Forbidden Gardens, one of the best kept secrets in Texas is closing this year, if they have not done so already. Forbidden Gardens has, until now, been located at Texas Highway 99 and Franz Road in Katy, Texas– down by Houston. This awe-inspiring site is closing to make room for highway construction.
In 1996, businessman Ira Poon funded a project to build a 1:20 scale replica of the Forbidden City, along with a one-third scale replica of the Emperor Qin’s tomb, complete with 6,000 terra cotta soldiers and chariots. 80 acres were purchased for the project, but only about half that land was ever used. Although impessively designed and realized, the place got off to a slow start. My lady friend Pat and I visited the Forbidden Gardens on a sunny Sunday afternoon in 1996, soon after it first opened for business. There were almost no other visitors, With just the two of us, plus a couple of people working the ticket window, the place had a strange, surreal feeling to it, a bit like a ghost town, all the more so because the largest part of the exhibit was a tomb. The young lady who took our tickets told us that over the next fifteen years they planned to add replicas of a temple, palaces and even have a restaurant. Always the charmer, I suggested that since their exhibits include a huge display of Emperor Qing and his army, perhaps the restaurant might be called Burger Qing. Sadly, fifteen years later, I do not think that the project, including the restaurant, was ever completed.
These photos are of the Forbidden City replica, as it appeared that July day in 1996.. Tomorrow, I will have a separate entry of the replica of Emperor Qing’s tomb.