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  1. #1


    [this is also a historical fiction. I want you guys' opinion to decide if I continue to post. it's on amazon.com too]

    Chapter 1

    However powerful, you cannot pull back the chariot of Time; however powerful, you cannot refuse the visit of Death; however wealthy, you cannot bribe the king of Hades; however wealthy, you cannot buy immortality.

    She had been beautiful when young. She hated aging. She hated having white hair, but the silver threads stealthily crept onto her head in the due course of time. Li Lianying, whenever he saw a gossamer of snow among her sable silky hair, would bury it under the black ones. If, by any chance, a piece of white hair came off and entwined itself on the comb, he would hide it in his sleeve. He was the one who did the hair of Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-190. He knew what Empress Dowager Cixi would feel when she saw some snowy hair on her head. He really knew what she liked and what she did not. He was her favorite eunuch. In a short time, he was promoted to be her head eunuch.

    Sometimes when Empress Dowager Cixi noticed that he put his fingers into his sleeve she would ask what he was doing. “Just itching. Scratching a bit, my respected Old Buddha.” Later in her life everyone in the Forbidden City called Empress Dowager Cixi “Old Buddha” (The word OLD here does not really mean old in age in Chinese, but instead is a respected epithet.) and she liked it. He had to please her if he wanted to stay in her favor forever. Everyone wanted to please her. No doubt. Even the emperor, though afraid of her, sometimes wanted to please her, too. That’s why people wish to seize power and remain in it. As long as possible.

    It’s a new hairstyle. Li Lianying, now the head eunuch, but still doing her hair, called it “A Butterfly Among Flowers”. He always invented new hairstyles and gave them fanciful names. And while combing her hair, he would tell jokes, mostly vulgar jokes, which sent Empress Dowager Cixi into laughter. He knew a lot of such jokes, which he had heard when he had been a small boy. Thanks to his good memory, he remembered all of these vulgar jokes after so many years. Sometimes he made up some when an occasion arose. Eunuchs all came from poor families, or no families at all. Who wanted to be a eunuch if he could live otherwise? The cutting of the genital was no fun, not to mention the pain, and a lot of blood. The genitals, once cut, were dried and kept in a jar, which hung from the beam in his bedroom. It was the custom to bury the genital with the body when a eunuch died, to make the corpse whole with nothing lacking, although something’s not in its original and natural place. But it was the best that could be done.
    When her hair was done and breakfast finished, Empress Dowager Cixi changed into formal attire. She put on heavy headgears. The adorned piece on the top looked somewhat like a fan with fringes hanging down from the two ends. On her feet were special shoes that looked something like short stilts in the shape of a small upside-down flowerpot attached on the middle of the sole. Then she went to hold court, sitting behind a pearl screen. Emperor Guangxu, still under age, sat on the huge throne before the pearl screen. Though he said nothing, he heard everything. He knew everything. He was a clever boy, ambitious and anxious to do something to make the weakened empire strong and prosperous again.

    * * *

    Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu lived in the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City, also called the Purple Forbidden City, was located in the center of the capital. The Forbidden City was built between 1406 and 1420 during Ming Dynasty. It had been the imperial home to twenty-four emperors of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The magnificent and awe-inspiring Forbidden City also served as the seat of imperial power during Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911).From their throne in the Forbidden City, the emperors governed the country by holding court sessions with their courtiers, secretaries and ministers, issuing imperial edicts and initiating military expeditions.

    The Forbidden City extends seven hundred and fifty meters from east to west and nine hundred and sixty meters from north to south. The city of seven hundred twenty thousand square meters is the largest and best-preserved palatial complex in the world. It is surrounded by a moat, which is fifty-two meters wide and six meters deep, and by a wall, which is three kilometers long and ten meters high. There are four gates with towers above them: Noon Gate in the south, Shenwu Gate in the north, Donghua Gate in the east and Xihua Gate in the west. On the four corners of the city walls stand four turret towers, each with three roofs and seventy-two roof ridges. They are masterpieces of ancient Chinese architecture.

    The Forbidden City is divided into southern and northern parts, the former serving as the work area of the emperors and the latter as their living quarters. The main structures are arranged along a central axis and constructions on both sides of it are symmetrical. The three most imposing structures in the work area of the Forbidden City are the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Medium Harmony, and the Hall of Protective Harmony. The most magnificent of them is the Hall of Supreme Harmony. Here the most important ceremonies of the feudal dynasties were held, including the ascension of the emperors to the throne, their marriage, and their conferring of titles on officials. The Hall of Medium Harmony standing behind it was where the emperors rested before ceremonies and receiving officials. The Hall of Protective Harmony was where the emperors gave banquets and interviewed in person successful candidates of imperial exams for the selection of government officials. In the living quarters are nine separate housing complexes, where the emperors and their families lived. North of the living quarters is a small imperial garden. The Mind Cultivation Hall in the living quarters was where most Qing emperors lived and handled state affairs. It was also here that Empress Dowager Cixi attended to state affairs for as long as 48 years. The Forbidden City is a city within a city and was off limits to the common people.

    The layout of the palatial complex, whose full name should be the Purple Forbidden City, is patterned after the legendary Heavenly Palace. In the ancient Chinese astrology, the heavenly area of Purple Forbidden Enclosure centering on the North Star was seen to be at the center of heaven. The palatial complex, regarded as being at the center of human society on earth was therefore named the Purple Forbidden City.
    The number nine received special emphasis in the city design. The number of houses in the Forbidden City is 9,999, and nails on every door are arranged in lines of nine nails. This is because the ancients regarded nine as the biggest number, which only emperors were entitled to use. Also, since the numeral has the same sound as “everlasting” in the Chinese language, it best reflected the wish of emperors that their rule would last forever. Names of places in the Forbidden City contain such words as “Benevolence”, “Harmony” and “Peace”, which reflect the essence of Confucianism.

    The predominant color of the Forbidden City is yellow. Nearly all the houses, for example, have roofs of yellow glazed tiles. According to ancient Chinese, the universe was made up of five elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth, and earth was the most basic of them all. As a result, yellow, the color of earth, was most extensively used for the emperors, who were regarded as the supreme rulers of the world.

    The only house with a roof of black tiles is Wenyuan Pavilion, serving as the royal library. This is because the color black represents water among the five elements and water can overcome fire, a constant threat to the collection of books inside.

    In 1406, Emperor Yongle of Ming Dynasty began building the Forbidden City. Historical records show that it took one million laborers and one hundred thousand craftsmen fifteen years to complete the project. The Forbidden City remains more or less the same in appearance and scale despite repeated renovations and expansions by later emperors. All buildings in the Forbidden City are of a wood and brick structure. A total of 3.1 billion bricks were used for the construction of the Forbidden City. A special glue was used to cement bricks and stone slabs. The glue was made from steamed glutinous rice and egg white. Timber came from mountains in the suburbs of Fangshan Town as well as from remote Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. Tens of thousands of huge stone slabs were transported to the capital from afar. The biggest piece, which lies behind the Hall of Protective Harmony, weighs 250 tons. The slab, 16.57 meters long, 3.07 meters wide and 1.7 meters thick, was hauled over a distance of 50 kilometers from the suburbs of Fangshan Town to the site by 20,000 laborers at a cost of 176,000 taels of silver. The hauling was done in winter on man-made ice and took 28 days.
    The Forbidden City is a national treasure in terms of materials used, architectural style, layout and designed connotation. Besides, it is a storehouse of numerous priceless handicraft articles, rare curios, paintings and calligraphic works by famous artists as well as official documents and historical records. The Wenhua Hall in the Forbidden City stores more than 10 million official documents drawn up over 500 years by central and local governments of the Ming and Qing dynasties. They are the largest and most valuable collection of historical records in the country. Wenyuan Pavilion, or the Imperial Library, keeps a complete collection of all the books published till then like an encyclopedia and a 79,337-volume compendium of historical records and feudal rites compiled over ten years (1772-1781) by the nation's most accomplished scholars.

  2. #2
    Thanks for a great read! You took what could have been dry history and made it come to life, just enough mix of interesting tidbits along with the hard information.. no easy task and you did it with ease

  3. #3
    Yes definitely post more. It is an interesting piece of history.
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    And check out Gertie's blog on her favorite top twenty-five albums between 1955-2017 Hidden Content


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