Hello China Tour Dreamers!
This blog delves deeply into the hidden meaning of the magnificent architecture you will see in Beijing. Nothing in China is by chance. Everything you see there was created specifically that way to satisfy cultural and philosophical rules that are thousands of years old. philosophies such as Feng Shui, Yin/Yang and the I Ching. It is truly fascinating information and will enhance your trip to China greatly, because you will understand much deeper about what you are seeing than the average tourist. So settle back and enjoy the read!
China is a dichotomy of old and new. A trip across the Middle Kingdom (as China is called in Chinese) will reveal farmers plowing fields with water buffalo as their ancestors have for thousands of years, to the most modern cities in the world; complete with the ubiquitous Starbucks and Hard Rock Cafes!
Beijing is the perfect example of this dichotomy. The capitol of China, Beijing is a great window to see into the past of China and to the future! The Forbidden City is the epicenter of old world china in Beijing. Inside its magnificent walls is the complete history that has been hidden for 500 years. The palace complex is built in the very center of the meridian line and encompasses the entire culture of China in its fabled architecture.
The Meridian Line is part of the Yin/Yang concept of the balance of nature. It is the very center line that runs through the middle of entire city from the north to the south. All the important buildings are on this line, Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, City Drum Tower and City Bell Tower are all on this line. In old times, all the buildings were built according to your status in the social hierarchy, the higher your rank was, the closer to the Meridian Line. For example, the Emperor’s throne chair sits right on the middle of the Meridian Line. Why? Because, the Emperor was considered the center of the universe, so his power was supposed to radiate outwards from the center! Following this meridian line you will see perfectly symmetrical designed buildings on both sides of the line. This keeps the balance of Yin and Yang and follows the concept of our ancient science of Feng Shui. What is Feng Shui? Literally translated, Feng means the Wind, Shui means the Water. Together it’s the art and science of how to preserve the harmony of our artificial existence in order to get along with the Mother Nature. For example, in the Forbidden City, the front court, which is the political area is in the south, and the back residential area is in the north. According to five elements theory, the south is associated with fire, symbolizes growth and belongs to the Yang category. So it is the logical place for government structures. North is associated with water, which symbolizes storage and belongs to Yin. That is more in harmony for residence. That is why the buildings in the front court are magnificent and grand, while the residential buildings in the back are smaller, to show the tender and gentle virtue of the Yin.
This birds-eye-view of the Forbidden City is the perfect way to see just what an architectural masterpiece it truly is! It is the true embodiment of Chinese philosophy and culture: supreme royal power and an ingrained hierarchical order. You can clearly see a central power line called the meridian line, that runs through the center of the entire city of Beijing. The higher your status, the closer you are to the meridian line.
The emperor’s throne hall sits squarely on this line in the very center of the forbidden city (fourth building back, sitting in the white marble). This symbolizes how his power would radiate outward across the entire kingdom!
Here you can also see the five marble bridges which symbolize the five virtues of Confucianism. Hopefully by now you can see how interwoven the Chinese culture is in every aspect of life; even the designs of the cities!
Even the colors are regulated according to your status. In ancient times only the emperor’s buildings – the Forbidden City, had magnificent colors of yellow, red and green. The rest of the city buildings are all in gray. So you could easily distinguish people’s status in the hierarchy. Notice that the Forbidden City is in red and yellow? That is because earth, which is represented by yellow, is the center and represents the nation, so the roofs are in yellow; Fire produced earth and has the color of red, so the walls are mainly in red.
Now when you go to Beijing, while you are being wowed by the beauty of those groups of gorgeous ancient buildings, take another look and think about the whole picture and remember what I said today. You will really be fascinated by how deep this philosophy goes below the skin and into the heart and soul of the whole city.
Always remember that everything in China was built that way for a reason!
Another fascinating fact, every local family used to have their own courtyard, and the exact same centralization rule applies to the arrangement of the buildings inside the courtyard. It is like a miniature Forbidden City! Family members had their room according to their place in the family hierarchy. The leader of the family always lives in the most central building in the courtyard. So be sure to include a visit a Hutong ( an old-style courtyard) to see for yourself what you have learned today. We can easily arrange a Hutong tour as part of your tour, where you can visit with a local family, enjoy a lunch with them and ask any questions you like!
Fascinating stuff, eh?
Feel free to add comments or ask questions. You probably already figured out by now that I love talking about China!
All the Best!
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