Yesterday I grabbed my camera and headed downtown on my new bike to run some errands and take pictures. I ended up at the Forbidden City, one of my favorite spots in town. I’m taking an on-line Digital SLR photography course, and had a shooting assignment. This wall/tower section was my destination, but I got lucky with this old man sitting against the wall soaking up the warm sunshine. The Forbidden City was the home of Chinese emperors for 600 years, and was, in traditional Chinese thinking the center of the Middle Kingdom—the point around which all the universe rotates. Not just figuratively, but literally. The emperor was Heaven’s (God?) earthly representative. These massive high walls were what separated the emperor from his subjects, and were designed to remind the masses of the gulf that existed between ruler and ruled.
The man sitting against the wall captures that distance, and the smallness of the commoner in relation to the emperor. And if he’s more than 80 years old, he can remember the day when an emperor (albeit a young boy) was in residence behind those big red walls.