Beijing III: The Forbidden City
Yeah. No kidding.
Hazy central courtyard when you first walk in. The white marble meridian was the emperor's path and the only point upon which his feet touched the ground. Though word on the street is that Marco Polo got to walk it. Note that the largest, most-grandiose structure on the horizon is closed for renovation.
Detail of the giant doors at the gates between courtyards.
The "rank" and class distinction of each building in the city center is rated and displayed using what I call the "little-fanciful-animals-on-the-roof" system. The sequence of mythical creatures is static and only the number of figures indicates rank: the more figures, the higher the rank of that particular address. The only building with nine (the most divine and highest rank) animals is the central temple in the Forbidden City. Most concubines got 3 or 4 on their roofs.
Robert flexing with mom in the imperial garden.
Some more humble corners of the vast imperial palace have yet to see renovation... perhaps retaining some faded charm?
Gold plated vats were used to store rain water for extinguishing fires in the Forbidden City (built of all-wood and lit by oil lamps, the buildings often fell victim to destructive conflagrations). The scraped marks are those famously left by the Allied Forces of the Eight Powers when they occupied Beijing post-Qing dynasty; the "barbarians" of the west proceeded to plunder all the riches of the middle kingdom's capital, including using their bayonets to scratch even the plated gold off these urns. Some bookish types out there suggest that this helps to explain some of China's intransigent attitudes toward outside political involvement today... gee, ya think?