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A Pavilion in the Forbidden City

From their own observations and the notes and accounts of travelers who had preceded them, the boys made the following description of Beijing:

"Beijing stands on a great sandy plain, and has a population of about two million. It consists of two parts, which are separated by a wall. That towards the south is called the Chinese city, and that on the north the Tartar city. The Tartar city is the smaller both in area and population. It is said to measure about twelve square miles, while the Chinese city measures fifteen. There are thirteen gates in the outer walls, and there are three gates between the Tartar and the Chinese city. In front of each gate there is a sort of bastion or screen, so that you cannot see the entrance at all as you approach it, and are obliged to turn to one side to come in or go out. The Chinese city has few public buildings of importance, while the Tartar city has a great many of them. The latter city consists of three enclosures, one inside the other, and each enclosure has a wall of its own. The outer one contains dwellings and shops, the second includes the government offices, and the houses of private persons who are allowed to live there as a mark of special favor. While the third is called the Forbidden City, and is devoted to the imperial palace and temples that belong to it. Nobody can go inside the Forbidden City without special permission, and sometimes this is very hard to obtain. The wall enclosing it is nearly two miles in circumference, and has a gate in each of its four fronts, and the wall is as solid and high as the one that surrounds the whole city of Beijing.

"We had no trouble in going to see the imperial palace, or such parts of it as are open to the public, and also the temples. We could readily believe what was told us, that the temples were the finest in the whole country, and certainly some of them were very interesting. There are temples to the earth, to the sun, the moon, and there are temples to agriculture, to commerce, and a great many other things. There is a very fine structure of marble more than a hundred feet high, which is called "The Gate of Extensive Peace." It is where the emperor comes on great public occasions, and beyond it are two halls where the foreign visitors are received at the beginning of each year, and where the emperor examines the implements used in the opening of the annual season of plowing. The plowing ceremony does not take place here, but in another part of the city, and the emperor himself holds the plow to turn the first furrow. There are some very pretty gardens in the Forbidden City, and we had a fine opportunity to learn something about the skill of the Chinese in landscape gardening. There are canals, fountains, bridges, flower-beds, groves, and little hillocks, all carefully tended, and forming a very pretty picture in connection with the temples and pavilions that stand among them.
Temple of Heaven

"We have seen many temples, so many, in fact, that it is difficult to remember all of them. One of the most impressive is the Temple of Heaven, which has three circular roofs, one above another, and is said to be ninety-nine feet high. The tiles on the top are of porcelain of the color of a clear sky, and the intention of the builder was to imitate the vault of heaven. On the inside there are altars where sacrifices are offered to the memory of former emperors of China, and on certain occasions the emperor comes here to take part in the ceremonies.

"Then we went to see the great bell, which is one of the wonders of the world, though it is not so large as the bell at Moscow. It is said to weigh 112,000 pounds, but how they ever weighed it I don't know. It is a foot thick at the rim, about twenty feet high, and fifteen feet in diameter. It was cast more than two hundred years ago, and is covered all over, inside and outside, with Chinese characters. There is a little hole in the top of it where people try to throw copper cash. If they succeed, it is a sign that they will be fortunate in life, and if they fail, they must leave the money as an offering to the temple. All of us tried until we had thrown away a double-handful of cash, but we didn't get a single one of them through the hole. So if we fail now in anything, you will know the reason.
Beijing Cash

"The Chinese have a great many gods, and pretty nearly every god has a temple in some part of Beijing. There is a fine temple to Confucius, which is surrounded by some trees that are said to be five hundred years old. The temple has a high roof which is very elaborately carved, and looks pretty both from a distance and when you are close by it. But there are no statues in the temple, as the Chinese do not worship Confucius through a statue, but by means of a tablet on which his name is inscribed.

The other deities have their statues, and you may see the god of war with a long beard and mustache. The Chinese have very slight beards, and it is perhaps for this reason that they frequently represent their divinities as having a great deal of hair on their faces, so as to indicate their superiority to mortals.
Traditional Likeness of Confucius

Then they have a god of literature, who is represented standing on the head of a large fish, and waving a pencil in his right hand, while he holds in his left a cap such as is worn by the literary graduates after they have received their degrees. The god of literature is worshipped a great deal by everybody who is studying for a degree, and by those whose ancestors or other relatives have been successful in carrying away the honors at an examination. Think what it would be to have such a divinity in our colleges and schools in America, and the amount of worship he would get if the students really believed in him!

"The Chinese have a god of thieves, but he has no temple, and is generally worshipped in the open air. All the thieves are supposed to worship him, as he is a saint who made their business successful, and, besides this, he is worshipped by those who wish to become wealthy in honest ways. He is said to have been a skillful thief, and very pious at the same time. He was kind to his mother, and the most of his stealing was done to support her.

"One of the interesting places we have visited is the office of the Board of Punishments, which corresponds pretty nearly to our courts of justice. But one great point of difference between their mode of administering justice and ours is that they employ torture, while we do not. Not only is the prisoner tortured after condemnation, but he is tortured before trial, in order to make him tell the truth, and even the witnesses, under certain circumstances, are submitted to the same treatment. We saw some of the instruments that they use, and there was not the least attempt to keep us from seeing them. It is customary to have them piled or hung up at the doors of the courts, so that culprits may know what to expect, and honest persons may be deterred from wickedness through fear. It is the same principle that is followed by some of the schoolteachers in America when they hang up in full view the stick with which they intend to punish unruly boys.
Military Candidates Competing with the Bow and Arrow

"When we went into the courtroom, a man had just been sentenced to receive twenty blows of the bamboo, and the sentence was immediately carried out. He was ordered to lie down with his face to the floor. His back was then stripped, and while his legs and arms were held by attendants, the executioner laid on the twenty blows with a bamboo stick about six feet long and two inches wide. He did not scream or make the least outcry, but took his punishment patiently, and was raised to his feet at its end. He bowed to the judge, and, perhaps, thanked him for the attention he had received, and was then led away to make room for someone else.

"I could go on with a long account of the tortures in China, but they are not very pleasant reading, and, besides, some of them are too horrible for belief. Well, we have had enough of these disagreeable things, and will turn to something else. We passed by the place where the candidates for military honors compete for prizes by shooting with the bow and arrow. At the first examination they are required to shoot at a mark with three arrows, and the one who makes the best shots is pronounced the winner of the prize. At the second examination they must practice on horseback, with the horse standing still, and at the third they must shoot three arrows from the back of a running horse. Afterwards they are exercised in the bending of some very stiff bows and the handling of heavy swords and stones. There is a certain scale of merit they must pass to be successful, and when they succeed, their names are sent up for another examination before higher officials than the ones they have passed before. It is a curious fact that a man who does well as an archer is entitled to a degree among the literary graduates, though he may not be able to carry away a single prize for his literary accomplishments alone."


Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the chapter.
  • Review the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


Forbidden City: The palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties, which is preserved as a museum in Beijing, China.
Deity: A supernatural divine being such as a god or goddess.
Confucius: Western name of Kong Qiu, an influential Chinese philosopher who lived 551 BCE – 479 BCE, who believed in morality, justice, and sincerity.


Activity 1: Narrate the Chapter

  • Narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Chapter Pictures

  • Study the chapter pictures and describe how each relates to the story.

Activity 3: Observe the Modern Equivalent

  • Examine the chapter setting in modern times: Tourists visiting the Hall of Supreme Harmony within the Forbidden City in Beijing, China.

Activity 4: Map the Chapter

  • Find the country of China on the map of the world.
  • Find the city of Beijing on the map of China.

Activity 5: Map the Chapter on a Globe

  • Repeat the mapwork from Activity 4 on a three-dimensional globe.