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|