Standing in Tiananmen Square before entering the Forbidden City
So serious, so still...
The picture of Mao Zedong that adorns the entrance facing the square is a painting that is replaced annually...it weighs a whopping 4 tons!
The artistic garden area in the square is redone every year with a new design
The three levels of lions guarding the various levels of entrances in the Palace complex signify the rising importance as you get closer to the royal inner sanctums...outside they are made of marble, next bronze and finally gold.
The female lions clutch a baby lion under their paws
Look how playful he is!
The male lions clutch a ball (signifying that they are the ones to play and make important decisions while the females tend to the children)...also notice how this last golden lion, which is located in the Imperial concubines quarters, has his ears down. This sent a message that the imperoror was not to listen closely to the contradicting advice from all of the concubines.
This shows the repainted exterior as it would have been during Imperial times. The Chinese government adorned this area with layers of gold leaf in preparation of the 2008 Olympics.
Royal garden...the rocks were brought from the south by the people in exchange for a year free of taxes
Our guide "Vivian" showing us the pose the concubines would stand in while the Emperor chose his Empress...there were often as many as 3,000 concubines (many of which waited in lonely solitude never to even meet the busy emperor) . The forbidden city was ripe with paranoia as many deaths happened as they poisoned each other as a way to rise the ranks...the emperor would eat with silver chopsticks so that the suspected poison would react with the metal and change the color of the silver before the emperor could take a contaminated morsel