It’s good to be the king, right? But what if it’s not? Like, what if you just want out? Can you leave? Can you resign? Or if you try and quit, does your successor(s) have you beheaded and your bones burned? And if that be the case, do you just rule on in misery trapped inside your own opulence and false power?
In the end, I think it’s rather easy to see why so many emperors (across many different cultures) became focused only on booze, women, the pipe, or any other kind of worldly distraction. It helped them to forget they were essentially in prison their whole darn lives.
Palace of Heavenly Purity
I think I’d have hated to live in the Forbidden City. I think if I’d have been emperor, that I’d have schemed to have the whole place burned down. But then the eunuchs would have had me assassinated.
All throughout our planet’s rich-sick history of dictatorial monarchies, you see this problem. Brothers and sisters lay waste to each other to grab power. Servants poison their bosses. Castle intrigue, lunacy, dead bodies, etc, etc, etc.
The Forbidden City puts these traits into overdrive because it’s just so damn big and probably had an operation and culture all its own. An aura completely removed from the Chinese Empire itself. As in:
“Welcome new emperor. This is your home now. But we run the place. Please obey our rules. Or we’ll get rid of you and find someone else. Any questions?”
Some corollaries from the West might be the Pretorian Guard or Versailles. Except that I think The Forbidden City is Versailles and the Pretorian Guard all rolled into one. Gee, doesn’t that sound fun! If you pitched your tent next to an active volcano, that’d be a safer place to live.
Just take a gander at this joyful list of peace and harmony (pun intended):
poor bastard – cause of bleached skeleton; age of skeleton upon commencement of bleaching
Yongle Emperor – deep depression & illness; aged 64
Hongxi Emperor – heart attack (after trying to move out of The Forbidden City, hmm…); aged 46
Xuande Emperor – illness; aged 35
Zhengtong Emperor – suicide; aged 36
Jingtai Emperor – murdered by eunuchs; aged 28
Chenghua Emperor – who the fuck knows; aged 39
Need I go on?
Hongzhi Emperor – who the fuck knows; aged 34
Zhengde Emperor – drunk boating accident; aged 29
Jiajing Emperor – mercury overdose; aged 59
Finally! Finally, here’s a dude who made it past 40. Ah, a trend we hope, right? Am I right folks?! [shifty eyes]
Longqing Emperor – who the fuck knows; aged 39
And after that there’s the Wanli Emperor; whose corpse we’ve already covered in a prior post. And on and on and on.
Acquiring the position of ‘Starving Lion Hand Feeder’ would have been a safer ride. Oh man, I think The Forbidden City’s got to be like the planet’s greatest haunted castle. You can’t take twelve steps without a dead emperor’s ghost hitting you up for a beer.
Well, at least it’s pretty to look at. I guess?
Imperial Garden – this was actually very pretty
Gate of Heavenly Peace – still adorned (for whatever reason) by a portrait of history’s greatest serial killer
Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square – although not actually a hall for the people