I'm travelling into a new way of working, a new country, a new language, and a new hobby which I'm passionate about. Come with me for some of the journey...

Friday 27 May 2016

Beijing - The Forbidden City Part III

Hello all!  It feels like ages since I've managed to check in with you all and, apart from some projects which I can't share with you yet, there's not much going on at the craft table either.  It's the first time since I started blogging four years ago that I've had to take prolonged time away from it all (not to mention having to say goodbye to various Design Teams), and it's a strange feeling.  Work schedules mean it will stay this way for much of the rest of the year, but I'll keep dipping in and out when I can.  There are some exciting Guest Designer spots coming up, and there are still plenty of Encore projects awaiting their moment!

For now, I'm back with another instalment of my travels.  As always, you can click on the photos for a larger view.

We're still in Beijing (so it's still February - see, that's how far behind I am!), and after being suitably humble as we made our way through Part I and Part II we've been allowed to pass through the final palace chambers and enter the Emperor's private garden at the very far end of the Forbidden City.

This area has a completely different atmosphere... it's much more intimate and welcoming.

That's mainly to do with the trees, I think, but also the smaller pavilions, and the twisting paths and grottoes - so different from the formality and scale of the preceding courtyards and buildings.

There's still plenty of grandeur, of course, and the Imperial symbology is still present in full force.

Look at these splendid fellows guarding one of the many arched gateways, one each side.

The golden metal really gleams in the sunlight, and that ferocious scowl should be enough to daunt any triflers.

I'm thinking they could do some damage with those tail tufts too...

And look at the glorious carving on the plinths on which they sit.

As you might guess, I was very taken with these gnarly twisty tree trunks.  Love the patterns and texture in the winding stems and roots.

And the fabulous knobbles, rubbed shiny where people have touched them for luck....

This ancient specimen has to be protected from the superstitious stroking for its own good!

And the foliage is magnificent.  It really does look like the beautiful foliage in Chinese paintings, somewhere between leaves and needles.

You keep catching sight of enticing pavilions between the trees...

... full of colour and exquisitely decorated...

... with those glorious Imperial Yellow ceramic roof tiles glowing in the sun.

And remember, each one of those end circle tiles is a work of art in itself.

The decoration even extends to the pathways under your feet.

This is pebble-dash with a difference!

Can you imagine how many hours the makers of the many pathways must have spent on their hands and knees?!

There are lots of rather weird, unearthly stone sculptures - mainly, as far as I could tell, natural stone formations chosen for their strangeness and mounted on plinths.

I wasn't sure that I liked them very much (but don't tell the Emperor!).

The entranceway to this particular pavilion shows that status and segregation was still the rule here in the gardens.  Servants and lower-ranked family members had to scuttle up the narrow steps at the sides.

Only the Emperor himself was allowed to walk up the central slope over these wonderful carved dragons (just as well, I suppose, or they'd be completely worn away).

There are more of the vast cauldrons standing around which would have held water to put out any fires.  They're so impressive.

And there's fabulous carving even on what appeared to be storage sheds!

Of course, what you discover pretty soon is that these gardens are where the Emperor's concubines whiled away the hours, awaiting his pleasure.

One of the larger pavilions is the "selection chamber", where aspiring mothers would bring their daughters, in the hope that they might be chosen as part of the elite corps of Imperial courtesans.

There are stone carved seating areas, where I'm sure perfectly innocuous tea-drinking might take place, in full public view.

But you can just imagine what might go on in any of the smaller pavilions dotted around the garden.

And the trees cast deep shadows allowing for liaisons to go on both inside and out, secure from prying eyes.  Suddenly the intimacy becomes a little more secretive and a little less delightful!

Since the buildings in the gardens are on an entirely more human scale, it was here that I was able to get closest to some of the moulded ceramic ornamentation which I'd enjoyed so much in the earlier courtyards.

It's still tucked under the eaves though, so it's almost always in deep shadow.

The construction is amazing, and the sheen of the ceramic glaze catches the light beautifully.  You can probably imagine how much that appeals to me.

So, we've finally made it to the end of our Forbidden City trilogy.  This is where I'll come in future to remember this extraordinary visit, so I'll make no apology for the number of photos, but I hope you've enjoyed the tour too.

I've one final Beijing post for you, and that one will take us from this seat of Imperial power (and sexual shenanigans) to the artists' quarter at Liulichang - easily my favourite part of my Beijing adventure.  Prepare for ink, paper, and thousands upon thousands of brushes!!

Princes are fighters or administrators.  Neither of those things do much to spread joy in the world.  Whores, concubines and catamites, on the other hand, are all about giving satisfaction.  Now granted, sexual pleasure is a temporary sort of happiness, but it is better than a new tax or a sword in the gut.
Jill Knowles

My wish is to ride the tempest, tame the waves, kill the sharks.  I will not resign myself to the usual lot of women who bow their heads and become concubines.
Trieu Thi Choi


Helen said...

wow! I can see that when you get some really good crafting time (sometime in the next decade maybe?!) you will create some beautiful works of art based on your amazing travels - I can't wait. Gorgeous photos; but yes, I am thinking of those poor men on their knees for many months or years...lol! The imperial lions are very fierce and impressive!

Chrissy said...

Fantastic photos and amazing adventures you go on Alison..the pathways totally fascinated me..would love to do that here instead of ugly cold concrete..lol..I loved the gnarly twisted trees too..the third one looks like my knee..lol..Thanks for sharing..


Jane said...

Another wonderful post Alison, I would love to visit. I agree about the man hours creating it..quite extraordinary. I too love the ceramics and those old twisted trees.SO much inspiration for you. Take care xx

Jane said...

Another wonderful post Alison, I would love to visit. I agree about the man hours creating it..quite extraordinary. I too love the ceramics and those old twisted trees.SO much inspiration for you. Take care xx

carol edwards said...

Hello Alison and thank you for all the information and wonderful photos you have taken on this spectacular journey. I have enjoyed it so much.x

brenda said...

Thanks for sharing some lovely photos Alison, happy and safe travels.

B x

sally said...

And so the intimacy of the gardens is revealed! Those gate guardians are indeed ferocious looking, would certainly deter a few folk lol. The knotted & gnarled tree trunks almost look carved they are so contorted, the roofs....as you say, it's a shame about the deep shadows, the beautiful paths remind me of the ones in St Paul de Vence near Nice - an artistic village that is also the home of the "colombe d'or" hotel restaurant which is full of art & also the Maeght foundation. Delightful memories for you to have & also share with the "mere mortals" though the emperor would possibly not approve!

Sally x

Astrid Maclean said...

Another fascinating instalment, thank you! It really gives insight into the personality of those emperors and their state of consciousness.... I can see why this would be your favourite part of this vast complex. All the carvings are amazing but I think my favourite part were those trees.... Anyway, now I can't wait to see the next part and all those brushes....

Paper Profusion said...

Ive loved reading and seeing this Alison thank-you. I toured China in 1991 when it was quite unusual to do so and felt very priviledged. You have really pulled at my heart strings and memory! It still looks exactly the same, except we had grey rainy skies for our Forbidden City visit. Ill return soon to see your first 2 parts. So sorry to have been absent recently; first i was away and then life became importantly busy.

Nicola x

Lauren Hatwell said...

This is when you need a TARDIS! What a magical place it is! I am completely captivated by the magnificent Lion sculpture. When I win The Lottery.... ;oD


Inky and Quirky Designs said...

Stunning photos Alison,absolutely love the lions,really striking
Donna xx

sarascloset said...

Fabulous to see more of your travels here with the notes. I think my favorites are the trees--amazing how they grow! I find it interesting that architecture is so different from country to country and region to region. I bet my architect husband could give me more insight on that topic. I am so grateful for your generous sharing of your travels, as I will never get to see it in person! Hugs!

SewPaperPaint said...

You are living a dream, my dear! And I'm happy to step inside of it through your eyes. What wonders! Looking forward to the continued encore posts and new projects - how exciting! <3

Dorthe said...

So much beauty in one place!! Formed both from people`hands and from nature.
Both kind stunning, to see, The pavillons , the gnarly twisted trees, the pathways , everything must have been a huge experience to see, in real.
Lucky you, dear Alison.

rachel said...

thankyou so very much for your tour around the gardens - looks pretty amazing - full of intrique - wonderful words too! Brilliant xx

froebelsternchen said...

This is wonderful Alison! Thank you for sharing this!
I am thrilled about the fantastic photos!

Redanne said...

I saved this to the last so that I could devote the time needed to enjoy every single photo - and I did! This is such a beautiful place and a truly inspiring post Alison, thank you so much for taking the time to explain it to us! Anne xx

Brenda Brown said...

I so love seeing all your beautiful photos and reading about your experiences away from home. Thanks for sharing it through your own inimitable words and pictures xxx

Deborah Wainwright said...

Wow Alison fabulous photos and narrative, we could almost be with you. Thank you as always for all your lovely comments, they are very much appreciated hugs Debs xx

pearshapedcrafting said...

What a fabulous place - love all the details you highlighted - I especially love the trees! What secrets that place must hold!! Hugs, Chrisx

Barbara said...

Totally stunning! It's an incredible place and you are a wonderful artist of the pictures! Barbara

Deb said...

What an amazing place Alison, I don't think I've ever seen pictures of this part of the Forbidden City before, thank you for sharing them. Amazing details on each and every surface, nook and cranny; it boggles the mind to try and imagine the hundreds and thousands of hours that went into creating these works of art. I doubt that I will ever visit it myself so thanks for letting me enjoy it vicariously through your photos! Deb xo

Cocofolies said...

Fabulous photographs again, the trees trunks are simply uncredible!!!!!!!
How blessed you are to have seen and admired them closely.
And thank you for all your lovely comments and support always on my blog Alison, though I have less time to detail my artwork in Shakespeare's language... I appreciate them so much.
Take care&hugs Coco xx

Sandy said...

You have given me such a treat Alison - I have always admired Chinese are and especially calligraphy. Each and everyone of your pictures is gorgeous. And really quite special - instead of being overwhelmed the the ornamentation and grandness of it all - I got to see some wonders through an artist's eye. Thank you Sugar!!
Sandy xx

Almo said...

Fabulous photos Alison, Thank you so much for sharing. Those knobbly and twisted trees are amazing as are the textures and patterns on the pathways. Mo x

Sue said...

It really is another world isn't it, the tree trunks are amazing. All this just for one man though. xx

Mrs.B said...

Just catching up on the end of the tour, wonderful photos and you make a splendid guide, thanks for sharing.
Off now to catch up on Beijing.
Avril xx

Craftyfield said...

I bet you'll come back with tons of inspirations after your world tour! It seems you're making the most of your time away and so you should, quite envious really...

Jenny Marples said...

This far more intimate setting puts me in mind of Versailles a little with the grandeur of the main palace almost too dazzling in comparison to the smaller scale 'Petite Palace' again with the greenery and 'natural' settings (even if they are all constructed like a Disney park!!! I'm now looking forward to brush strokes... xx

Jackie PN said...

finally I am able to sip my coffee and continue on with the tour and adventure you share!
The tiles as you say are gorgeous, exquisite and I love the palette! The stone paths are just incredible- are they wearing much due to tours? And the Dragon glideway for the Emperor,do people walk on that now or is every designated to the small scuttle steps?
Amazing is what I say! I have watched movies of this and always wondered how much is real, and to have you share all of this information and beautiful photography- well,amazing- did I say that? Thank you again for sharing-I will be back for more adventures with Alison!
huge hugs,Jackie