In the Spring of 1991, my childhood friend, Cheryl met me in Hong Kong, where she spent the last of my three week business trip with me, and from there, we began our China adventure to the cities of Shanghai, Beijing and the ancient capital, Xian. I kept a very detailed journal from start to finish of my awesome journey, nearly twenty-five years ago, and decided this would make a great travel series for Travelin' Cousins. Over the course of the next two months, I will post chronological segments of my journal on my respective Throwback Thursdays. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed re-living my trip! - Elisa
P.S.: We do not wish to offend anyone, but political correctness was not our thing as early twenty-somethings, so be warned.
Absolutely amazing that today we were actually on time!! Our fellow tour mates have been getting more and more annoyed with Cheryl and I as we are consistently late, but today, we showed up on-time in spite of Cheryl blowing a fuse when she turned on the hair dryer. Oops!
Once at breakfast, we decided to eat as much as possible since the lunch was usually terrible. We noticed that there was a very commanding black man, dressed in a traditional long, silk gown that we has seen while having high tea at the Peninsula Hotel, in Hong Kong. Cheryl and I thought he looked like an African prince. We saw him again at the airport when we were leaving for Shanghai and again when we landed. As we were eating this morning, I looked up, only to see him again and asked Cheryl if that was the same man from the Peninsula, and Shanghai. We have endeared him as "Akeem from Zmunda" (from the Eddie Murphy movie, Coming to America.) We haven't said hi to him yet, but promised that we would if we see him again.
Before we left the hotel, we sent 21 postcards between the two of us for 33.60 Yuan. Today was a very exciting day as we were going to the Forbidden City - the palace of the former Emperors of China. You may remember this historic place was featured in the motion picture, The Last Emperor, the story of Pu Yi.
Other notable points of interest we passed included the Great Hall of the City, which is the Congress Building; and Tiananmen Square, and the huge portrait of Mao Zhao Dong at this site. Many are familiar with this location from the Spring of 1989 where one of the biggest protests ever to takeplace in China occurred. For six weeks, night after night, thousands upon thousands of students and residents poured into Beijing's Tiananmen Square to demonstrate for democracy. Sadly, it all came to a violent end on June 4, when troops and tanks violently ended the protest for good, killing many. We will be visiting here tomorrow.
| || |
Now, I thought I would interject a few points about our bus ride. It is very bouncy and we must take special care to bind any moveable body parts. In addition it hurts our butts and causes headaches. The worst are the speed bumps! The driver goes slow over them with the front tires and then floors it for the back ones.
Finally, we arrived at the Forbidden City which was very overwhelming because of the sheer size and detail. Both Cheryl and I were in awe as we walked through, remembering the various locations featured in The Last Emperor.
Upon entering the Forbidden City, there were three gates that one could enter. The middle one was only for the Emperor and the Empress to enter but once on the occasion of their wedding day.
Once through the gates, there is an expansive courtyard area that leads up to the Meridian Gate where officials and guards assembled every morning to await the emperor's appearance. There were no trees allowed here since there could be nothing taller than the Emperor. Buildings did not count since they were not natural.
We walked through the Meridian gate and passed Tai Hi Dian - the Hall of Supreme Harmony, where coronation ceremonies and important meetings were held. Bao Hi Dian - the Hall of Preserving Harmony followed and is the site where foreign ambassadors were entertained and where the final imperial examinations were administered and lastly, a smaller hall between them, the Hall of Supreme Harmony, is where the Emperor prepared for important ceremonies.
The Hall of Supreme Harmony is featured in the movie scene where Pu-Yi is getting coronated at the beginning of the movie.
We later found out from Harry, our tour guide, that when they filmed the movie, the officials who were authorizing the filming allowed the last scene to be filmed on the real furniture. This was not allowed as these are considered antiques, but they did it anyway.
The Manchus added several extensions after they came to power in the Qing Dynasty. Over the past 500 years, 24 emperors from two dynasties have ruled from this complex. It is 720,000 square meters in area and has 800 buildings and 9000 rooms arranged in buildings and courtyards - symmetrically on either side of a north-south axis and faces south which is tradition. It's called the Forbidden City since no commoner could enter the Imperial Palace.
Inside, we took lots of pictures, however, the lighting was not very good and photography was not permitted in many of the rooms and entry was not allowed in others. So, photos were really only allowed from the outside.
There are two big warehouses that were used to store all the imperial treasures. However, anything left in these were taken by Chang Kai Shek and are in a museum in Taiwan.
Through the years, these warehouses were often et fire to by the eunuchs whenever the emperors wanted to do an inventory as they often stole from these treasure troves. We couldn't possibly see everything, but did see the private chambers of the Emperor and the Hall of Clocks. This is a collection of clocks from France, England and China that were in the Palace. It was difficult to take pictures since they were all behind glass, excel for a few huge ones.
I forgot my hat on the bus and was quite hot. Cheryl kept saying, "I didn't know it was going to be this hot" which is a quote from the movie, Biloxi Blues, that always makes us laugh. I bought the autobiography of Pu Yi (The Last Emperor) and both Cheryl and I purchased postcards. "Mama Keifer" got on our nerves because at 11am Harry told us to go to the Hall of Clocks and meet him back at the refreshment/gift shop area. He said we could get a soda and even sit. She asked him when we were going to eat lunch and that if she would be hungry if she had something now. Me and Cheryl looked at each other and said "how in the heck is Harry supposed to know if you will be hungry?"
We left the Forbidden City at 11:40 quite overwhelmed and taken with the monstrous complex we had just visited! Back on the bus and onward to our next sites...The Beijing Zoo & Summer Palace.
Check back in 2 weeks for Part 8!