Trekking Through China…The Forbidden City…Forbidden Feelings

The entry point for the Forbidden City

Well, I’ve avoided this one long enough. Some might see me as the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand, but those who know me at all will know that pain, anyone’s pain, past or present, affects me as if it is my own pain.

I’m no historian, I cannot seem to retain information long enough to be an expert at anything. As information was being fed to us throughout this trip, I was barely able to remember even the tiniest tidbits of it even five minutes after hearing it. When we travel, hubby’s the historian and I’m the photographer. He stands and listens, I roam and capture angles and colours. Which means that even what I think I remember, probably isn’t exactly what was said. I tend to remember the feeling of the place, or the emotions that are conjured up by the stories being told. And what I remember about the Forbidden City is that it left me feeling nauseated and shuddering with revulsion.

There, I said it. I found The Forbidden City unpalatable and a place I simply didn’t want to be…and even as my camera clicked away as if on autopilot, there was a part of me that didn’t want to take pictures, didn’t want to remember this place, didn’t want to glorify it in any way, shape or form.

The brutality of hundreds of years swept over me like a tidal wave of anguish…the narcissism, the bloodshed, the senseless massacres, the daily drudgery of those at the mercy of the ruling empires of the day…all I could hear were the whispers of despair, all I could see were the bloodstains hiding behind the ornate decor of the various rooms we were allowed glimpses of, all I could smell was the fear and desolation of those “sentenced” to life without life, lifetimes without freedom and life at the whim and mercy of merciless rulers.

The stories of the concubines especially hit me hard. I cannot recount them here, I can’t remember the specifics, only the gist of a day’s worth of stories and commentaries. How families would try to marry their daughters off as quickly and as young as possible so as to avoid them being chosen for the emperor’s harems…how those who were chosen often never again were allowed to venture outside or even look beyond these walls…how many were buried alive, or killed at whim, and how those who survived might well have envied those who didn’t.

Yes, it was not my favourite place. I could grudgingly admire the architecture and even acknowledge the gift of being allowed to walk through these gates to see what for so many centuries had been forbidden to see.

But I cannot lie. What I saw couldn’t silence or squelch the shudders of revulsion for all the brutality and bloodshed that these walls and halls had witnessed over their long history. And I cannot deny the huge sigh of relief that arose from deep within me when we finally stepped through the final gate and onto the other side.

But I won’t let my revulsion deprive others of seeing what I was admittedly lucky enough to have seen. Here are some of the pictures from my trek through The Forbidden City.

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2012. All rights reserved.

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Crossing the bridge to The Forbidden City

Ornate architecture everywhere in The Forbidden City

A sampling of the colours of The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is huge…it felt like we were walking forever, though new gates and over new thresholds…it seemed never-ending.

Somewhere inside the Forbidden City

If I remember correctly, this was a typical setup for the concubine living quarters. The rooms are very tiny. Imagine arriving here when you are 13 or 14 and living out your entire life within these walls.

And of course, the Lions…lots of lions inside the Forbidden City

This lovely pagoda was in the garden at the other side of The Forbidden City.

I think this tree is believed to be about 500 years old. Can you imagine the lives lived under the shade of this tree over all those years?!!


About Sharon

I love to write. I love to write myself into being right here right now. Writing releases something in me that needs wings, writing opens doors and windows that I often don't even realize are possible, writing helps me breathe out the dusty old, and to breathe in the new and possible. My hope is that maybe writing here in this blog will bring new light into these dusty old hallways and help me to clear out the thinking processes and mindsets that just don't work for me anymore. I seek to breathe new light and life into the nooks and crannies of a soul that has been feeling somewhat lost and frayed because of the last few patches of road I've had to travel.
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10 Responses to Trekking Through China…The Forbidden City…Forbidden Feelings

  1. Kurt says:

    I agree with alot of your sentiment. Mao killed around 50 million Chinese citizens and he gets his picture put up. Check out the documentary “Tank Man” about Tiananmen Square, very well made with primary sources. I believe it’s on youtube.


  2. elmer says:

    Hows the crowd. There’s no tourist destination in Beijing that isnt jampacked.


    • Sharon says:

      It was very crowded there that day, though they somehow eluded my camera in these pictures, lol. We had to be careful not to dawdle anywhere or the crowds would sweep us up and carry us away in different directions than our own guide was heading. It was scary at times!


  3. Angelika says:

    Sharon, it’s your compassion and emotions that convey the atrocities more than details and facts. I think I would have sighed relief too, on leaving there.


    • Sharon says:

      Thank you, Angelika. Sometimes that compassion takes me too deep into the suffering, as it did this day in that place. I felt such a connection to the concubines, perhaps because I myself have felt the weight of endless drudgery in my darker days. But at least I had hope of “escape” and change. They didn’t. Maybe I projected too much too. Whatever the reason, it was definitely a relief to leave that place and move on to the next site.


  4. There are places in this world where the evil lingers long after the perpetrator of said evil has died.


  5. Angelika says:

    I have never visited Dachau for that very reason.


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