Into the Forbidden Realm of the former Imperial Palace

by - Monday, August 07, 2017

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The walls stand high, glowing in might and towering in height over anyone who stands before it.

Appearing cold and hard in presence, they seem to also send a menacing glare towards anyone approaching, as though in scorn and appalled by the courageous attempt to breach its guard as they stand in defense of the realm which is invisible to the outside world and fiercely protected by its shield.

That realm behind the walls, was indeed once invisible and mysterious to the world out there, well-guarded and concealed from the public eyes who were oblivious yet ever curious about what goes behind the walls.

The resplendence, the glamor, the glory that goes behind those walls were all that fell on the public ears and the rest are left to only one's imagination.

A world that is well-hidden in its own disguise, a world that is beyond anyone's reach except for those who dwell in it, and a world full of secrets; secrets only known to those who are involved.

A world that forbids any other from entering, except to those who belong.
The realm of those who rule behind the curtains of the nation and who sits on the majestic throne along with all those who serve them.

The world of the Forbidden City; which was so secretive, once upon a time.

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This is the Imperial Palace of two reigning Chinese dynasties of Ming and Qing; the last dynasty and it is located right in the heart of Beijing city.

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Its five centuries of age is well-kept from the naked eye with its well-preserved exterior and interior; though many of the structures and buildings underwent restoration in alignment with the government's conservation efforts of this historical complex.

It goes without saying that the former Imperial Palace is a national treasure and is also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

The complex and unique architecture found on the buildings here have gone to influence cultures and design architectures throughout the world, and its coverage of more than 180 acres holding a total of 980 buildings boasts of the world's largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures.

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The magnificent site had served 24 emperors from both the Ming (when it was first constructed) and the Qing dynasties and was the political and cultural pulse of the government and the nation during its existence.

A place that was once forbidden to the public, is today open for visits, courting enthusiastic tourists and locals alike to the world behind the walls through the welcoming gates which are now open and is today one of the most visited sites in the world.
The Palace Museum, located on the grounds of the site is also one of the most visited art museums in the world.

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Forbidden City, Imperial Palace; whichever you call it is a place which is so glorified that it seemed beyond one's reach, not unless you are born of the royal blood or belong to the government.

Its name in Chinese; Zijin Cheng () is translated to mean "Purple Forbidden City" with the purple being related to the royalty part as one of the explanation.

The other reference for the "Zi" refers to the North Star; also known as the Ziwei star in the ancient days in China, and according to the ancient astrology, its surrounding Ziwei Enclosure was considered a heavenly/celestial realm where the Heavenly Emperor and his family resides.
Therefore the name given to the site was said to mirror the heavenly realm; being the earthly version of the Celestial palace.
The Emperor is regarded as the owner of the palace and no one can enter or exit the palace  without his consent, hence the name of Forbidden City.
The ancient Chinese emperor is regarded of such high authority in resemblance to the Celestial Emperor; except that he rules on earth, that he is the master of his subjects and no one can disobey or leave his palace without his knowledge. 
The name only came to exist in 1576 and it has stuck since.

Today, Forbidden City or Imperial Palace is still widely used to refer to its ancient site, though locally, it is more common to refer to the complex as "Gugong"(), former Imperial Palace.

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I think we have all gotten that glimpse; or rather the impressions of the world within the enclosure of the Forbidden City, mostly through the television dramas and movies we have all watched and grown up with.

The entire place seems familiar as sights of the thatched roofs, arched columns, carvings and calligraphies fell upon the eyes though we have never been there.
Everything looks so vivid and it felt like we have just walked into the filming set, or even back to the Ming/Qing Dynasty days.

Apart from television dramas and movies, I have even read about this place which had caught my fancy for as long as I remember, for its historical value and the rich cultural influences borne by the heritage site.

As I walked on the grounds of the former Imperial Palace, I was filled with complex emotions and vivid images stemming from the information I had beforehand and also conjured from some of my own imagination.

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Perhaps you may think I was led by the characters from dramas, but no, more than that.

I thought of the people who lived here; from the masters of the palace, to those who served in the quarters and their daily lifestyle, or rather, their modes of survival.

Everyone has a story; and if you had understood the culture and history back then, you would know the different types of people; the hierarchical levels, along with the many reasons and purposes for each and every single one of them who had dwelled within these forbidding walls, or even those who entered through the gates daily, for official matters.

Events of joy and merriment had taken place in the various halls, secretive whispers passed through the halls and walls of the chambers, the frustration and the rage of those who waited or oppressed, and the misery and silent cries that went unheard.

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Every little sound and image was just so real yet, at the same time, surreal when I tried to picture them.

Many happy moments flew by, along with the muffled cries or the wailings of those who were tormented and distressed flew past the walls and remain within the buildings.

We would never truly know everything that happened, other than what was stated in the official records, but there were much information just as much as there were left to one's imagination.

It is truly a place of splendor, and of magnificence; and there is no end to one's exploring on feet, even at the end of the day, so don't think you can walk around and cover the entire palace grounds in a day.

It is after all, the place where the Emperor lived and to say that it is huge, is still an understatement.

It is a city; and that itself is reason enough to tell of its vast area.

Explore and be in awe of the impressive architecture and structures which still stand out in pride and glory, seemingly lifeless but had borne witness to the many happenings which took place here.

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Do not forget those who had once lived here.

They may no longer be here today, but their lives were lived here and they all had stories and tales of their own which we may never know but they ought not be forgotten, for they were living people, just like you and me, in flesh and blood.

This was once their world; their sanctuary from the day they entered or was born till their very last breath, and the stone, statues, pillars, halls, chambers, and walls have seen their lives passing by.

They have lived and perished here; some known in history and some unknown, but yet, they should never be forgotten.

Though once the Forbidden City and now the gates are open to everyone, the stories who once dwelled here will always remain, and their real secrets will stay hushed, hidden and well-kept, for eternity, behind the great and formidable walls; its mighty presence unyielding to the curious minds.

Their secrets are safe and forbidden; well-sealed within the walls of the Imperial Palace; once beyond one's reach, in the Forbidden City of China.
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*Author's Note: 
This is not a sponsored/promotional post, and solely based on author's personal opinions and do not represent the general public. 
Experiences vary from one individual to another.
You do not have to agree with me.

Art Direction and Photography Styling by Me.
Photos/Videos all belong to me and are copyrighted.
Please kindly ask for permission if you need to use any of my images.




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