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Notes on the Geography of China: The Grand Axis of Imperial Beijing: Photo 12

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New Year, for example, saw the courtyard filled in the pre-dawn with honored guests shivering while awaiting the emperor. Their ranks--first through ninth--were clearly indicated. Guests of the first rank wore a ruby; of the second, red coral; of the third, a sapphire, and so on to the ninth, who had a silver button.

The emperor's entrance, from the rear and still in the dark, was heralded: "The Lord of Ten Thousand Years approaches!" The most senior of the multitude then climbed to the marble terrace. Twice they and the multitude below kowtowed or made obeisance nine times. Those at the back never caught more than a glimpse of yellow, if that, but even the princes and top officials, who were allowed to enter the hall to make personal obeisance, never looked at the emperor's face. With the light of dawn, the emperor retired and the multitude departed.

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