The Chinese Emperor, the Son of Heaven was always accompanied by a huge retinue everywhere he goes. Even inside the Forbidden Palace the procession was dauntingly large, once the Emperor leaves his home (a rare thing, happens about twice a year probably), the huge line can stretch for up to a mile. It is part of the pomp that goes with the Mandate of Heaven, whoever has the favor of heaven supposedly deserves this kind of luxury. Even kiddie emperors such as Kang Xi and Pu Yi got it.

Here's a brief description of the Emperor's Retinue, the short version. The number of people multiply once they leave the Forbidden City.

  • At the head is an eunuch that acts like a horn. He would say, "Qu qu" to tell people to bow or go away. Sometimes there are two or three of them.
  • A couple of "road openers". They would walk sideways to make sure people are not too close to the Emperor.
  • The Emperor, either seated in a plush sedan chair carried by anything from 2 to 50 eunuchs, depending on the formality, or walking along, supported by a couple of junior eunuchs.
  • Some servants and the runners to attend to the Emperor's sligtest whim. Once an order is given, a runner would run backwards in the procession to inform of the emperor's needs, then the whole procession would stop while the required objects are delivered to the emperor.
  • A portable closet, with several changes of clothing.
  • A fully adorned toilet
  • About a month's supply of food. Anything from light snacks to full-blown banquets is carried along on steamers. Of course, there are cooks to prepare the food if the Emperor so desires.
  • A medicine cabinet, with lots of wacky herbs and potions.
This whole line would proceed in perfect order and silence, like a military parade. It must have been be an impressive sight to see.

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