The Forbidden City, imperial palaces in Ming (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasties (1644-1911), is famous not only because of the palaces themselves, but also its architecture style.
It stands for the culmination of the development of classical Chinese and East Asian architecture and influences the development of Chinese architecture.
The Forbidden City is located in the center of Beijing, China.
It served as the home of emperors and their households as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government for almost 500 years.
Constructed from 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 buildings with more than 9,000 rooms and covers 72 hectares (178 acres).
All the major buildings are wooden structures roofed with yellow glazed tiles and supported by white marble terrace.
The Forbidden City is surrounded by a 7.9 meters (26 feet) high city wall and a 6 meters (20 feet) deep by 52 meters (171 feet) wide moat. The walls are 8.62 meters (28.3 feet) wide at the base, tapering to 6.65 meters (21.8 feet) at the top. These walls served as both defensive walls and retaining walls for the palace. There are delicate towers in four corners on the walls.
Four gates on four directions are the Meridian Gate on the south, the Gate of Devine Might on the north and two other Glorious Gates on west and east.
The city is configured on a north-south axis that aligns with the pole star, emphasizing the emperor’s position as the son of heaven.
All the palaces were constructed based on The Book of Changes and Chinese traditional Confucian culture. “The union of human being and the nature” is the main idea in the Book of Change.
Traditionally, the Forbidden City is divided into two parts. The Outer Court or Front Court includes the southern sections, and was used for ceremonial purposes. The Inner Court or Back Palace includes the northern sections, and was the residence of the Emperor and his family, and was used for day-to-day affairs of state.
The main halls of the Outer and Inner courts are all arranged in groups of three – the shape of the Qian
triagram, representing Heaven.
The Meridian Gate, which towers as high as 38 meters (125 feet), is located in the south and serves as the formal entrance way to the city. It leads visitors through a series of courtyards that end in the Hall of
Hall of Supreme Harmony is heart of the immense Forbidden City palace complex. It is the largest hall within the Forbidden City. The Hall was used for grand ceremonies such as the Emperor’s enthronement ceremony, the Emperor’s wedding and the ceremony for conferring the Empress.
The Hall of Supreme Harmony has the highest level of the roof with ten mythical animals at each of its roof corners, which shows the superiority.
Hall of Central Harmony is located between the Hall of Supreme Harmony and the Hall of Preserved Harmony. These three, known as the Three Great Halls of the Outer Court, are on the central axis of the Forbidden City.
Hall of Preserved Harmony stands at the northern end of the three-tier marble terrace. Similar in style but somewhat smaller than the Hall of Supreme Harmony, it is larger than the Hall of Central Harmony.
At the center of the Inner Court is another set of three halls. From the south, these are the Palace of
Heavenly Purity, Hall of Union, and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. Smaller than the Outer Court halls, the three halls of the Inner Court were the official residences of the Emperor and the Empress.
Yellow and red are the two main colors. Yellow, meaning respect in Chinese culture, was widely used on roofs of most palaces. Pillars, windows, doors and walls are mostly red which symbolizes auspicious events, happiness and celebrations, popular with the Chinese in daily usage.
The imperial patterns mainly with dragons and phoenixes are used on palaces on the central axis and other major palaces. Dragon patterns were used to stand for the emperors and there are 12,654 dragons in different styles. Phoenix patterns, standing for empresses were also widely used.
Many gates inside the imperial city, especially the huge red gates of the major structures, are decorated with gilded door-nails. If you study them carefully, you will find that most of the gates have nine rows of
door-nails and each row consists of nine. That’s because nine implied supremacy in monarchist China and reserved for the emperor’s use.
The Palace Museum is housed in the Forbidden City. The art collections of the Palace Museum are built upon the imperial collection of the Ming and Qing dynasties. This collection was expanded in the 20th century with new acquisitions, transfers from other museums, and new archaeological discoveries.
It is one of the most visited museums in the world: About 15 million visitors every year.
The Forbidden City was home to home of 24 emperors – 14 of the Ming Dynasty and 10 of the Qing Dynasty.
The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
The common English name, “the Forbidden City“, is a translation of the Chinese name Zijin Cheng. The name Zijin Cheng first formally appeared in 1576. Zijin, or “Forbidden”, referred to the fact that no one could enter or leave the palace without the emperor’s permission. Cheng means a city.
The Last Emperor (1987), a biographical film about Puyi, was the first feature film ever authorized by the government of the People’s Republic of China to be filmed in the Forbidden City.