Introduction

Located in the center of Beijing, the Forbidden City, known as the Palace Museum now, was build in 1406, the fourth year of Emperor Yongle’s during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and was completed in 1420. Once used as the royal palace in the Ming Dynasty and Qing dynasties (1644-1911), the Forbidden City was home to 24 emperors, including 14 of the Ming and 10 of the Qing, for as long as 500 years. This grand and majestic complex is the extant largest and completed wooden cluster in the world.

The Forbidden City occupies a total area of 720,000 square meters, with the construction are of 150,000 square meters and more than 8,700 rooms. Though repaired and rebuilt many times during the Ming and Qing dynasties, it remains the original basic form and layout. The palace city is surrounded by 10 meter tall wall, outside of which runs a 52 meter wide moat. There are four corner towers on the four corners of the wall, composing a strong defense system of the Forbidden City.

The rectangular palace city is arranged out by an invisible central axis. Qianqingmen Square connects the Outer and Inner Court. Main structures stand on the central axis symmetrically and such a well arranged layout raises the imposing manner of the whole complex and stresses the imperial dignity and supreme power. The Outer Court, centered on the Three Grand Halls, namely Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Middle Harmony and Hall of Preserving Harmony, is the place where the emperor conducted state affairs and held grand ceremonies. The Inner Court, centered on the Palace of Heavenly Purity, Hall of Union and Peace and Palace of Earthly Tranquility, jointly called Three Back Palaces, was where the emperor handled state affairs and the royal family members lived, amused and worshiped the Gods. The Inner Court is regard as the palace where the heaven and earth met and yin and yang united. At the end of the central axis of the Forbidden City is the Imperial Garden, fully showing, the planning layout of the feudal imperial palaces. The landscape in the Imperial Garden is diverse in the neat layout, playing up the imposing royal manner and displaying the garden’s characteristics as well.

The Forbidden City is also a treasure house, and nearly 1000,000 pieces of historical and cultural relics and artistic treasures are collected in the Forbidden City, many of which are state relics. Now, the original displaying in the Three Grand Halls, Three Back Halls and the Six Western Palaces has been remained and restores. Additionally there open several exhibition halls where visitors can view and admire bronze wares, pottery and porcelain wares, handicrafts, calligraphy and paintings, clocks and etc. 

 


Meridian Gate

The Meridian Gate, the front entrance to the Forbidden City, is located in the southern end of the central axis of the palace city, consisting of the platform terrace and gate towers. There are five openings  in front part of the platform terrace and the two wings of the platform terrace extend south. Five gate towers were built on the platform terrace, known as Five-Phoenix Towers. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, grand ceremonies like accepting prisoners of war and announcing the new calendar for the coming year were held here. The bells and drums were kept on the terrace, and when the emperor went for the sacrificial ceremonies in the Altar of Land and Grain and the Temple of Heaven, the bell would be sounded; when the emperor held sacrificial ceremonies in the Imperial Ancestral Temple, the drum would be hit; and if the grand court ceremonies were held, the bell and drum would be sounded at the same time.

Gate of Supreme Harmony

As the starting point of the Outer Court, the Gate of Supreme Harmony is the highest-ranking gate in the Forbidden City, with vats and bronze lions setting symmetrically beside. During the Ming Dynasty and the early period of the Qing Dynasty, emperors handled state affairs, listened to ministers reports, and issued  imperial edicts here every morning. In 1644, the first year of Emperor Shunzhi’s reign of Qing, as the Hall of Supreme Harmony destroyed in the war-fire in the end of the Ming Dynasty hadn’t been repaired, Emperor Shunzhi ascended the throne here and absolved prisoners. The Inner Golden Water River winds its way in front of the gate; and five exquisitely-build white marble bridges span across the river, which were supposed to symbolize the five virtues – benevolence, righteousness, rite,wisdom and faith – initiated by Confucianism.