Forbidden Treasures

Nicholas Quirke was both sad and thrilled on 22 June 2021 to be paying a final visit to one his most cherished sights in Beijing The Forbidden City. It was a place that had lived in his imagination for many years and when he had the opportunity to travel to China in 2018 it was one of the major attractions that had drawn him there. He hadn’t known at the time of that fleeting visit he would have more opportunities to see it and if he had been told then that he would see the outside on an almost daily basis over the 18 months he lived in Beijing he would probably have laughed. It was however his great fortune to have seen inside the Palace museum twice now and with the clock now ticking on his sojourn in the Capital city he had decided to see it one last time. It had been many years since Peng had visited and he booked the tickets and came with him. As he had already seen the grounds he was surprised to discover that exhibition halls were now open and to give a new spin on the tour they purchased additional tickets, only 10 yuan each, for an exhibition of clocks and one of the palace treasures. Having visited before he was annoyed by Peng’s insistence on the cycle ride that they turn up the street before Tiananmen. He had been right as the police stopped them and then they had to retrace their steps and follow the route he was on. This meant a frosty ride along as his sense of right had been offended but it soon thawed and they began their tour. He visited a side garden that he ignored in the past and was delighted to discover Broken Rainbow Bridge, one of the first of the many haunting names for the halls and objects that he encountered that day, the most memorable being ‘Hall of Central Harmony’, ‘Palace of Tranquil Longevity’, ‘Hall of Joyful Longevity’, and ‘Bower of Well Nourished Harmony’. What he continued to find most astonishing about the palace was not only its exquisite design and its longevity, built 1406, but the scale of its conception. 999 rooms covering 720,000 square meters and still in seemingly perfect condition. He was happy to tread the familiar ground that led him through the ‘Hall of Middle Harmony’ to the ‘Hall of Central Harmony before taking a sidetrack to the never before seen exhibitions. The display of clocks were really breathtaking and it seemed a miracle that the extraordinary collection had survived the ravages of revolution but there was no mistaking the authenticity of the pieces from all around the world that through successive emperors had been acquired. There were more treasures of gold and Jade to be seen in the but what was really surprising was that whole new section of the museum opened up to him, including one of the countries finest Nine Dragon Walls and a stunning, beautiful theatre which operated on 3 floors. Though he only dallied with the scenes he was already familiar with they still spent over 3 hours exploring the treasures and the beauty of one of the worlds wonders. It was a truly fulfilling time and when they reached the the exit. Better known as the Gate of Supreme Prowess they a little parched and hungry. They avoided the crowds by walking along the moat side and then cycled to APM on Wangfujing street where they found a restaurant advertising its Vegan wonton. Throughout his stay in China they had searched for Wonton that he could eat and finally there was a restaurant serving it. He was teaching in the evening and made his way to Teasure for a green tea before cycling to the school. It was the usually rowdy reading group who were playful but it seemed they had finally got used to the Laowai and they settled down and he actually really enjoyed the lesson and found himself being quite playful with them. He has a nice surprise on his arrival home when he discovered his chinese signature stamp had arrived. After much deliberation he had settled on Pixiu (貔貅) a Chinese mythical hybrid creature, resembling a strong, winged lion. Considered a particularly influential and auspicious creature for wealth, said to have a voracious appetite exclusively for gold, silver, and jewels. Traditionally to the Chinese, Pixiu have always been regarded as auspicious creatures that possessed mystical powers capable of drawing cai qi (財氣wealth) from all directions. The reminder of his chinese identity, 柯而文, Ke Er Wen made a satisfying and somehow imperial ending to the day and with thoughts of the ‘Forbidden’ pleasures and treasure whirling in his mind he drifted off to sleep.

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