The North Star Project, Summer Report Number Fourteen, Tianjin, China — The Forbidden City, Open to the Public
By Erin Monroe Update 5: The Forbidden City, Open to the Public
A few weeks ago, I took a weekend trip to Beijing. It seems crazy to call it a “weekend trip” as if it were no big deal to go to one of the largest cities in the world, but since Tianjin and Beijing are so close the trip north was fast, convenient, and cheap. One of the highlights of my weekend was when I went to the Forbidden City. It’s the iconic image of Beijing with Mao Zedong’s portrait on the front gate. For centuries the Forbidden City housed emperors and their household and it was therefore “forbidden” for the public to enter. It’s in the very center of Beijing and serves as the political symbol of the city. Besides being a national icon, the Forbidden City is a museum loaded with history and nostalgia of times past.
When you enter the front gate, under the portrait of Mao Zedong, you go through security similar to an airport’s, and then you enter into a courtyard surrounded by colossal buildings. The roofs are all curved upward and the intricately detailed animals and trees are carved into stone and wood. After passing through another gate, tourists have to buy a ticket to go farther. It’s definitely worth the price (60 Yuan, roughly $10) and only gets most fascinating the further you go. With each tall rounded doorway you go through, you enter into a new courtyard, with buildings of similar structure surrounding you. They all have different names and specific purposes, such as the “Palace of Earthly Tranquility” and the “Hall of Union”.
I should make a very important point–it’s humongous. No exaggeration, it’s truly enormous. For the most part, as you walk through, you are essentially going in a straight line from courtyard to courtyard with buildings surrounding you on all sides. However, as you look in the distance, you can see the tops of buildings of similar structure peeking through the smog—buildings that aren’t open to the public. I went on a Saturday and it was crowded with tourists. Nevertheless, I like to imagine what it was like hundreds of years ago when it served as the emperor’s palace. Take away all the people and imagine emperors, guards, and empresses with elegant clothes walking on the bricks, their footsteps the only thing that can be heard. It’s was once a private place, secluded from the general public and it’s difficult to imagine how the emperor felt knowing that all his surroundings belonged to him. There’s so much honor and importance held in this space so that today it is considered history.
It’s not just foreigners who come to see the Forbidden City, but Chinese citizens from all over the country. It’s a long journey to come to Beijing, but with the symbolism, history, and national importance the Forbidden City holds, it’s no wonder so many people make the trip.
The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.
Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.
Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013
(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.