The Forbidden City is considered the center of Beijing and faces Tiananmen Square. It was the formal residence of the Emperor and the place where he conducted most of his business and ruled the empire from. The whole place is ridiculously big and ostentatiously spacious, built with only one purpose in mind: to impress and intimidate visitors as to the Emperor’s importance and status.
It was also home to the Empress and a plethora of concubine and one eunuch – the only other male allowed to sleepover at night. There are conflicting reports on exactly how many of these concubines resided here, as from the one source to the other the value just seems to increase. I am starting to sense a correlation between short-man-syndrome and sexual fantasy. Precisely how talented were these Emperors in bed? But I suppose this to some extent also explains modern China’s infatuation with libido and the demise of the poor Rhino …
No woman could volunteer to become a concubine. Either her family nominated her and offered her as a gift to the Emperor, or the Emperor’s mother visited villages to select concubines for her son. The reason for this human trafficking was to produce offspring for the lineage – male of course. The Empress competed along with all the (willing?) concubines for … uh, facetime with the Emperor. Access however, was controlled by the eunuch, who suggested a shortlist nightly to the Emperor. Competition was fierce and family of concubines frequently tried to bribe the eunuch for inclusion on the ‘catch of the day’ list.
If a concubine produces a son for the Emperor, she and her family would be set for live. If at age 30, the concubine has failed to “see” the Emperor, she would be set free to leave the Forbidden City. However, if the Emperor dies (which happened often, given all the wars) all concubine who failed to bear any children up to that time, are buried alive with the Emperor.
Was the moat around the Forbidden City to keep the village men out, or the concubine in?
The whole thing is a bit of rinse-repeat experience on a straight line: walk to building, either go through or around building … walk to building. Just the size of the buildings differ. It appears as if the red paint was procured via a bulk order.
Continue reading China – part 8 (of 20).