Nothing seems to be forbidden within the walls of The City.
The Third Plaza
We Cannot Go Further Due to the Barricades
We entered into a non-descript large plaza with a big building, a hall in front of us. Then walked around this building hall and entered another plaza, again non-descript. There was hardly a difference between the 1st and 2nd plazas. This walk went on to a 3rd plaza and yes, this one was a bit different because we could not go further. A barricade blocked us. We could not go further than that, I tried. Side gates were open so we went left and looked down the alley way to be faced by
Souvenir Shops

shops that sell souvenirs, tour tickets, etc. Carol and I looked at each other and agreed this was not for us, not what we expected inside the Forbidden City. We must be wrong somehow.

Suddenly We Are Outside the Forbidden City
and On a Shopping Street
So we went back to the barricade and now moved to the right. Ah, yes, there is a line of people standing and waiting. Smallish, electric, open buses load passengers for 2 Renminbi (34 cents U.S.) per person and the whole affair is very efficient. The loading continues and we join the crowd. Ok, off we go and after about a 3 minute ride we are dropped off at??  Where are we? There is a guard house and another entrance but this entrance is blocked off, too. Where do we go from here? We stand a bit perplexed. Carol wants to go back to the starting point; I want to follow the crowds. After some debate, we follow the crowd who after a few hundred yards, disperses into the traffic of a road that runs along a shopping street. We are out of the Forbidden City and back into Beijing’s Shopping Streets.
In Line Again to Enter the Forbidden City
I know there is more to see of the Forbidden City but we were not able to logically get there. We walked through the front entrance, but somehow got lost. We followed the crowds and now we are back in the street. Amazing, we are not that stupid, but the results speak for themselves. We got lost in the huge complex of the Forbidden City (FC) and now what do we do? Give up? You don’t know Carol, she never gives up.

Wall Surrounding Another Section of the
Forbidden City
Back to the front of the FC we go, through the Barricade again and now we try the right side entrance, not the main entrance. Naturally a ‘guide’ approaches us but we want to see the FC by ourselves, thank you. So off we trudge through an area with few people. Paved parks, long empty, tarred walks and few old? buildings greet us. There is one castle-like building behind a wall. We enter and find out from the signs that this is the Ancestral Hall. We see photographers taking pictures of wedding parties on the elaborate stairs. 
Wedding Pictures

In a way it would be idyllic within the walls of this Ancestral complex, were it not for the ‘stuff’ stored behind barricades on the side, around the corner from the main view.

The Ancestral Hall

Strange Footwear For a Wedding

Film crews have their commercial shots set up for some scene. There are makeup tables slightly hidden behind trees. A modern “Emperor” and his Concubine jumping in the air to catch a red bow was the scene being shot. It looked stupid, but the film crew took it seriously. We watched a commercial being filmed that used the background of this palace as a typical Chinese background prop. The Wedding photographer, too, eternalized the couple’s memories of their special day right here.
Making a Movie
We must have been in a ‘famous’ place, but it did not feel like it. It rather felt like a commercial story book set, set up for the promotion of the old China, but it did not seem real. I felt like I was in a movie set, not at an ancestral place where the old should be revered. There was no reverence, just commercialism. We left this place.

Strange Action For the Movie
Our own FC excursion was a bust. We spent all afternoon looking for something special within the FC that is no longer there. Too many years have passed; too many people are stomping through the FC to give me an impression of how forbidden it used to be. Stories can be read, dummies can be shown in imperial robes but the true spirit of the FC is no longer alive. It died with the last Emperor. The new Chinese, atheists as they are, use this complex as a business center. The
Comfortable Footwear Makes Sense
Chinese are selling images of their heritage, selling their past, selling anything to make a buck in the Forbidden City. It is a commercial tourist trap. We got trapped in it more than once; once with a guide and now trying to find a sense of imperial splendor ourselves. The Forbidden City is just a shell, a commercial advertising spot. And the entire world buys this.

Look at any page about China and you will see the Forbidden City as the main attraction of Beijing. Well, I did not find it attractive at all. I felt that I was being ‘sold’ a bunch of empty promises. I learned something though; I learned to just find my own images of China, without the advertising promises of the Government of China promoting whatever they think people want to see. China is interesting in many ways, but nothing is as promised by slick photos shown in advertisements
Another Bored Tourist

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