Forbidden City, which is also named as the Palace Museum of China, is situated in the central part of Beijing. It covers 74 hectares and just opposites the Tian'anmen Gate in the south; to the north is the Gate of Devine Prowess (Shenwumen), which faces Jingshan Park. It is a beautiful scenic spot with exuberant wood and grass. By far, Forbidden City is the largest and most completed ancient wood palace buildings. The palace is departed into two parts, the Outer Court and the Inner Court. The Outer Court is just for the emperor exercised his supreme power over the nation. And the Inner Court is for his private life with his royal families.
The Forbidden City, in details, extends 753 meters from east to west, and 961 meters from north to south. It is shaped in rectangular and takes up a total area of 720,000 square meters. It composed of some dozen admixtures of different sizes and 9,900 bays of rooms, with an entire floor area of 150,000 square meters. Most of the buildings were built with wood, roofed with yellow glazed tiles and built on blue-and-white stone foundations, looking solemn and excellent. City walls were 10 meters high, and a 52 meter-wide moat encircled the Forbidden City. Three-floor towers are placed at each corner of the wall
History of the Palace Museum
Forbidden City possesses a history of more than 500 years, and has been ruled by 24 emperors of Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty. It houses huge amounts of rare treasures and curiosities. UNESCO listed the Palace Museum as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987; now it is one of the most popular tourist attractions home and abroad.
As we all known that the Forbidden City is also called as Purple Forbidden City. In the feudal world at that time, the emperor had supreme power, which means that the Forbidden City is a palace only for up-classes. That is to say, it is a real forbidden place for common people. And purple is the symbolic color of the North Star, which was believed as the center of the cosmos. That is why we called it Forbidden City.
Forbidden City Today
After having been the imperial palace for some five centuries, the Forbidden City holds numerous rare treasures and curiosities. Listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987. Nowadays, the Forbidden City is open to tourists and has turned out to be one of the most popular tourist attractions from home and abroad. Both its splendid painted decoration on these royal architectural wonders and the grand and deluxe halls, with their surprisingly magnificent treasures will appear great attraction to satisfy the curiosity foreigners and ourselves.
Some main attraction spots of Forbidden City
Wumen/The Meridian Gate
The Meridian Gate, Wumen in Chinese, is the main entrance of Forbidden City on the south. The emperor still believed that they are the sons of heaven and should live in the central part of universe. They thought the meridian line was just gone through the city, so they called it Wumen.
The gate is 35.6 meters high and surmounted by five pavilions. Because each pavilion resembles a phoenix, this gate also gets the nickname as WuFengLou in Chinese, which means 'Five Phoenix Tower'. The central pavilion is rectangular in shape, while the other four with every two on each side, are square. There are strict rules to enter the openings, the central gate is only for emperor himself, and it represents sovereign power. The empress is only permitted to go through once on her wedding day. As a special honor, the first three finalists of the national examination would allow to march through following their interview with the emperor. The east opening for the ministers while the west for the royal family. And the rest ones were for the low-ranking officials. There is no way for ordinaries to enter.
The special drums and bells were all for emperors, as a signal to announce their meeting with his ministers in Taihedian (Hall of Supreme Harmony). The drums were used to announce an emperor's departure to Titan (the Temple of Heaven) and bells to announce his departure to Taimiao (the Ancestral Temple).
Many special events would take place at the Meridian Gate. Every 1st day of the lunar year, the emperor would announce the coming year. Also here they celebrated victories and accepted prisoners of war from the dispatched generals. It is the place for emperors to publish those who offended them as well.
The First Courtyard and Inner Golden River
After entering the Meridian Gate, there built five Inner Golden Bridge with Inner Golden Water runs below. Their build-up, in a large degree, was the result of fire- preventing as well as observing the principle of Feng Shui and decorative feature. The five stands as five arrows reporting symbolically to Heaven, because the emperor considered himself the Sons of Heaven. They all decorated with marble balustrades carved with motifs of dragon and phoenix.
The five Inner Golden Bridges also have strict rules, the central one was only for emperors and the near inner two for royal families with the two left for ministers. Partly speaking, the five Inner Golden Bridges were supposed to represent the five Confucian virtues of caritas, responsibility, brightness, trustiness and (ceremonial) suitability.
TaiHeMen-The Gate of Supreme Harmony
After come across the Inner Golden Bridge, we would enter a large part of courtyard. It is a place without trees or anything else, because the emperors always considered themselves the Sons of Heaven, they couldnt bear anything appear higher. Right in front of the courtyard is the center of the north part of Forbidden City, where the Gate of Supreme Harmony lies. It is the main gate of the Outer Court.
Two bronze lions guarded TaiHeMen, in order to show the imperial sanctity. The west one is male, with its front right paw resting on a ball, symbolizing imperial power extended worldwide. The lioness on the east side has its front left paw on a lion cub, which indicate a prosperously growing family and the never-ending secession of the imperial pedigree.
One of the biggest events held here is the emperors wedding ceremony. It is also be known as an annunciation of an Act of Grace by Shunzhi. During the Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty, this was where the emperor held his court to handle the state affairs. The emperor would sit in the gateway, accept documents from his ministers and make the decisions.
TaiHeDian-The Hall of Supreme Harmony
TaiHeDian was built up on a three -tier marble terrace in 1406 and has undergone many times repairs later. The so-called Golden Carriage Palace to be recognized as the heart of Forbidden City is the palace where the emperors handled the national affairs. Civil and military officials would all kneel before him proclaiming: "Long Live Your Majesty". It is a palace where numerous ceremonious and important occasions take place. Celebrations as emperors' birthdays, weddings etc. and most occasions as the Winter Solstice, the Chinese New Year and the dispatch of generals into fields of war.
TaiHeDian is the highest building in Forbidden City. The 35.05-metre-high (115-foot-high) hall was the tallest building in Beijing as well during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The traditional way calculating the interior space of a building was to count the number of squares. Space enclosed by four pillars was treated as one room, so this hall can be said to have 5 "rooms", 11 rooms wide and five rooms deep.
There are totally 72 pillars standing in six rows to support the roof. Each of the pillars supporting the hall was made from a single piece of wood, which is about 18 meters high. Alongside the flights of steps which ascend the three tiers of the terrace, there are eighteen bronze Dings, a kind of ancient vessel, representing the eighteen national provinces of those times. On the luxuriously balustraded terrace, stand a bronze crane and a bronze tortoise, symbols of everlasting rule and longevity. The marble Rigui, an ancient sun dial on the eastern side and the Jialiang, an ancient measuring vessel on the western side demonstrate that the emperor was both just and fair. In front of the hall, there are a couple of gilded bronze vats, which were used to hold water in case of fire. Even in winter, to prevent the happening of fire, fire would be lighted below each vessel to keep the water from freezing.
ZhongHeDian-Hall of Complete Harmony
The Hall of Complete Harmony, ZhongHeDian in Chinese, is the place where the emperors rested before they went to the major ceremonies or receiving the officials. The first impression left by the Hall of Complete Harmony is the single pyramid roof, which contains a throne with incense burners and braziers in front of it. ZhongHeDian is square in shape rather than rectangular as the other two in the Outer Court and is the smallest of the three.
It acted as a personal reservation or office-cum-study space for emperors on their way to join ceremonies in the Hall of Supreme Harmony. Here is just the place they consulted with their religious ministers. In advance of the time when going to the Temple of the Ancestral Farmers, they would inspect the seeds and farming tools to be used during the ceremony. Every year before they went to sacrificial rites at the Temple of Heaven, the Temple of the Earth or elsewhere, they would read elegiac addresses. During the Qing dynasty the imperial genealogy was revised every ten years. A special ceremony was held in this hall so that the revision could be presented to His Majesty for approval.
The Hall of Complete Harmony is heavily painted from the inside that makes the whole hall full of solemnity and mystery. As we go inside, the sandalwood throne, which is situated in the center, is standing on a two-meter high platform and surrounded by six gold-lacquered pillars painted with dragons.
Take an inside look at the Hall of complete Harmony (Zhonghedian), a pair of golden unicorns that standing on either side of the centrally positioned throne can be seen. In Chinese, it called as luduan, they were believed to be multilingual and capable of traveling 9,000 kilometers in just one day. What with their extraordinary abilities, effigies of these mythical beasts, which served also as sandalwood burners, were put beside the throne as a symbol of the emperors' great wisdom and intelligence. And next to the throne, there are a couple of sedan chairs, which were used to shuttle emperors around the whole Forbidden City.
BaoHeDian-The Hall of Preserving Harmony
The structure of BaoHeDian is somewhat a kind of typical Qing style that without supporting pillars in its front part. It was built in 1420, rebuilt in 1625 and renovated in 1765.It stands at the northern end of the three-tier marble terrace of the Outer Court, a bit smaller than the Hall of Supreme Harmony but larger than the Hall of Complete Harmony. This hall was the mot decorative one in Forbidden City
Function with the original throne sits in the middle, surrounded by some fine bronzes.
The Hall of Preserving Harmony, during Ming Dynasty, it is the palace where Emperors would change into their ritual garments prior to the ceremonial installation of an empress or crown prince. And later in Qing Dynasty, imperial banquets of different purpose often held here, such as a princess's marriage and celebration on New Years Eve in honor margraves, Mongol princes and civil and military officials. An important decision was made in 1789 by emperor Qianlong is that the final process of the Palace Examination should be transferred from the Hall of Supreme Harmony to the Hall of Preserving Harmony. This was all along be regarded as the highest level of the nation-wide imperial examination system and the emperor would honor the top ten successful candidates by reading the papers they had presented. The three scholars who passed the exam with the best score would get honorable titles.
QianQingMen - Gate of Heavenly Purity
Gate of Heavenly Purity, QianQingMen in Chinese, is the main entrance to the Inner Court. It is acted as both the dividing and integrate part of the Inner Court and the Outer Court.
In the period of Qing Dynasty, emperors used to enthroned under the center of QianQingMen for the purpose of hearing reports and making decisions on matters presented to him, known as "Yu Men Ting Zheng" in China. And the smaller buildings on both sides were duty rooms for officials and waiting rooms to prepare ministers themselves for interviews.
The Origin of Its Name
Qianqingmen is the frontispiece of the yard in which there are QianQingGong Palace, JiaoTaiDian Hall, and KunNingGong Palace. Through this gate, the minister can meet the emperor. Maybe that's why QianQingMen Gate is called imperial gate.
QianQingGong - Palace of Heavenly Purity
Brief Introduction of QianQingGong
Palace of Heavenly Purity is a bit smaller than the Hall of Supreme Harmony, and they have the decorations similarly with each other, such as sun-dial, tortoises, grain measure, storks etc. However it is the largest palace of the Inner Court.
In front of the Palace of Heavenly purity, there are small miniature pavilions on both sides. One is called Jiangshan pavilion that stands for territorial integrity; the other is Sheji Temple, the God of Land and Grain that symbolizes a bumper harvest.
Up in the right center of the main part, there lays a plaque engraved with four Chinese characters written by Emperor Yongzheng and which reads: "Be open and aboveboard". From that time on, the name of each crown prince would be written on duplicate files and a copy would be placed in a box behind this plaque. The emperor himself would retain the other copy. Only if the name on each document were the same would the designated prince take the crown upon the death of the emperor.
The first two Qing emperors lived here for their daily life and state affair. Usually they read here, checked the documents and granted ministers & audience an audience. For some reasons, some banquets were held here as well. From 1722-1785, the Banquet for A Thousand Seniors, QianSou Yan in Chinese, had held here twice.
Moreover, there is a traditional customs that no matter where the emperors died, his coffin would be placed here for a few days for mourning. Then they would be moved to Jinshan and chose a day to burn.
KunNingGong - Palace of Earthly Tranquility
KunNingGong was first built in 1420 and restored in 1655. It is the only palace of Manchurian architecture style in the Forbidden City and was the residential palace of the empress during the Ming and Qing dynasties. And the emperors held their weddings in the East Warmth Chamber while the West one for sacrifice purpose. But the emperor and empress only lived here for a few days. Later the emperor moved to the Hall of Mental Cultivation (YangXinDian) and the empress moved to another palace.
Every year the royalty would hold religious sacrifice in the West Warmth Chamber. If for very important occasions, emperors and empresses would preside over the ceremonies in person. The East Warmth Chamber was wholly painted in red, which stands for happiness. And the refining and beautiful embroidered bed curtain and quilt both feature a hundred playing children that revealed the emperors strong will for plenty of children, or said to be the imperial family's prosperity.
Gate of Earthly Tranquility (KunNingMen) is behind the Palace of Earthly Tranquility, with the imperial doctors' duty room, dispensary and eunuchs duty room to the sides.
JiaoTaiDian - Palace of Union and Peace
Architecture and Feature
The Palace of Union and Peace, JiaoTaiDian in Chinese, the name itself reveals a lot the royalt strong wish of good marriage. JiaoHeDian has exactly the same structure as the Hall of Complete Harmony (ZhongHeDian), but smaller in size. It is the smallest palace among the three main palaces of Inner Court.
There are two obvious clocks right on each side of the central throne. It is an ancient Chinese water pot clock - equivalent to an hourglass, on the right side while on the left is a chime clock. The water pot clock just as its name goes, measuring time by dripping waters, which is one of China's most outstanding inventions and traces back about 2,500 years. These two timers were a reference to the Drum Tower and Bell Tower.
Besides, some 25 similar imperial seals there standing around the palace, they are the symbols of hopeful 25 generations that Emperor QainLong had ever been desired for. He wanted a lot to continue Qing Dynasty as long as possible, at least 25 reigns. In that way, Qing would be the longest empire ever lasting in history so far. But to his disappointed, his Dynasty only last out 10 generations.
As for the plaque hanging on the top line, only two Chinese characters Wu Wei carved on it. Wu Wei means to govern the country by noninterference, as was done by Shun, a legendary sage king in ancient China. Wu Wei is a kind of Taoist philosophy, implies that one should adjust himself to the nature, one should keep in the position right of the middle between heaven and earth. But the feudal governor laid particular stress on the mind to discourage ordinaries from taking action.
JiaoTaiDian also has the function of holding ceremonies and celebrations, such as the awarder of honorable titles and birthday celebrations. It is the place for empresses to receive formal birthday greetings. Empresses would check out preparations prior to they went to preside over memorial ceremonies for the Silkworm God and practice sericulture as well. A well-known order that eunuchs should be banned from attending state affairs announced by Emperor Shunzhi also placed here.
YangXinDian -Hall of Mental Cultivation
YangXinDian, the Hall of Mental Cultivation, has played an important role in history of Forbidden City as the Hall of Supreme Harmony. It served as the emperors residence and office from the Emperor YongZheng. From that time on, all Qing Dynasty Emperors lived and ruled there as well. And three emperors had died here.
Structure & Function
The Hall of Mental Cultivation is an I-Shaped building as it has a front and rear hall, which served as the emperors bedrooms. The central part of the front hall was used as a place where the emperors deal with the state affairs.
In the East Warmth Chamber, the notorious Empress Dowager Cixi administered state affairs behind curtains, which was put behind the throne. In fact, the emperor was too young to handle his power upon the nation, they were just puppet. Such kind of regent was called as Chui Lian Ting Zheng in Chinese, which has lasted for 48 years. In the East Warmth Chamber, from YongZheng to XianFeng, they did private meeting with ministers or dealt with secret issues. The small room in the west end ia called Sanxitang (Room of Three Rare Treasures). Just as the name goes, Qianlong collected three outstanding calligraphy masterpieces by Wang Xizhi, Wang Xianzhi, and Wang Xun, three famous penmen in Chinese history.
Between the front and rear hall, there are five bedrooms side by side. The central one is for emperor only, on the east of the chamber is Tishuntang (the Hall of Manifest Compliance)-the residence of the empress. To the west is Yanxitang (the Hall of Festive Joy), the waiting room for concubines and palace maids called upon to wait on the emperor.
YunLongShiDiao - The Huge Stone Carving
The Huge Stone Craving is the central part of the staircase behind the Hall of Preserving Harmony. It carved with dragons and clouds, full of solemnity and mystery.
It was firstly carved in Ming Dynasty and recarved by emperor Qianlong. The stone slab is 16.75 meters long, 3.07 meters wide, 1.7 meters thick and weighs about 250 tons. It was quarried from Fangshan District, 70 kilometers southwest of Beijing, and the transportation required twenty thousand people. It is really a hard work that time for men to take the stones without modern ways of transportation. It is said that in Forbidden City there lies wells every 500 meters, in winter they would make use of water freezing to line an icy way for transporting the stones: and in summer they put rolling logs instead. The emperors strong ambition burdened ordinaries a lot.
XiLiuGong-The Six Western Palaces
The Six Western Palaces, XiLiuGong in Chinese, is located to the north of the Hall of Mental Cultivation, three palaces on each side of an alley from north to south. They are similar in size and structures. It is the place where the empress and the concubines live. The original display inside the rooms has now opened to visitors, from which we could know and feel by ourselves what their life-like at that time.
The totally six palaces has got separate special names.The Empress Dowager Cixi lived in the Palace of Eternal Spring (Chang Chun Gong) during the reign of TongZhi. It was this son that born here as well. The last emperor's wife lived in the Palace of Accumulated Elegance (Chu Xiu Gong) until 1924 when she and Emperor PuYi were expelled. There was a famous and well-known saying that "3,000 beauties live in the Inner Court". Actually speaking, it referred to the concubines living in the Six Western Palaces.
The Six Western Palace remained exactly the original appearance after the great renovation in celebration of Cixi's 50th birthday in 1884, and later she had been lived there for 10 years. Even today, the "Eulogy of Longevity" was presented to Cixi by two scholars on her 50th birthday inscribed on the wall could be seeing clearly.
DongLiuGong - The Six Eastern Palaces
The Six Eastern Palaces stand on the east part of the Inner Court. They were also served as residential places for empresses and concubines. Most of the palaces renovated in 17th century, and now they have already opened to the public as special exhibitions such as the Museum of Bronzes and the Museum of Ceramics.
NingShouQuanGong - The Outer Eastern Palace
Purpose of Construction
The Outer Eastern Palace of Forbidden City is different from other parts for that it could be treated as a separate part on further east without disturbing of other palaces. It was specially built for QianLong after he decided to abdicate and offer power to his son. And also Cixi had lived here around her 60th.
The whole palace resembles the system of the Inner Court and Outer Courts building style. Making up of south and north part, the front part were HuangjiDian and NingShouGong, to the north of YangXingMen was the retired emperors inner court, that were YangXingDian, LeShouTang, XiHeXuan side by side. As for the south part, there were ChangYinGe, YueShiLou and QingShouTang etc. The famous NingShouGong Garden, common saying as QianLong Garden is the place where Empress Cixi ever lived in.
JiuLongBi-Nine Dragon Screen
Facing the Gate of Imperial Supremacy is the famous Nine Dragon Screen. So far it is the best of its kind and the biggest in China. It was built up by Emperor QianLong, and it is 3.5 meters high and about 30 meters long. As in China, dragon was all along be represented as the top symbol of supreme power, and stands for male only. Nine and five were considered as good numbers for nine is the biggest number in singular number and five is right in the central position between one and nine. So QianLong ordered to build nine dragons with five further ones in the border.
As a story goes like that, the day before Emperor QianLong checked out the Nine-Dragon screen, a tile of the third dragon was fallen off. And there was no way to repair it at once, if founded, all the carpenters would doom to death. So one carpenter used a piece of wood to prevent the flaw to be seen. As we could see today, there still left the wood on the bottom of the third dragon.
YuHuaYuan - The Imperial Garden
YuHuaYuan is located in the central axis of the Forbidden City, behind the KunNingGong, constructed during the Ming dynasty in 1417; it is rectangular in shape and covers an area of approximately 12,000 square meters. The palaces on both sides are bilateral symmetry. YuanHuaYuan is the typical imperial garden in China. It is a place of entertainment for the imperial families exclusively.
The main structure
QinAnDian/The Hall of Imperial Peace
The Hall of Imperial Peace (Qin'AnDian) is the main structure in the garden and the only one on the central axis - it stands in the center of the garden, encircled by a rectangular wall. It was first built in the 15th century. The hall of Imperial peace is a Taoist temple and the religious building with two gilded unicorns (Qilin) guard the door that were considered to prevent the hall from catching fire.
Besides there were four pavilions surrounds the Hall of Imperial Peace in the corners of YuHuaYuan. Four pavilions just stand for the four seasons over years. On the north part are FuBiTing (Jade Green Floating pavilion) and ChengRuiTing (the Pavilion of Auspicious Clarity). And WanChunTing (the pavilion of Myriad Spring) and QianQiuTing (the Pavilion of One Thousand Autumns) lay on the opposite side. Of the four pavilions, WanChunTing is the most famous one that was built in 1535. It symbols as its name goes, the season of spring, the very fresh beginning of a year.
DuiXiuShan - Collecting Elegance Hill
Collecting Elegance Hill, also called DuiXiuShan in Chinese, is located near the north gate. In fact, it is not a real hill but a number of man-made rockeries. There were fountains on both sides and mountainside concealed water pots for saving waters, which were connected by pipes on the purpose of supply water to the fountains.
During Qing Dynasty, every emperor would clime up to the pavilion on the Double Ninth Festival (the ninth day of the ninth lunar month) to enjoy the pleasure scenery with his empress and concubines. As the old saying goes, climbing up hills on that day would get away from misfortune. So that Chinese still follow such customs every year today.
Lastly to say, right at the north gate of the Imperial Garden are placed a pair of gilded bronze elephants represented everlasting peace.
ZhenFeiJing - Well of Concubine Pearl
Concubine Pearl is Emperor GuangXus most lovable concubine. She felt compassion with GuangXu and supported him to carry out WuXu political reform, but finally they failed in result and therefore Empress Cixi always regarded her as an eyesore and wanted to get rid of her all the time. Empress Cixi took the advantage of the time when the Allied Forces forced their way into Beijing in 1900; she said that to avoid ZhehFei being humiliated she should choose to death. Therefore, ZhenFei was forced to jump into the well and from then on the well was named Well of Concubine Pearl.
ShenWuMen - Gate of Divine Prowess
ShenWuMen is the north gate of Forbidden City. There are bells and drums on its tower that bells struck in the morning while drums beaten in the evening. Actually speaking it is the usual way to mark time in ancient China.
ShenWuMen, as the back gate of Forbidden City, is an important entrance of palace daily affairs. The Empress Ming and Qing left the palace through this gate to attend the ceremony of starting silkworm-breeding season. Every three-year selected emperors beauties, the entire candidates pass through the side door of the gate into Forbidden City. In 1924, PuYi, the last emperor of China left the Forbidden City through the Gate of Divine Prowess as well.