Saturday, April 15, 2017

Documentary Review- China's Forbidden City

There's something about the name 'Forbidden City' that is just inherently interesting. It brings up all sorts of questions like, 'why is it forbidden?' and 'can I go there?'. Additionally 'what's inside that makes it so exclusive?', 'what will happen if I go there?' and 'what exactly are the rules surrounding this?'. While this lovely documentary put out by the Smithsonian didn't quite answer all of these questions, it gave valuable background and context for one of China's most beautiful historic sites.


Image result for china's forbidden city documentaryThis documentary has two parts, the first detailing the construction of the Forbidden City, and the general origin story, and the second telling the story of the Empress Dowager Cixi, and the fall of the Forbidden City in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.

The first part is very detailed about the actual building of the city. It explains a lot of the symbolism behind the different features (the towers at the corners of the city, the number of pillars, etc.), and brings in historical architecture experts to talk about it. This part is very interesting if you're into architecture and building, but I personally did not find it very interesting.

The second part though, that was fascinating. As I mentioned before, it recounts how Empress Cixi rose from a humble concubine, to Empress, to eventually ruling China. It's a fascinating story of political intrigue and sexual scheming. And the story of one badass lady, who used the men around her to rule a country.

'But what does that have to do with the Forbidden City?' You ask. Well, it is an unfortunate fact that during Cixi's 'reign' the English came a-knocking, and, as any student of history will tell you, that never ends well for the people the English come to see. Though Cixi did her best to keep the English at bay, she was unsuccessful, and the court had to flee Beijing. The Forbidden City was destroyed by the invaders shortly after.

Overall, it's a great documentary series. It's interesting, well paced, and the visuals are beautiful. Unlike many documentary series, this one doesn't lose momentum, and will keep you hooked until the very end.

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