Thursday, December 29, 2011

When Emperors Were Emperors; China's Forbidden City

I am switching these travel journals so some of you have already seen these images from my Asia Tour.   I have tons of pics and will upload more as time goes by.

Part 1

When we look at the Forbidden City the first thing we all need to keep in mind is probably the one facet that slips our mind; The Forbidden city is not meant for us to view. Within that aspect is another aspect; it wasn't meant for the majority of Chinese to see either and it wasn't created to impress us.  Intention is everything when you consider the Forbidden Palace(City) because unlike the Taj Mahal it wasn't meant to create awe in the common eyes or a devotion of love; it was meant to bring a heavenly vision on Earth where the Emperor himself could be the "son of god".  We must remember that this fabulous of palaces was inspired by a monk who was in meditation and saw a purple kingdom in heaven and the Emperor wanted this manifestation on Earth.  In doing so the Forbidden City symbolized the "center of the Earth".

Books, novels and movies have been written about this so I dare not venture into historical facts.  You can find them easily online.  I only offer a few humble comments in hopes that they inspire you to visit this.   

Aside from the beautiful colors and beautiful celestial guardians

I was in awe at the names of the different parts of the palace; "Hall Of Imperial Zenith", "Central Harmony", "Gateway Of Heavenly Peace", "Hall Of Terrestrial Tranquility", "Imperial Garden", etc…  I noted how important phrases are to the Chinese even up to today and even at differing levels of businesses or the simple take-out restaurants or stores selling jade or gifts; " Double Luck Garden", "China Star Restaurant", "99 goldfish luck", etc... Whatever anyone says it must work since it is one of the civilizations that have lasted and still dominate today thus auspicious names are important.

Not only are names of UTMOST importance but it seems that a lot of restaurants abide by even basic Feng Shui rules.  A visit to the Forbidden City also gives you a glimpse into some foundational Chinese beliefs which can be seen today.  We hear about Feng Shui all the time in the US and Europe but there is no better teacher than seeing it here at work in the Forbidden City, you will be awestruck at the "movement" of the stone and open air space. Water, stone,open air and bright colors all mesh elements into a powerful force.

When judging the Forbidden City within our minds one must keep in mind the founding Emperor(Yongle) and the monk who inspired this awesome architectural beauty(a legend so its not exact).   When we look at this city and learn the story behind it you think about Hindu temples and their many tiered rows of statues and one wonders where did they get these ideas to create temples of such height and intricacy?

The answer is exactly the same as the Forbidden City; through a meditation.  Many gurus have actually visited far more fabulous cities while in meditation.   If one reads a little bit on cities found while in meditation on chakras (whether you believe in it or not) they will be open to a whole new way of understanding the foundation of temples, stupas and fabulous kingdoms such as these. 

We should be glad that to be born in these times to see this and many other things that would be off limits lets say if we were really born around 1300-1400 A.D.?Part 2. 

Part 2.

Our lives are simply one room leading to another room and another and another,  filled with doorways and endless possibilities.  Doorways are more than metal or wood, they are much more than beautifully hinged objects to keep people safe.    Doorways, gateways and even the simplest thresholds are created every second.  There are many doors that we don't see in the physical world.  An example of that type of door can be birth, death, or any change can be looked at as walking through a spiritual door( I believe are these are the most powerful).

I noticed within these walls a deep respect and belief for celestial guardians.  They are both beautiful and frightening at the same time.  Obviously they are here to ward off evil and protect the city but I believe they also work on the human subconscious, tapping into a pantheon of animism early Chinese and modern as well believe in.  With the practice of Feng Shui by many westerners using some of these guardians it shows that these images do tap into a belief system that reaches beyond religion to a time when humans believed in the powers and respect for animals and the mere presence of their images to bring about a magical effect.  You cannot come to the Forbidden city and not feel the effects of feng-shui geniuses at work.  My words cannot even begin to comment on this but overall there is a sense of peace here despite the huge crowds that fill the square.  The open air spaces, the curved waterways, the moats all lend to excellent manipulation of the natural elements.
At the same time one cannot overlook the generous usage of colors on the architecture.   Of course there are beautiful colors but what was of interest to me was that colors like gold and purple were only allowed to be worn by the emperor 

Thinking back to the emperors of the Ming dynasty I see them walking through these courtyards. 
I have always thought what did the dead think about back then when they were alive?   I feel something here that I always feel when visiting tombs (Taj Mahal) or empty castles of rulers or cities such as these; even with the most powerful guardians and the strongest doors their royal ancestral line would be erased through time.  How many empires, corporations at the height of their power now cannot see their fate?   

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Great Wall; Where Every Stone Has A History

The Great Wall winds around over mountains like a dragon, like an ancient river that has taken years to meander, like a fragment of the human brain that creates a symbol of war like no other.  The Dragon which is one of the celestial animals of the Chinese has been inspired by the sages who meditated while looking at cloud formations and somehow throughout the millenniums that form which was inspired from the clouds found true concrete form on earth like no other.  The Great Wall like its meandering body through forests, mountains, craggy peaks and even near oceans will cast a spell on you.

So what does the Great Wall have to do with my theme on "gates and doorways"?  The entire Great Wall itself is a multifaceted gateway.  It is a giant doorway that is constructed to lock out harmful influences.  It is also the longest cemetery or mausoleum in the world due to the countless workers who died of exhaustion and were buried there.  Like any cemetery it is a gateway into the afterlife.  The thought of having a family member buried somewhere in the Wall and not knowing is mentally problematic and from reading the history it seems many families had to endure that pain of having family members dying and buried somewhere along the wall but knowing where.  But if you can think of yourself as the current Warlord or Emperor the Great Wall was probably the only thing that was known at the time to keep enemies out therefore it was deemed necessary.  Whatever angle you are looking at the situation you will be moved by walking along the Great Wall. 

Let us not forget that the Great Wall was built mainly out of fear of the Mongols and Northern plain Chinese.  I believe the fear must have been terrible because just look at the effort used in building this wall.  I have a feeling not everything is told to us about what the Mongols actually did to cause this fear.  But after all of that the only emblem left at their capital city is a stone tortoise.  Amazing that a simple tortoise is connected to all that history.

Just think the Great Wall began before Christ and was repaired lengthened up until the Ming Dynasty (1500's).  Even the thought that something so colossal in both time, size and history is worth a trip and probably more than one. The Great Wall or should we say Great Wall(s), since it is not really one wall built at one time but was actually built and rebuilt and made longer by whoever the current general or Emperor was.  The Great Wall is not a "wonder" for its architectural beauty but it is a Wonder for 4 reasons; 1. The idea in building such a colossal thing 2. The amount of people that were used to build it (some say 500,000 and some say well into the  millions) 3. The countless bodies that are buried within the cement of the walls(fact) 4. The peacefulness today and the calm surrounding the walls today.  Though not an official "Wonder Of The World" I can say it is.  To stand on the wall and to look out and see this endless wall for as long as the eye can see generates multiple feelings all at once which are beyond words. I truly believe that only poetry, not movies or novels can describe the Great Wall for one reason;  It is something beyond imagination and the only "art" that can truly capture it is poetry or song because it is an epiphany after epiphany.   A premonition flashed though my mind as I was walking on the wall and staring out into the horizon;  one day all the sites for ALL  Nuclear weapon sites (open or covert) around the world will also one day become useless as means of defense as the Greta Wall is, the best they can hope for is to vie for tourist dollars. How many things of war are being used today which will only be tourist destinations one day? 

The Great Wall is truly "China".  Whether you imagine what it must be like to be either one of the workers, a warlord, a conquering Mongol Emperor or the Ming Emperor himself or just a warrior guarding the wall there are millions and millions of voices on the Great Wall.   So fabulous is the history behind the wall you wonder if it even happened.  The only other sites that have left me awestruck like this are those in India.  I feel that the Buddhist temples of Angkor will have the same effect on me.   But the Great Wall is more than a "Wow" experience and many do come just for that but for me it is a spiritual bonding with a one of the human species greatest attempts to defend itself against a terrifying foe.  To be here and to touch the stones and to walk up and down the wall is to connect with all those countless voices, to connect with an ongoing part of history that started since B.C.,it is worth a visit during ones lifetime. 

I used another camera to take most of the pics(much nicer) and I will upload them when I get the USB connection.