We passed under Mao’s rosy portrait at the northern end of Tiananmen Square and entered into the Forbidden City, which is now forbidden only to those who can’t afford to fork over the 60 yuan ($7.50) admission fee.
The Forbidden City was the abode of the emperors and it was huge—enormous gray courtyards surrounded by long halls, many gates, and of course the omnipresent Chinese traditional architecture. To a trained eye, I’m sure the architecture was fascinating, and one could probably distinguish between the different dynastic forms, but to me, it all looked the same and grew quite tedious. Before every ancient building, there was a plaque explaining when the building was first created, when it burned down and was rebuilt (often several times), what it was renamed during each dynasty, and the year the present structure was built.
But the Forbidden City also had its redeeming quality. At the northern end lies the Imperial Garden, filled with ancient trees, impressive rocks and newly painted pagodas, it retained some of the majesty that you could imagine the Forbidden City once held.