Forbidden Gardens
A Little Bit of Imperial China in Eastern Texas

1167 The Forbidden City, under a canopy in the rice fields of East Texas. CLUI photo by Mark Curtin

LOCATED AMIDST THE RICE FIELDS of East Texas is a scale model of the Forbidden City of Imperial China, and the great tomb of the Emperor Qin. These two models are part of the expanding Forbidden Gardens, a massive outdoor museum covering more than 40 acres, and containing thousands of figures, and model buildings.

The main attraction is a 40,000 square foot model of the Forbidden City, the walled center of government of Imperial China, established in Beijing in the 15th century during the Ming Dynasty. 22,000 human figures populate the model city, each only a few inches tall. Hundreds of buildings duplicate the city's layout and architecture with beautiful detail, at a 1/20th scale.

1168 Some of the 8,000 figures modeled after those which were found in Emperor Qin's Tomb. CLUI photo by Mark Curtin
The other major component of the site is a model of the tomb of the Emperor Qin (pronounced "chin", after whose dynasty China was named), who is known as the first emperor of China, and who ruled during the third century BC. The model reflects the known elements of the actual tomb, which lies inside a hill in central China. The emperors burial ground is said to cover 20 square miles, and is still mostly unexcavated. So far uncovered are eight thousand life-sized terra-cotta figures, each unique, and lined up in rows. Though Forbidden Gardens has duplicated them at half size, and in fiberglass, it is still an impressive sight.

The museum is being built and financed by Ira Poon, a Chinese-American business man from Seattle. Plans call for a trolley, and boat rides through the park, as well as a massage parlor, teashop, a meeting room for weddings and receptions, and, eventually, a hotel.

Forbidden Gardens is located in Katy Texas, just west of Houston. There is an admission charge.

Field Report by Mark Curtin