Epic Journey Through China – Part 2 – The Forbidden City

“Welcome” to the Forbidden City!

The Forbidden City was the official residence of 24 Ming & Qin Dynasty Emperors & their entourage with 9,000 rooms built and hosting up to 30 000 people. The name “Forbidden City” describes very plainly the fact that the City was forbidden to the “Common People”. No commoner was allowed inside these walls and there were separate entrances and separate quarters for men & women.

Red Palace Door in the Forbidden City

Feng Shui Red Door Significance: red is a vibrant color that attracts attention and the attention can bring fame & fortune. In Imperial China, only the Emperor and High Ranking Officials could paint their doors red, which is one reason why red is associated with prosperity.

Dress to Empress!

All females living in the Forbidden City were sequestered for life. The concubines main task was to bear children for the Emperor. Those who gave birth were elevated to Imperial Consorts, with the Empress at the top of the pecking order. The selection process was rigorous & was based on beauty (white porcelain skin was a criteria of outstanding beauty), together with size of their feet (barbaric foot-binding practice was prominent at this time) ; their intellect, artistic skills (painting, singing, dancing) & temperament were tested, so was their physical condition (medical examination). Social background was no barrier and many Emperors chose concubines from the general public.

The Empress was the one exception. Only a few of those who made it through this rigorous process would be noticed by the Emperor, win his favors and be taken to the Emperor’s bed-chamber by the eunuchs. Eunuchs were servants who had been castrated in order to make them reliable servants of the Emperor. These emasculated men served as palace servants and as watchdog primarily to concubines, safeguarding the Imperial Ladies chastity. The majority of the concubines would spend their lives in bitter loneliness (away from friends & family), embroiled in daily Palace politics and jealousy was rife among the concubines. When the Emperor died, so did the concubines. They were forced to commit suicide (poison) or were buried alive with the Emperor.