Forbidden City? F that. We’re VIPs. We’ll make it past the velvet rope no matter who the bouncer is.
We went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City today. The scale of these attractions is spelled out in guidebooks and whatnot, but I still didn’t expect them to be as enormous as they were. The Forbidden City seemed to go on forever. I’m unused to seeing buildings and spaces of this sheer size outside of Las Vegas. Also, my feet hurt.
Michelle and a couple of random people in front of some cool statuary.
We didn’t actually go into Mao’s mausoleum–dead bodies have never really interested me, no matter who they were when they were alive–but the revolutionary statuary flanking the mausoleum almost inspired me to convert to socialism. Pretty inspiring stuff.
Yeah, it’s OK, I guess.
Here’s the Monument to the People’s Heroes. I didn’t really mean to look like I was too cool for school in this picture. Sorry about that, People’s Heroes. Michelle tells me one used to be able to go up to it and get a real close look, but now the structure’s barricaded off at the bottom of the steps.
We headed over to the Forbidden City next, which is accessible through Tiananmen Gate. Mao’s picture is gigantic, and it was interesting to see in the gate’s historical exhibit how the portrait was changed over the years to reflect Mao’s age. Entering the gate itself (versus just going through and into the Forbidden City) was a separate ticket, but I was glad we did it. In addition to the exhibit, one gets a great view of Tiananmen Square across the street.
With a minimum of negotiating, the swell hat was four bucks from a street vendor.
Tourists at the Gate
The Wu Gate was the most outstanding building in the Forbidden City. It’s way back there in this picture. Beyond the gate are more gates, more halls, and… I have to say, it got to the point where I was kind of rolling my eyes at each new structure we got to, because how many fricking gates and halls does this Emperor dude need to do his thing? He largely governs from one gate, he meets up with his advisors and visiting dignitaries at another, he picks his concubines and presumably gets busy with them in this hall and when that isn’t happening he houses them in another hall. Then we’ve got the Hall of Middle Harmony, which best I could tell seemed to be the place he occasionally hung out at and blew the foam off a cold one or two when he got tired in the middle of the long walk between the working gate and the hall he lived in.
Again, I don’t mean to sound like an agrarian reformer, but it sure got to seeming like an awful lot of building stuff just to build stuff.
There were cannons, though. Weaponry is always cool.
A different cannon display elsewhere in the Forbidden City had wads of red silk in the barrels of some of the larger-bore weapons. It took me a minute to figure it out, but I bet that was to keep people from throwing their trash down the barrels.
Towards the back of the Forbidden City was something I really enjoyed. Artisans brought in various interesting rocks and boulders to build a 10 meter high artificial mountain, cut a path up it, dug a cave through it, and then dropped a little pagoda on top. It was every six year old boy’s fort idea writ large. You’ll get an idea of it’s general composition from the background of this image. Admittedly, it had much more interesting nooks and crannies than any natural hill or mountain I’ve seen.
Millions and millions served
We finished the day at the Quianmen Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant, which is the most famous and long-lived Peking duck joint in Beijing. I really like Peking duck, and the duck here was quite good. Michelle thinks the sauce is what really separates a great Peking duck from the pack, and upon reflection I think she’s right. Quianmen Quanjude makes a very good Peking duck sauce.
The menu was pretty funny here. I’ve gotten used to the Beijing resturant menus, which are like picture books–they’re about thirty pages due to the fairly large pictures of each dish they have–which makes sense, I suppose, considering the tourists who know nothing about Chinese food. Quianmen Quanjude used some of the extra space next to the dish’s photo and below its name to spell out a range of improbable health benefits for the dish, with stuff like “Soybeans are thought to aid mental development of youths and increase effectiveness of night vision for everyone”.
The digital numbers reflect the number of ducks served since the resturant opened. We got a certificate with our duck’s number on it during our meal, which was a cute touch.
“I ate what?”
Finally, this is afterwards outside the restaurant, with the mascot. I don’t know how to explain the expression. It’s like someone just told me that duck #115,085,211 was this dude’s brother.