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Beijing

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth of a series of reports from Dawn Fotopulos, an associate professor of business at The King’s College, New York, about China.

We visited the most important points of interest in China, including Tiananmen Square, Mao’s Tomb, The Forbidden City, Summer Palace, and Temple of Heaven. There’s a lot of talk about “heaven” and “peace” in Chinese culture probably because there has been so little of either in its history.

The Forbidden City is an impossibly large, walled fortress within the city, comprising dozens of palaces, structures, gardens, and squares, all meant only for the emperor, empress, concubines, servants, eunuchs, and relatives. Commoners: Keep out!

At its height, 20,000 people lived in this privileged place 100,000 laborers created. The palaces have been rebuilt after marauders, conquerors, time, and weather all had taken their toll. They are magnificent. We were glad to have been able to see them restored to their original splendor. Their extravagance can truly not be overstated. The designers and builders exhibited authentic genius in the roof lines and artistic detailing. The scale of these palaces is truly breathtaking.

One palace was where the emperor read the holy scrolls. Another was where he dressed for formal occasions. Still another was where he received honored guests and dignitaries. Each one had its purpose. Maybe I, too, should build a different house for every task in my life – that would certainly help the real estate doldrums in the U.S.!

I asked our guide where the treasure came come from to pay for all this. He calmly replied, “by raising taxes and confiscating the wealth of the conquered.” How little has changed in several thousand years.

Who Are the Children of God?

The emperor and the empress were worshipped as children of “god.” Our guide told us that one meal prepared for the empress was so costly the money spent on it could have fed 5,000 commoners. Could have fed 5,000? That number really stuck with me as the irony is irresistible.

A little over 2,000 years ago, a poor carpenter took a little boy’s lunch of five barley loaves and two sardines, blessed it, broke it, and fed 5,000 listeners. Luke the doctor records this miracle of multiplication for us in his ninth chapter.

Human history is replete with power brokers who exploit their positions of influence to consolidate wealth and monopolize control. The all-powerful God who multiplies His creation to give with radical generosity feels more like the God who deserves my worship.

What a boon to know of a different heavenly city that is not forbidden, but rather available to low-born or high-born of every race, language, and people!


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