Monday, June 2, 2008

China Day 03: On the Way Out

After catching our breath in Empress Cixi's courtyard, we headed into the Imperial Garden. This is a small (by these standards) garden for strolling and relaxation by the Imperial Family. It has lovely pavements with mosaics of deer and trees
and it has all the elements necessary according to the principles of Chinese garden design. A Chinese garden must have rocks,
little buildings or pavilions,
water, preferably with fish,
as well as plants.
Some of these trees are so old they can no longer hold themselves upright, so they are held up with metal supports:
We meandered gently through the garden until we reached the gateway at the north end:
The shin-high threshold is a common feature of traditional Chinese architecture - and is part of the reason why China is about the least handicap-accessible country I have been to. Some of my fellow travelers have mobility issues - they all managed, but I'm sure it wasn't a lot of fun. If you're being carried around it a sedan chair, it's not a problem of course!

We passed out the garden gate and turned to look back. Perched high on the wall is a little building:
This, we were told, is an "auditioning room" for new imperial concubines. They weren't allowed to enter through the public section of the palace; rather, they would come in the North Gate and straight up into this little chamber where they would "meet" the Emperor. If he liked them, they would get taken into the Forbidden City and allotted rooms in a courtyard.

The entire Forbidden City is surrounded by a moat, which we could see when we looked back from outside the main wall:
We walked along beside the moat for a block or two, then cut across the street and over a couple more blocks to where the bus had been able to park. On the way, we saw the sweetest thing I'd seen in days:
an adorable Husky pup. This is Bob petting the puppy; he and I were the most hardcore dog lovers on the trip. I hadn't seen my dear Stormy and Buster in about five days, so I was in desperate need of some fur. I snuck in a quick pat but kept moving - Fred was right behind me!

Our next stop was lunch, which we ate in a private room in a restaurant nearby.
This particular meal was undistinguished, foodwise, but I was proud that I made it through using only chopsticks!

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