Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Hall of Heavenly Clocks

Finally, after 10 months here, we made it to the Forbidden City. That's not quite as shocking as it sounds: we'd been 9 years ago when Alyssa was a baby. But all the same...

OK, facts first: built 1406-20 by Emperor Yongle, a Vietnamese architect and about million workers. Home of the Ming and Qing Dynasties until 1911. World's largest surviving palace complex. 980 rooms but actually much of it big, open courtyards. Ceremonial and ministerial stuff went on in the southern and central bits; emperor & co lived in the northern part; concubines (there were about 10,000 of them) in the western part. The Starbucks has gone.

Our friend Andreas, who is a real tour guide, took us around for four hours. Hot, lots of people, but bearable and the children were happy to run around. Great to get insight from someone who really knows. An intriguing building in the north-east corner is the Hall of Clocks: around 100 bizarre timepieces, some made in China but mostly from Europe (and most of those from England). There's several shapeds like pagodas, one of those water clocks (I forget what you call them), and a fabulous big copper clock made by Joseph Williamson in 1780 with an automata who writes Chinese characters with a real brush. Every home should have one.  

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