His mission now was to report on the latest bad omens(这里极易听成bad old men), typhoons off the Cantonese coast, a comet seen above the Gobi Desert. These things spoke of Heaven's weariness and a chaos that could end an emperor's rule.
When the Forbidden City emerged out of the North China Plain at the start of the 15th century, it was the biggest complex of palaces in the world. It still is. It was designed to reflect the eternal glory of the Ming Emperors. One hundred thousand men built it and at night their kilns lit up the surrounding plains. One hundred million bricks, two hundred million tiles, timber from the trees of southern nanmu, trees that took four years to get here by river and the Grand Canal. When the work was over, the people vanished, leaving the city to an emperor and a court who served him. Sealed off from the world, it aspired to contain all the cosmos within its walls, a universe within a universe.
At the center of this controlled universe, the imperial throne. All power flowed from this room. Around it, a fabled 9,999 rooms, the yellows were for power, the reds for good luck, and everywhere the imperial dragons to bring the rains and make the land prosper. One carving of dragons decorated a single piece of marble so vast that it was transported in winter along a highway of ice. When it was found to be too big, legend has it that the emperor's soldiers whipped the marble until it buckled and moved on. There were 18 provinces in the empire. And intelligence reports and tax ledgers arrived in the Forbidden City every day. An empire of 150 million people, Han Chinese, Mongol, Manchu, was governed from here by the world's oldest and most sophisticated bureaucratic machine.