Hear the enchanting stories behind some of the Asia’s most intriguing sights – from Beijing’s Forbidden City and the Great Wall to Xi’an’s Terra-Cotta Warriors. Below are some of the stories you will discover for yourself while on an Asia or China Vacation.
The Forbidden City in Beijing – A living Heaven for Sons of God
The Forbidden City: The largest imperial palace in the world – is situated in the center of Beijing and covers more than 178 acres of land in China.
As an ancient Chinese legend goes, “the God resided in the heavens, known to all as the “Purple City.”” During the 17th Century, Chinese emperors claimed to be the sons of the God in an effort to justify their absolute power, and thus their homes would be considered a forbidden area to the common people. As a result, “Purple Forbidden City” became the official name for the emperor’s palace.
Since 1624, 24 emperors have called the “Purple Forbidden City” home, though many of their lives were riddled with grief and unhappiness. Instead of enjoying a long life full of opulence and happiness, as most people would imagine, the Chinese emperors were confined to a large “courtyard” within the palace and forced to live a life of solitude. It was believed that the less interaction an emperor had with society, the better they were able to maintain a mysterious image in front of the public.
Although some of the emperors died with glory by conquering enemies, ironically, the majority died having lived a life full of mockery and endless lust. One emperor in particular even committed suicide – unable to bear the anguish and solitude that came with the responsibilities of the throne. With the magnificent red walls and yellow roofs shining in the middle of the city, the palace quickly became a graveyard – engulfing the laughs, tears and dreams of its former residents.
During the 18th Century, there once were more than 100,000 employed servants who also lived in the palace of the Forbidden City during the Ming Dynasty. Even after 1911, when the last emperor of Qing Dynasty stepped down from the throne, the imperial family still maintained more than 2,000 servants to take care of their daily lives. It is said that there are 9,999.5 rooms in the palace – only half of a room less than the “Purple Palace” where the God lives in the legend.
Throughout history, many of the buildings in the Forbidden City were once destroyed by fire, but most have been re-constructed. Today, visitors to the Forbidden City can experience the palace in all of it historical beauty – exploring the Palace Museum while learning about the luxurious lives of the historic rulers of Chinese history.
Great Wall in Beijing – A Human Wonder accomplished by Tears and Blood
The Great Wall of China: Known as one of the seven wonders if the world – is the only man-made object that can be seen from space by the naked eye. The current remains of the Great Wall wander through the northern part of China – connecting the eastern China Sea to the barren desert in the west. Today, more than 5,000 kilometers of the wall are still visible.
As many scholars have stated, the Great Wall was meant to stop the invasions of the northern nomads, but nomads were never actually stopped by the wall. Constructed in 221 B.C. by the order of the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shihuang, the Great Wall was originally designed to be a military base where Chinese infantries would fight against cavalries from the north. In order to complete the daunting task of constructing the Great Wall, Emperor Shihuang drafted more than 400,000 men – nearly half of the total male population in China – to work on this project. The construction lasted for more than 10 years and more than one-third of the workers died from harsh working conditions and deadly plagues. While the wall protected the emperor from northern invasions, it did nothing to help defend him against the backlash and disdain that society had for him. As a result, the empire was seriously undermined by his neglect of people’s daily demands and eventually was overthrown by a farmers’ rebellion only four years after Emperor Shihuang’s death.
A famous native love story is also related to the construction of this magnificent wall. According to the story, a beautiful young girl by the name of Meng Jiang was married just before the emperor started construction on the Great Wall. Adhering to the emperor’s direction, her husband was forced to leave their new home just following their honeymoon to assist with the construction. Sadly, he never returned. After three years of searching, Meng Jiang finally found the site where her husband had been working and was informed that he had died only a week earlier. The workers told Meng Jiang that his body was buried in the newly-constructed wall. Devastated by the news, Meng Jiang mourned for her husband by sitting at the burial site and crying for three days straight. As the legend goes, after the third day, the God was finally moved by her grand gesture and sent a great downpour of rain, which crumbled the wall and revealed her husband’s body.
Terra-Cotta Warriors in Xi’an – Underground Army Discovered by Chance
Xi’an: One of the most important cultural cities in China – was once the capital of the Chinese Empires for more than 1,500 years. However, when the center of China moved to the east, Xi’an quickly moved out of the spotlight and was soon known as a secondary city. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the discovery of the Terra-Cotta Warriors there put Xi’an back on the map.
The Terra-Cotta Warriors were actually a cultural landmark left by Emperor Qin Shihuang – the first Chinese emperor. Unlike the Great Wall, which Qin Shihung built to defend his territory while he was alive, the Terra-Cotta Warriors were buried on the side of the mausoleum to protect the emperor’s body and soul after his death – so that he would eventually come back to life some day.
Although, the Terra-Cotta Warriors were such a large and distinguishable force that played a significant role in defending the emperor, surprisingly, they were totally untraceable in many of the history records and books. Therefore, the underground army went virtually unknown until they were accidentally found in 1974. More than 2,000 years had passed since the death of Emperor Qin Shihuang, and the burial site had become a piece of well-cultivated farm land. In the summer of that year, a few local farmers were digging a well for irrigation when they found the broken pieces of bones from the warriors’ arms and legs and heads. Terrified, they believed the “remains” were possessed by the ghosts. The farmers had no idea they had stumbled upon the most important archeological discovery in Chinese history. The discovery of this underground army reconfirmed the location of the emperor’s mausoleum and thus, ended centuries of academic debate.
The farmers’ lives were also altered forever after they discovered the warriors – they revered as heroes and rewarded by the local government. The farmers were also given jobs in the archeological museum that now stands at the burial site – ending their strenuous careers working the farmland.