Those of you who detest other people's holiday snaps, turn away! Because I'm about to inflict another Beijing experience on you. This time it's the Forbidden City. If you haven't already been there, you will almost certainly have seen images of it (hopefully in the Bertolucci film The Last Emperor, which is fantastic). The day I visited wasn't conventionally photogenic, as there was a pea-soup haze. But the monochromatic effect this produced made the frozen moat look even chillier:


The Forbidden City is literally the centre of Beijing - just across Chang'an Avenue from Tiananmen Square, and right on the city's great north-south axis (which culminates in the Olympic Village, 16km north). Inside, it's all fantastically rigid formality and symmetry, with a series of pavilions and grand, empty squares unfolding one after the other:

All this austerity makes the arrival at the residential part of the Forbidden City even more delightful because of its contrast to the civic areas of the complex. Here, the courtyards are smaller and more intimate, and filled with trees:


There are also smaller, whimsical structures in the residential area, such as this pavilion:


So that's your very brief Forbidden City tour. Later this week we'll visit a hutong district and the fabled Summer Palace (albeit in winter).
 
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