Tourists visit the Forbidden City in Beijing in early July. (Wu Hong/European Pressphoto Agency)

During China's Ming Dynasty, only government officials and royalty were granted access to the Forbidden City, a sprawling palace complex commissioned by the emperor in the early 15th century. Aptly named and built with strict adherence to feng shui, the walled residence was home to majestic halls, tranquil gardens and political plots galore.

Today the Forbidden City sits inside modern Beijing, opening its gates to all manner of visitors in the bustling capital city. Six centuries after it was constructed as an imperial stronghold, the site now hosts more rowdy tourists than royalty.

The royal perks, however, persist.

As heavy rains hit Beijing last week, making shallow rivers out of busy streets, the Forbidden City was one of the few places that remained relatively dry — and open to the public. According to the state-run China Daily, 30,000 people visited the complex even as many other places in the city shut down.

This summer has seen China's worst flood season in nearly two decades. More than 200 people have been killed, and hundred of thousands have been forced to leave their homes.

Heavy rain in China has killed at least 87 people and forced thousands from their homes, with nearly 80 others missing. (Reuters)

Amid this devastation, many are seizing on the irony that a 600-year-old palace has weathered the storms better than many modern structures.


Commuters wade through water after getting off a bus July 20 in a flooded street in Beijing. (AFP via Getty Images)

A Forbidden City employee speaking to China Daily credited the site's weather preparedness to its "ancient drainage system."

The plumbing is such that floodwater can be drained in 20 minutes, the employee said. Drains and other water fixtures are artfully fitted across the complex, working in tandem with elevated courtyards to direct water flow. As the Shanghaiist pointed out, some of the drainage spouts are carved into dragon heads so that heavy rains create the effect of "thousands of dragons spitting water."

The Forbidden City flaunted its flood-coping ability on its official Weibo page. It posted photos of lion sculptures inside the complex and noted that the lions had just taken a soothing shower. "Over six hundred years of wind and rain, nothing to fear," the caption said. "La la la~."

"The Forbidden City has shown us the wisdom of ancient China," one Weibo user responded. "Lives could have been saved with this system today."

Another reasoned that 15th-century builders had more to lose if they did a shoddy job: "Who would survive if the palace flooded? They'd all be beheaded right away."

Other commenters were more skeptical, noting that there was still a good deal of water in the pictures.

"Looks pretty flooded to me," one wrote.

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