The Palace of Complete Happiness
Sounds blissful, doesn’t it? Although in the building thus called in the Forbidden City in Beijing it didn’t mean rooms of books and all the time in the world to read them, with pit-stops to eat toast and cheese and apples, which would be my idea of complete happiness.
For the thousands of people who lived in it, especially the Royal Family, the City was a golden cage. There would have been riches beyond the dreams of avarice there but the place would have been stiff with protocols and quarrelling eunuchs and women hobbling on bound feet and cruel punishments for small transgressions. And a cage is a cage whatever colour it is. Extremely fascinating to read about though.
Ever since I visited China in 2011 I’ve wanted to set stories there. A few months ago I was looking at a map of the Forbidden City and thought The Palace of Complete Happiness would make a great title.
This is in Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special dated January 2016.
It's contemporary – a teacher is escorting a party of teenagers around the City and finds an uncomfortable parallel between part of its history and her own life.
Oh, and if you're looking for some Christmassy stories (and why wouldn't you be?) I have one in this anthology, called Molly's Christmas Candle.