Plumbing issues? Not for China’s Forbidden City! China has a Monsoon Season and this year’s monsoon floods are one of the worst on record. In July, China has faced torrential downpours that brought extreme flooding and landslides to many vulnerable areas. As of the beginning of this month, nearly three hundred individuals have died or gone missing, while three hundred thousand more were displaced. In Beijing, where thirty-seven were killed, one place welcomed thousands seeking shelter from the storm at its height, the Forbidden City.
During China’s Ming Dynasty, only government officials and royalty were allowed entrance to the Forbidden City, a gigantic palace complex commissioned by the emperor in the early Fifteenth century. Covering about seventy-two hectares, the Forbidden City is also revered as the largest ancient palatial structure in the world. Constructed between 1406 and 1420, it was home to twenty-four emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Constructed with strict adherence to feng shui, the walled complex was home to majestic building, beautiful gardens and political intrigue galore. The designers and builders of the Forbidden City also put in a revolutionary plumbing and drainage system which handled this 21st century monsoon well. China has dealt with floods throughout its history, and the designers of the Forbidden City were well aware of the need to build in proper plumbing and drainage systems to handle any plumbing issues.
“With all our technological advances, modern drainage systems can’t even beat the ancient ones that were erected six centuries ago!”, said more than one Beijing resident.
The plumbing and drainage system is built in such a way that floodwater can be drained within twenty minutes. Drains and other plumbing fixtures are artfully fitted across the city, working in concert with elevated courtyards to move water flow where it is wanted. Many of the water spouts are carved into dragon heads so that drainage creates the effect of thousands of dragons spitting water. While much of Beijing was shut down by a disastrous storms, the Forbidden City was one of the few areas that remained open without plumbing issues. It even took in thirty thousand visitors during the storm.
The deadly flooding in China have many citizens asking why the six hundred year old system have been used for other areas if it’s so effective. “The Forbidden City has shown us the wisdom of ancient China,” one Forbidden City website user commented, “Lives could have been saved with this system today.”