Destination is the Forbidden City – the seat of power for the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.
Our morning is driven by our 10:30 ticket into the Shufanghai Palace within the city. Unfortunately, our guide didn’t allow enough travel time including her own delay in arriving to pick us up. The entire trip into the city consisted of her drama calling the ticket agent to change the ticket time, to enter the back way, and a number of others schemes. We made it to the outer walls around 10 and hurried from the entrance doors to the gardens located on the back walls in order to make our appointment. It was no easy feat with masses of people and a lot of ground to cover.
Shufanghai Palace is a limited access area for the Emperior Qianlong’s personal study and reception for visiting guests. We had a local professor speak to us regarding the historical context of the palace and point out highlights of the garden as well. The furnishings dateback to the Qing dynasty with sandalwood heavily carved tables, chairs, frames, etc. The main hall is set up for guests to eat and watch a small production on the interior stage. Outside the courtyard has a 2 story grand stage for a larger audience and performance of operas.
Leaving the Palace, we are like lemmings swimming upstream since the sea of people are moving toward the back. We spend time again in the private and public/business areas of the City. The vast entry to the City is a scale that is difficult to comprehend today. We move back through the giant tea and banquet hall toward the concubine section and through the gardens before leaving the grounds.
We follow this visit with a more subdued walk in the Dong Joao Min Xiang or Foreign Legation Quarter that housed many of the western embassies and consulates during the late 19th and early 20th Century. Today, many of the building have been converted back to the Chinese government with shops, hotels, and cafes infilling.
In the former site of the US Embassy near Tianamin Square we spot a modern Chinese restaurant, Lost Heaven. Yunnan folk cuisine with Shanghai roots.
In the evening we stepped out of the Aman walls and took a cab to Najia Xiao Guan, a Chinese restaurant in the financial district. Lots of young professionals having dinner. Our cab drivers did not seem to excited to see us but we gave them business.