China - Beijing, Jinan, Mount Tai, Chufu,
This is our guide Richard. He has become a very
good friend. His brother, Chunsheng (Born in Spring) spent 6 months at
the U of IL in 2003 studying "governance" since he is in the Shandong
province government. We became so close to Chunsheng, we (well, I)
decided to "adopt" him. He was thrilled with the idea, but, then,
Richard told us we (or, rather, I) should have checked with their
mother first! Problems in cross-cultural communications, here.
Our hotel in Beijing was right on the main drag. It was gorgeous! There
were cars speeding along the boulevard, unlike when I was in China in
1988 when all there were was bicycles. The boulevard was lined with
tall hotels and fancy shops. However, about 2 blocks behind the hotel
were the old-type cinderblock apartment buildings. I understand that
for the 2008 Olympics, the gov't is doing a real "urban renewal" and
clearing away ugly buildings for approximately 8 blocks on either side
of Tienneman Square (it appears they believe tourists won't venture
farther than 8 blocks in either direction).
After we looked around Tiennaman Square (just a huge empty place
flanked by government buildings and Mao's tomb), we walked over to the
Forbidden City. To get there you need to cross a number of marble
"moon" bridges. Only the Emperor could use the color yellow, so the
roofs of his palaces had yellow tiles and the buildings had yellow
The palace complex has been rennovated fairly recently. It's really
just a hollow box, with additional boxes inside. Along the outer walls
are closed rooms (of course I peeked) where lots of old Mao-era photos
are kept. Before the Revolution in 1948, it was not forbidden to enter
the Forbidden City, but if you didn't have business there, it wasn't a
wise idea. Depending on your status, you used one set or the other of
the the side doorways.
This is the throne room. You may have heard the expression "the power
behind the throne". We were told (true or not) that this came about
because the Dowager Empress used to stand behind a curtain behind the
thron and whisper her instructions to the underage Emperor(s). After
her husband died, her underage son became Emperor, and when he died,
her underage nephew took over. However, no matter who occupied the
throne, she was running the show (and the Empire).
The Forbidden Palace is chock full of "stuff" -- some of it gifts to
Emperors from foreign governments. You can also look at the concubines'
rooms which are interconnected. The rooms are simply furnished with a
bed-couch and a small table, and that's about it. Were there more
things before the Revolution? Nobody told us.