The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The New Smithsonian Magazine

Having just finished shoveling the snow, AGAIN, the first thing I do when I come in is of course to take a look at the new Smithsonian Magazine. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the online version of the March 2003 issue.

This is a particularly good one. There is an article on how China is sprucing up The Forbidden City in advance of the Olympics. There is also an article on Japanese Hot Springs.

Unfortunately, the Smithsonian does a very good job of locking down their photos. It seems to me there are a lot more in the print magazine than the online one too. Below is an excerpt from the article on the Forbidden City. Enjoy.

- The Snow Shoveling Daoist

Forbidden No More

As Beijing gets ready to hosts its first Olympics, a veteran journalist returns to its once-restricted palace complex

  • By Paul Raffaele
  • Smithsonian magazine, February 2008

I had expected to feel awe as I approached the Meridian Gate guarding what most Chinese call the Great Within—Beijing's Forbidden City—but I'm surprised to feel apprehension, too. After all, it's been a while since the emperors who ruled from behind these formidable walls casually snuffed out lesser lives by the thousands. From 1421 to 1912, this was the world's most magnificent command center—a reputed 9,999 rooms filled with nearly a million art treasures spread over 178 walled and moated acres.

Had I accompanied the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci, the first Westerner to visit the Forbidden City, in 1601, I would have seen these pavilions, courtyards and alleyways bustling with courtiers: concubines clad in silk, gold and jade; eunuchs serving as cooks, cleaners, clerks, compilers and companions; and the emperor's hard-eyed troopers bearing curved swords. But when I first visited, in 1973, not a single human voice sullied the silence, though the cawing of crows sounded like warnings and I thought the breeze playing about my ears could be the whispers of emperors past. I spent that first day 35 years ago treading the ancient clay bricks and marveling at the long procession of scarlet pavilions. Most were locked, and there were no guides to tell me their secrets. Mao Zedong was then putting China through his Cultural Revolution, and he had virtually closed the entire nation to outsiders. He had also sent the intellectuals—including, I assumed, the Forbidden City's guides—out to the countryside to toil with peasants in order to clean the dung from their overintellectualized brains.

I fell in love with the Forbidden City that long-ago day, and over the next 18 months visited it often. Back then, I was frustrated by how much of it was off-limits. But when I returned recently for three weeks of indulgent exploration, its formerly hidden glories.

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