Today was our first day of sightseeing in Beijing. We were met by our tour guide, Lilly, in the morning and she took us to the sights for today. Our first stop was the Forbidden City, which is only about two blocks from our hotel. It is called the Forbidden City because the emperor's family (especially his wives and concubines) were not allowed to leave the walled city. Likewise, people on the insides were not allowed to enter. We entered through the back gate of the Forbidden City, which is over a mile long.
The first part of the City (starting from the back gate) was the gardens. These were built for the royal family to have a place to enjoy while on the grounds. The trees in this photo represent the joining of a man and women in marriage; it is a very popular site for wedding photos.
The emperor held court in one of the office buildings on the grounds. Those of a high enough rank were able to enter the building to speak with the emperor; lower ranked officials had to remain outside. This picture shows the throne on which the emperor sat to hold court.
The architecture around the grounds is simply amazing. Much of the buildings and walkways are decorated with the dragon (the symbol of the emperor) and the phoenix (the symbol of his wife), with the dragon always being in the most prominent position. Running down the center walkway of the Forbidden City is the emperors path on which only he could walk. Everyone else had to walk to side. The empress, on her wedding day, could also walk on this path, but only that once. The grounds are also paved with 18 layers of bricks to prevent anyone from tunneling under the grounds to gain entry.