Foto: Jeanina Santiago

Foto: Jeanina Santiago

The Forbidden City: home to thousands of concubines – mistresses and sex slaves of Chinese emperors who believed that sex with young women was the key to youth and virility.

The emperor had only one empress, but had thousands of teenage girls to entertain him. These girls came from upper-class families.

It was a hot and hazy September day 2014 when we saw the Forbidden City.  There were no benches, no trees and no plants in the main area.

Author Jung Chang in her book “Empress Dowager Cixi” explains that plants were absent in the front, or south section, of the Forbidden City because plants conveyed softness. Plants should therefore not be seen in the area where only men were allowed entry.

The harem was housed in the north section. So the garden is at the back of this huge complex.