Thursday's Child: Imperial Garden, Forbidden City, Beijing

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Forbidden City, in which the Imperial Garden is located, was built in the early 1400s, and was the home of the emperors from the Ming through the Qing dynasties.  Coincidentally, our guide in Beijing was also named Qing, and she told us the story of the Last Emperor. 

Emperor Pu Yi was not quite three years old when he inherited the title, due to the death of his uncle in 1908. He was forcibly removed from everyone he knew, except his wet nurse.  After spending four years as a child with complete power, he was forced to abdicate in 1912.  The rest of his life is a sad story of attempted assassinations, capture by Soviet troops, war crimes trials, and “educational reform”.

It’s almost impossible to imagine what it was like to live such a life.  But I can imagine his grief at leaving the beautiful Imperial Garden forever.  The emphasis is on harmony and balance, and it was a private retreat for the imperial family.  A pine tree, planted over 400 years ago in front of the Hall of Imperial Peace, is known as the Consort Pine and represents the harmony of the emperor and empress. 

The most depressing part of the history of the Forbidden City is the fact that a Starbucks store opened there in 2000.  This part of the story has a happy ending, though.  Protests in China, resulting in a petition with over half a million signatures, led to it being closed in 2007.  Regardless of how you feel about Starbucks, wouldn't you rather see our World Heritage Sites left untouched?
The girls were dying to climb these rocks.  We later found out that ladies
in the Imperial Court used to climb them to see the world outside.
The Consort Pine



35 comments:

Zoe said...

Wish that I can be at Beijing...

Tasha said...

Fascinating. I didn't know any of this, I must admit.

Everytime I read one of those posts I think what lucky girls you have experienced so much of the world so young. I hope my children are half as fortunate.

Chiara "Kika" Assi said...

Wow. I'm so envious. China is definitely on my list of places to see... when I have the money and the time :)

Barbara Kloss said...

Beautiful photo's and I love the history tidbit. Thanks for sharing!

laxsupermom said...

Beautiful pics! China's on my list of stops for when we can finally afford a Southeast Asia tour vacation...sometime after the kids are through college and our bills are that of empty nesters. How lucky for your girls to be able to experience such history. Thanks for sharing.

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks for sharing those pictures and a bit of the history. How I would love to see this with my own eyes!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Valerie said...

I never fail to learn something new from your amazing posts!
Thank you for the gorgeous photos and that bit of trivia. :-)

comfortablydomestic.com said...

I never knew the story of the Last Emperor. How interesting, and tragic. I do agree about the Starbucks--and I love Starbucks, just in appropriate places.

Bridgett said...

Such interesting history and, I admit, a story I never knew. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Janet Johnson said...

Love this! I love learning about history. And yay for closing Starbucks there! How could anyone even think to try and open one in the Imperial City? Crazy.

LDH said...

Wise to have Starbucks removed and to preserve this beautiful place.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Lovely photos and a wonderful post! I'm so glad they removed the Starbucks!

Belinda said...

One of the most amazing gardens. It's crazy how old these are!!

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

I would love to visit Beijing sometime. What an interesting place. I think I might be heading off to Hong Kong and South China though this year. Bejing can wait!

Beth said...

Lucky you, Brittany! Have a wonderful time!

Jacque said...

I remember the movie "The Last Emporer" being so sad... I'm not sure how it compares to the real story, though. How exciting that you got to visit. Thanks for sharing, the pics are very nice.

tenaciouslyyours.com said...

That little bit about your girls and the rocks v. the palace women was fabulous and ironic all at once. Such a beautiful place.

Joanne said...

I'm enjoying the history you're bringing to us through the world's gardens ...

Heather said...

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing! And, I love my Starbucks, but I don't think that they belong everywhere!!

shaz said...

Who knew the ladies of the Imperial Court indulged in an occasional bout of rock climbing! I love your travel posts Beth :)

Reeni said...

What a beautiful place! He was so young and innocent - what a sad story!

Faith said...

Your pictures are gorgeous Beth! I'd love to visit China one day :)

Have a great weekend.

Michelle Teacress said...

Beautiful. And I'm glad the Starbucks is closed now. Some places should not be touched by commercialism.
Have a lovely weekend. :)

Joanne said...

Opening a starbucks in such a treasured place definitely seems wrong. Thanks for sharing this!

theresalwaysthyme said...

Yes, some things should never be commercialized. Shame on Starbucks or any other for opening in such a place.
Gorgeous pictures!

Claudia said...

What a bittersweet posting of a place of such beauty. Starbucks has enough real estate. Yes, they can leave national treasures alone.

Sue said...

That's sort of like having a Starbucks at the top of Half Dome in Yosemite?!? Hope it never happens!

Katerina said...

China is a country that is in my future plans to visit and Forbidden City is one place I will definitely like to see!

Grapefruit said...

Enjoyed the stroll through the imperial garden. Thank you!

Rita said...

What an intersting post. Love those phtos you shared with us and the fact that Starbuck was removed.
Rita

FOODESSA said...

Having a Starbucks within the forbidden city is as terrible as when I had seen the first McDonalds in Paris and Rome!

Beth, thanks for the mini historical info on a place I hope to get a chance to visit one day ;o)

Have a great weekend,
Claudia

5 Star Foodie said...

Fascinating history, thanks so much for sharing the pictures too!

Monet said...

Hi Beth. I couldn't agree more. There are some places that need to remain untouched by capitalist forces...this is certainly one of them. The history you shared with us was both fascinating and sad. I can't imagine living that kind of life. Thank you for sharing and for the kind words you left on my own blog. I hope you have a restful Sunday full of love and laughter!

Amie Kaufman said...

Gorgeous pictures! I found the Forbidden City incredibly evocative, yet a little sad as well, reflecting on the stories of those who lived there. It's really a place like no other.

jillbert said...

Gorgeous! Another place I'd love to see. I have nothing against Starbucks, but I agree that this isn't the right location for one!

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