The Forbidden City in Beijing has stood since 1046 and was home to Chinese royalty for 500 years. It is a grand structure, really something to behold. A city within a city that has seen wars, uprisings, foreign invaders, regime changes. And tourists – most likely worse than all the wars, uprising and foreign invaders combined. The noble cobbles weep each night when the gates are closed.
I’ve visited the Forbidden City, known as the Palace Museum since 1925, several times. The first time was my choice, the other visits were with visiting friends. Once is enough. The Palace Museum is a UNESCO Heritage Site, that fact is lost on the hordes that descend each day. Bus upon bus vomit tourists, mostly farmers on package tours, into the Chinese Mecca. For me, a place this old, so grand, should be revered, like a library or a good brothel.
Tour guides and their charges are everywhere. Each guide carries a flag for his group to follow. Some groups wear brightly colored t-shirts or hats. Guides run to and fro to keep their group members, similar to malevolent toddlers, together – a task as easy as herding cats. With my been-there-done-that attitude, this past year I decided to shoot the guides instead of the halls and thrones. The guide in the foreground looked about as happy as I did to be in the Forbidden City.