Passing under Mao’s portrait through Tiananmen you enter the Forbidden City, the home of the Emperors of China for almost 500 years.
By western standards, the entry price of 40 yuan (about £4) was a bargain, as you could spend all day walking around exploring the different areas of the Emperors’ palace. The use of the word City is appropriate as it was enormous!
Because lots of the interiors have been taken away (many by Chiang Kai-shek when he was forced to leave for Taiwan in 1949) and put into museums, it was sometimes difficult to imagine what it must have been like to live inside the city, though there were a couple of rooms with some furniture left inside. [We didn’t visit the museum this time but I did visit the sister museum in Taipei last year.]
What could be appreciated, however, was the sheer scale of the place. Different Emperors seemed to prefer living in different parts of the city, and all through the different parts, were signs telling how one favoured this place over another, while their eunuchs lived just round the corner. I suppose when the oldest buildings were built in the 1400s, you have a lot of choice!
I really enjoyed walking around it, and though after a while it did start to get a bit samey (we were getting cold and hungry by that point anyway) it was definitely very interesting and thoroughly recommended.