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China > Pékin > Forbidden City
Forbidden City

Forbidden City
Purple Forbidden City - Zijin Cheng

UNESCO World Heritage Site : 1987

Pékin (China)

   Forbidden City : Virtual tour   60 sections and 142 items
Forbidden City : Outdoor Architecture (58)


Satellite photograph of the Forbidden City
Ming Dynasty - between 1406 and 1420
The Forbidden City is the world's largest surviving palace complex and covers 72 ha. It is a rectangle 961 metres from north to south and 753 metres from east to west. It consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms. The Forbidden City was designed to be the centre of the ancient, walled city of Beijing. It is enclosed in a larger, walled area called the Imperial City.

Court before the Forbidden City

Gate of Heavenly Peace (7)
Ming Dynasty - between 1417 and 1651
Tiananmen, literally the "Gate of Heavenly Peace", is a famous monument in Beijing, the capital of China. It is a widely used national symbol. First built during the Ming Dynasty in 1420, Tiananmen is often referred to as the front entrance to the Forbidden City.

Yard before the Forbidden City (4)
Ming Dynasty
The yard is located between the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tian'anmen) - front entrance into the Imperial City - and the Meridian Gate (Wu'men).

Outer Court - Wai Chou

Meridian Gate (1)
Wu Men
La porte du Midi

Ming Dynasty - 1420
The Meridian Gate is the southern and main entrance to the Forbidden City. It was called Meridian Gate because the emperor believed that the Meridian line went right through the Forbidden City and his imperial residence was the center of the cosmos.

Hall of Martial Valor (8)
Wuying Dian
Hall of Valiance and Heroism
Ming Dynasty
To the southwest of the main halls stands the Hall of Military Courage (Wuying Dian), which served the emperors as a permanent residence and private audience hall.

Archery Pavilion
Jian Ting
Qing Dynasty
Constructed in the early Qing Dynasty, Jian Ting was where imperial family members practiced military arts. The pavilion is five bays wide and three bays deep, with a gable roof. It is surrounded by winding corridors on all four sides.

Hall of Ancestral Worship (2)
Feng Xian Dian
Ming Dynasty
This hall was first constructed in the early Ming Dynasty and was later renovated in 1656 during the Qing Dynasty. In the shape of the character "T", Feng Xian Deng consists of front and rear halls; which are linked by a hallway.

Outer Court (22)
Front Court

Ming Dynasty - between 1406 and 1420
Traditionally, the Forbidden City is divided into two parts. The Outer Court includes the southern sections, and was used for ceremonial purposes. Entering from the Meridian Gate, one encounters a large square, pierced by the meandering Inner Golden Water River, which is crossed by five bridges.

The Gate of Supreme Harmony (2)
Tai He Men
Ming Dynasty
The Gate of Supreme Harmony is the second major gate at the southern side of the Forbidden City.

Hall of Supreme Harmony
Tai He Dian
Ming Dynasty - 1420
The Hall of Supreme Harmony is the largest hall within the Forbidden City. It is located at its central axis, behind the Gate of Supreme Harmony.

The Hall of Central Harmony (1)
Zhong He Dian
Palais de l'Harmonie Parfaite
Ming Dynasty - between 1420 and 1627
First constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, Zhong He Dian was destroyed and reconstructed several times over the centuries. The existing hall was constructed in 1627 during the Ming Dynasty.

The Hall of Preserving Harmony (1)
Ming Dynasty - 1420
First constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, thus hall was destroyed by fire and reconstructed several times. It still retains is original beams and columns.

Inner Court

Gate of Heavenly Purity (4)
Qian Qing Men
Ming Dynasty - 1420
Constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, the gate was later destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt in 1655 during the Qing Dynasty. As a front gate to the Inner Court, Qian Qing men is five bays large and three bays deep, with a single eave gable roof covered by yellow glazed tiles.

Palace of Heavenly Purity (6)
Qian Qing Gong
Ming Dynasty - 1420
The palace was constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty and rebuilt in 1798 during the Qing Dynasty. During the Ming and the Qing dynasties, the emperor lived and handled political affairs in this palace. The palace often served as the Emperor's audience hall, where he held council with the Grand Council.

Hall of Union and Peace (1)
Jiao Tai Dian
Ming Dynasty - between 1522 and 1655
The Hall of Union was originally built in 1420 and reconstructed in 1655. It is the smallest of the three rear palaces in the Inner Court, and corresponds to the Hall of Complete Harmony in the Outer Court. This hall was used for the Empress' birthday celebrations.

Hall of Earthly Tranquility (1)
Kun Ning Gong
Ming Dynasty - between 1420 and 1655
This hall was first constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty and was later rebuilt in 1655 during the Qing Dynasty as a copy of the Qing Ning Gong (Palace of Peace and Tranquility) in Shenyang (Liaoning province).

Imperial Garden

Hall of Imperial Peace (6)
Qin An Dian
Ming Dynasty - 1535
Located on the central axis of the Forbidden City, this hall is a major building in the Imperial Garden. It was constructed in 1535 during the Ming Dynasty and is encircled by a wall.

Pavilion of Study of the Cultivation of Nature
Yang Xing Zhai
Yang Xing Zhai
Ming Dynasty
Built in the Ming Dynasty, Yang Xing Zhai is a two-storied building. Its form echoes with Jiang Xue Xuan (Pavilion of Crimson Snow). The study has a secluded and beautiful surroundings. Emperors Jiaqing and Daoguang of the Qing Dynasty came here very often to have a rest or read. It was also here that Sir Reginald Johnston, an English Man, gave English lessons to abdicated Emperor Pu Yi.

Pavilion of Crimson Snow
Jiang Xue Xuan
Ming Dynasty - 1420
When the flowers were in full bloom, the crimson petals falling down looked like dancing snowflakes, thus the name was adopted. After the Chinese flowering crab-apple trees died, Beijing mock oranges (Philadelphus pekinensis) were planted.

Hill of the Accumulated Elegance
Dui Xiu Shan
Ming Dynasty
This artificial hill was made of rocks piled on the original site of Guan Hua Dian (Hall of Appreciated Flowers), against the northern palace wall. Originally named Dui Xui Shan (Hill of Accumulated Embroidery), and in the Qianlong reign period, it was given its present name.

Thousand-Year Pavilion
Qian Qiu Ting
Ming Dynasty
Constructed in the Ming Dynasty, this pavilion has a round upper part with verandas on the four sides. In the shape of a cross, the pavilion has carved overhanging eaves and multiple angles with the same shape and structure as Wan Chun Ting (Pavilion of Ten Thousand Spring Seasons) in the Imperial Garden.

Pavilion of Ten Thousand Spring Seasons
Wan Chun Ting
Ming Dynasty - 1535
Constructed in the Ming Dynasty, this pavilion has a round upper part and a square lower part with verandas on the four sides. In the shape of a cross, the pavilion has carved overhanging eaves and multiple angles with the same shape and structure as Qian Qiu Ting (Thousand-Year Pavilion) in the Imperial Garden. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, statue of Lord Guan was enshrined here.

Pavilion of the Usher Light
Yan Hui Ge
Ming Dynasty
Constructed in the Ming Dynasty, this pavilion was originally named Qing Wang Ge (Pavilion of High Expectations). The name was changed to Yan Hui Ge in the Qing Dynasdty. It has a rolled gable roof covered with yellow glazed tiles and stands facing Dui Xiu Shan (Hill of Accumulated Elegance).

Pavilion of Floating Greenery
Fu Bi Ting
Ming Dynasty - 1583
Constructed in 1583 during the Ming Dynasty, this pavilion is located on a single-arched bridge spanning a rectangular pound. This square pavilion has four angles and a pyramid-shaped roof, covered with green glazed files and edged with yellow glazed tiles. The pavilion is linked to a veranda with a rolled roof and is symmetrical to Cheng Rui Ting (Pavilion of Deposited Jade).

Pavilion of Deposited Jade
Cheng Rui Ting
Ming Dynasty - 1583
Constructed in 1583 during the Ming Dynasty, this pavilion is located on a single-arched bridge spanning a rectangular pound. This square pavilion has four angles and a pyramid-shaped roof, covered with green glazed files and edged with yellow glazed tiles. The pavilion is linked to a veranda with a rolled roof and is symmetrical to Fu Bi Ting (Pavilion of Floating Greenery).

Six West palaces

Hall of Mental Cultivation (12)
Yang Xin Dian
Ming Dynasty - 1537
Constructed in 1537 (the 16th year of the Jiajing reing period of the Ming Dynasty), this building is divided into two halls - the front and the rear hall - which are linked by covered corridors and surrounded by side corridors.

Hall of State Unity (3)
Ti Yuan Dian
Qing Dynasty - 1859
This hall was built on the site of the old rear hall of Tai Ji Dian (Hall of Great Supremacy) and Gang Chun Men (Gate of Eternal Spring) in 1859. To the north of this hall is the opera stage of Gang Chun Gong (Hall of Eternal Spring).

Palace of Eternal Spring (10)
Chang Chun Gong
Ming Dynasty - between 1420 and 1859
This palace was first constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty. It was originally named Chang Chun Gong but was renamed Yong Ning Gong (Palace of Eternal Tranquility) in 1535. It resumed its original name in 1615.

Hall of Immortality (5)
Yong Shou Gong
Ming Dynasty - 1420
Constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, the hall was originally named Chand Le Gong (Palace of Eternal Happiness). The name was later changed to Yu De Gong (Palace of Moral Cultivation) and it was renamed Yong Shou Gong in 1616 during the Ming Dynasty.

Palace of Blessings to the Mother Earth (3)
Yi Kun Gong
Ming Dynasty - 1420
Built in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, is was named Wan An Gong (palace of Myriad Peace). It was later renamed because of its close proximity to the three palaces of the Inner Court. "Yi" means "guarding and assisting". it was renovated in 1887 in celebration of Empress Dowager Ci Xi's 50th birthday and was linked by four courtyards to Chu Xiu Gong (Palace of Gathering Excellence).

Hall of Manifest Harmony (1)
Ti He Dian

This hall was constructed on the site of the old rear hall of Yi Kun Gong (Palace of Blessings to the Mother Earth) and Chu Xiu Men (Gate of Gathering Excellence). The hall, which is five bays wide, has passageways, a door in the front and a door in the back.

Palace of Gathering Excellence (3)
Chu Xiu Gong
Ming Dynasty - between 1420 and 1655
Chu Xiu Gong was built in 1420 and rebuilt in 1655, during the Ming and the Qing dynasties. It was the residence of Empress and imperial concubines. Ci Xi once lived here in 1852 when she was created honourable person Lan. She gave birth to the Emperor Tongzhi here in 1856 when she was promoted to Concubine Yi.

Palace of Universal Happiness (5)
Xian Fu Gong
Ming Dynasty - 1420
Xian Fu Gong was one of the six west halls and built in Yongle period in Ming Dynasty. Its old name was Shou' An Gong Hall and changed in Xian Fu Gong in the 14th year of Jiajing's reign (1535). It was rebuilt in the 22nd year of Kangxi's reign (1683) in Qing Dynasty and the architecture form keep a style of Ming Dynasty on the whole.

Pavilion of Beautiful Scenery (3)
Li Jing Xuan
Ming Dynasty - 1535
Li Jing Xuan, situated at the back of Chu Xui Gong, was built in 1535. When Ci Xi was a concubine, she once lived here and gave birth to the Emperor Tongzhi. In the pavilion there is a small exquisite stage. Empress Dowager Ci Xi sat on the imperial bed opposite the stage to enjoy the performances of theatrical troupe at her leisure.

Six East Palaces

Pavilion of Cheerful Melodies (1)
Chang Yin Ge
Qing Dynasty - between 1776 and 1817
This pavilion was constructed in 1776 (the 41st year of the Qianlong reign period of the Qing Dynasty). In 1817 (the 22nd year of the Jiaqing reign period), a three-story opera stage, the largest stage in the palace, was added to the pavilion. The pavilion is 20.71 meters high, with a construction area on 685.94 square meters.

Pavilion of Reading (3)
Yue Shi Lou
Qing Dynasty - 1776
Built in 1776 during the Qing Dynasty, this pavilion has two stories. Every New Year Day, and on the emperor's birthday, the emperor, empress, princes and high-ranking officials watched operas here. Officials sat in the covered passages on the both sides.

The Palace of Prolonging Happiness
Yan Xi Gong
Hall of Water (Shui Dian)
Qing Dynasty - between 1420 and 1909
Constructed in 1420, the building was rebuilt in 1686 in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The front hall served ad the bedchambers of the imperial consorts. In 1845, the Palace of Prolonging Happiness was destroyed by fire.

Hall of Benevolence
Jing Ren Gong
Ming Dynasty - between 1420 and 1655
It was renovated in 1655 during the Qing Dunasty, but the original layout was left unchanged. In the Ming and Qing dynasties imperial concubines used it. In 1654 (Qing Dynasty) Xuanye (Emperor Kangxi) was born in this hall.

Hall for Receiving Celestial Favor (1)
Cheng Qian Gong
Ming Dynasty - between 1420 and 1655
Constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, this hall originally named Yong Ning Gong (Hall of Eternal Tranquility) and was renamed Cheng Qian Gong in 1632. It was renovated in 1655 during the Qing Dynasty, essentially maintaining its original layout.

Hall of Eternal Harmony (1)
Yong He Gong
Ming Dynasty - 1420
Built in 1420, the palace was originally named Yong An Gong (Palace of Eternal Safety). In 1535, it was renamed Yong He Gong and was renovated several times during the Qing Dynasty.

Hall of Abstinence (2)
Zhai Gong
Qing Dynasty - between 1731 and 1801
This hall was constructed in 1731 during the Qing Dynasty on the site of old halls of the Ming Dynasty and was renovated in 1801.

Quartiers Extérieurs de l'Est

Hall of the Norms of Governement (2)
Huang Ji Dian

Qing Dynasty - 1689
Constructed in 1689 during the Qing Dynasty, this hall was originally named Ning Shou Gong (Palace of Peace and Longevity) but was renamed Huang Ji Dian (Hall of the Norms of Government) after is renovation in 1776.

Palace of Peace and Longevity (1)
Ning Shou Gong
Qing Dynasty - 1776
Constructed in the Ming Dynasty, this palace was originally named Ren Shou Gong (Palace of Benevolence and Longevity). After renovation in 1689 during the Qing Dynasty, it was renamed Ning Shou Gong Hou Dian (Rear Hall of the Palace of peace and Longevity).

Hall of Harmony (1)
Yi He Huan
Qing Dynasty - 1776
Constructed in 1776 during the Qing Dynasty, this hall is linked with Jing Qi Ge (Pavilion of Prospective Happiness) by a covered corridor. It was built for Emperor Qianlong's retirement. The words "Yi He" mean "preserving one's vital energy".

Gate of Caracter Cultivation (2)
Yang Xing Dain
Qing Dynasty - 1776
This hall was constructed in 1776 during the Qing Dynasty, as a copy of Yang Xin Dian (Hall of Moral Cultivation). Emperor Qialong planned to live here after his abdication but never did.

Hall of the Joyful Longevity
Le Shou Tang
Qing Dynasty - 1776
The hall was constructed in 1776 during the Qing Dynasty as a copy of the Chun Huan (Purity Studio) in Chang Chun Yuan (Garden of Eternal Spring) for Emperor Qianlong's retirement. In front of the hall, on the wall of the covered corridor, there is a stone inscription reprocucing the "Ribbings of Model Calligraphy in Jingheng Studio".

Pavilion of Bestowing Wine
Xi Shang Ting
Qing Dynasty - 1776
Built in 1776 during the Qing Dynasty, this pavilion is also known as Liu Bei Ting (Pavilion of Floating Cups) because of the "Ditch of Floating Cups". This pavilion was designed to reflect a scene described in the famous work "Preface to Poems from Orchid Pavilion" by Wang Xizhi.
Forbidden City : Park(s) and Garden(s) (1)

Imperial Garden

Imperial Garden
Yu Hua Yuan
Ming Dynasty - 1420
The Imperial Garden was first constructed in 1420 (18th year of the Yongle reign period of the Ming Dynasty), and was slightly renovated in the Qing Dynasty. Most of the buildings constructed in the Imperial garden were constructed in the Jiajing and Wanli reign periods of the Ming Dynasty.
Forbidden City : Sculpture (1)

Quartiers Extérieurs de l'Est

Nine Dragon Screen Wall
Qing Dynasty - 1774
This glazed screen facing Huang Ji Men (Hall of the Norms of Government) was constructed when Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty renovated the Ning Shou Gong (pala of peace and Longevity) area. There are nine dragons on the wall, hence the name.
Forbidden City : Hours   

8:30 am / 5:00 pm
Time of finshing selling ticket: 3:00 pm

Admissions :
RMB 60

Forbidden City : Visit Guide   
Take No. 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 20, 52, 57, 22, 54, 120, 802, special No.1 bus and get off at Zhongshan Phongshan Park stop or Tian Am Men stop. Take subway.
Forbidden City : Description   
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the mid-Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China and now houses the Palace Museum.

The complex consists of 800 buildings with 8.886 rooms. Its extensive grounds cover 720.000 square metres. The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 as the "Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties" and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

The Palace Museum in the Forbidden City should not be confused with the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Both museums derive from the same institution, but they were split after the Chinese Civil War.

The Forbidden City is known by many names. The name by which the site is most commonly known in English, "the Forbidden City," is a translation of the Chinese name Zijin Cheng ("Purple Forbidden City"). It is a name imbued with significance on many levels. Zi, or "Purple", refers to the Polar Star, which in Ancient China was called the Ziwei Star, and in traditional Chinese astrology was the abode of the Heavenly Emperor. The surrounding celestrial region, the Ziwei Enclosure was the realm of the Heavenly Emperor and his family. The Forbidden City, as the residence of the terrestrial Emperor, was its earthly counterpart. Jin, or "Forbidden", referred to the fact that no-one could enter or leave the palace without the emperor's permission. Cheng means a walled city.

Another English name of similar origin is "Forbidden Palace". In the Manchu language it is called dorgi hoton, which literally means the "Layered Inner City."

Today, the site is most commonly known in Chinese as Gugong, which means the "Former Palace." The museum which is based in these buildings is known as the "Palace Museum", although the museum also has charge over some surrounding properties.

Rectangular in shape, the Forbidden City is today the world's largest surviving palace complex and covers 720,000 square metres (178 acres, or 0.28 square miles).

The Forbidden City was designed to be at the centre of the ancient, walled city of Beijing. The Forbidden City is enclosed in a larger, walled area called the Imperial City. The Imperial City is, in turn, enclosed by the Inner City; to its south is located the Outer City.

Today, the Forbidden City remains important in the civic scheme of Beijing. Its central north-south axis remains the conceptual central axis of Beijing. The axis extends to the south through Tiananmen gate to Tiananmen Square, the ceremonial centre of the People's Republic of China. To the north, it extends through the Bell and Drum Towers to Yongdingmen.

Walls and gates
The Forbidden City is surrounded by a 7.9-metre high city wall and a 52-metre wide moat. The distance between the northern and southern walls is 960 meters, while the distance between the east and west walls is 750 meters. The walls are 8.62 metres wide at the base, tapering to 6.66 metres at the top, and were specifically designed to withstand attacks by cannons. These walls served as both defensive walls and retaining walls for the palace. They were constructed with a rammed earth core, and surfaced with three layers of specially baked bricks on both sides, with the interstices filled with mortar. This makes these walls more elaborately constructed than any city wall in China.

At the four corners of the wall, there are uniquely structured corner towers. Their intricate roof structure, boasting 72 ridges, reproduces the Pavilion of Prince Teng and the Yellow Crane Pavilion as they appeared in Song Dynasty paintings. Being the most visible parts of the palace to a commoner outside the walls, much folklore is attached to these towers. One legend tells that artisans could not put a corner tower back together after it was dismantled for renovations in the early Qing Dynasty, and it was only the intervention of carpenter-immortal Lu Ban that enabled the tower to be rebuilt.

The wall is pierced by a gate on each side. At the southern end is the main Meridian Gate.To the north is the Gate of Divine Might, which faces Jingshan Park. The east and west gates are called the "East Glorious Gate" and "West Glorious Gate" respectively. All gates in the Forbidden City are decorated with a nine-by-nine array of golden door nails, the only exception being the East Glorious Gate, which has only eight rows. This may have been because it was designed to be the Crown Prince's entrance. Alternatively, it may be because the deceased Emperors' and Empresses' coffins left the Palace via this gate, and so a Yin (even) number was chosen.

Of the four main gates, the Meridian Gate has the most imposing design, endowed with two protruding wings which form a three-sided square (Wumen, or Meridian Gate, Square) before it. It is also called the "Five Phoenix Pavillion" because the superstructure is composed of five buildings. The squre is the site of important ceremony. Imperial proclamations and almanacs are issued from the gate house. After a successful campaign, the Emperor would receive prisoners of war here, sometimes to be followed by gruesome decapitations. The gate has five gateways. The central gateway is used only by the Emperor, and for exit by successful candidates after the Imperial Examination. It is part of the Imperial Way, a stone flagged path that forms the central axis of the Forbidden City and the ancient city of Beijing itself, and leads all the way from the Gate of China in the south to Jingshan in the north. Only the Emperor may walk or ride on the Imperial Way, except for the Emperess on the occassion of her wedding, and successful students after the Imperial Examination.

Outer Court
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 Emperor and family's residence, and used for day-to-day affairs of state. Generally, the Forbidden City has three vertical axes. The most important buildings are situated on the central north-south axis.

The Outer Court, the southern part of the Forbidden City, was the ceremonial centre of the Empire. Entering from the Meridian Gate, one encounters a large square (Taihemen, or Gate of Supreme Harmony, Square) pierced by the meandering Inner Golden Water River, which is crossed by five bridges. Beyond the square is the Gate of Supreme Harmony , behind which is Taihedian, or Hall of Supreme Harmony, Square.

Rising from the large, perfectly flat square is an elaborate, three-tiered white marble terrace. Atop this terrace stand the three halls that are the focus of the palace complex. From the south, these are the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony.

The largest, the Hall of Supreme Harmony, rises some 30 metres above the level of the surrounding square. It is the ceremonial centre of imperial power, and the largest surviving wooden structure in the country, and is the only one with 10 gargoyles on its roof ridge. It is nine bays wide and five bays deep, the numbers nine and five being symbolically connected to the majesty of the Emperor. The six pillars nearest to the imperial throne are covered with gold, and the entire area is decorated with a dragon motif. The imperial throne, in particular, has five dragons coiled around the back and handrests. The screen behind it features sets of nine dragons, again reflecting the "nine-five" symbolism.

Set into the ceiling directly above the throne is an intricate caisson decorated with a coiled dragon, from the mouth of which issues a chandelier-like set of metal balls. Called the "Xuanyuan Mirror", this object harkens back to Xuanyuan, the Yellow Emperor, the legendary first ruler of China, and is said to be able to show the reflections of evil spirits. In the Ming Dynasty, the Emperor held court here to discuss affairs of state. During the Qing Dynasty, the hall was only used for ceremonial purposes, including coronations, investitures, and imperial weddings.

The Hall of Central Harmony behind it is a smaller, square hall, used by the emperor to prepare and rest before and during ceremonies. The third hall, the Hall of Preserving Harmony, was used for rehearsing ceremonies, and was also the site of the final stage of the Imperial examination. Both of these halls also feature imperial thrones, though to a slightly smaller scale than that in the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

At the centre of the ramps leading up to the terraces from the northern and southern sides are ceremonial ramps, part of the Imperial Way, featuring elaborate and symbolic base relief carvings. The northern ramp, behind the Hall of Preserving Harmony, is carved from a single piece of stone 16.57 metres long, 3.07 metres wide, and 1.7 metres thick. It weighs 200 tonnes and is the largest such carving in China. The southern ramp, in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, is even longer, but is made from two stone slabs joined together. The joint between the slabs is ingeniously hidden by overlapping base relief carvings, and was so well concealed that it was long thought to be a single slab of stone. The secret was only discovered after the crack became more obvious due to 600 years of erosion.

In the south west and south east of the Outer Court are the halls of Military Eminence and Literary Glory. The former was used at various times for the Emperor to receive ministers and hold court, and later housed the Palace's own printing house. The latter was used for ceremonial lectures by highly regarded Confucian scholars, and later became the office of the Grand Secretariat. A copy of the Siku Quanshu was stored there. To the north-east are the Southern Three Places (ÄÏÈýËù), which was the residence of the Crown Prince.

Inner Court
The Inner Court is separated from the Outer Court by an oblong courtyard lying orthogonal to the City's main axis. It is the home of the Emperor and his family. In the Qing Dynasty, the Emperor lived and worked almost exclusively in the Inner Court, with the Outer Court used only for ceremonial purposes.

At the centre 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 Hall of Earthly Tranquility. On a smaller scale compared to their Outer Court counterparts, the three halls of the Inner Court were the official residences of the Emperor and the Empress. The Emperor, representing Yang and the Heavens, would occupy the Palace of Heavenly Purity. The Empress, representing Yin and the Earth, would occupy the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. In between them was the Hall of Union, where the Yin and Yang mixed to produce harmony.

The Palace of Heavenly Purity is a double eaved building and set on a single-level white marble platform. It is connected to the Gate of Heavenly Purity to its south by a raised walkway. As the residence of the Emperor, it is nine bays wide and five bays deep. In the Ming Dynasty, it was the residence of the Emperor. The large space was divided into 9 rooms on two levels, with 27 beds. For security, on any one night the Emperor would randomly choose from any of these beds. This continued to be the case in the early Qing Dynasty. However, when the Yongzheng Emperor succeeded to the throne, he was unwilling to inhabit the palace occupied by his father for 60 years. As a result, he and subsequent emperors lived instead at the smaller Hall of Mental Cultivation to the west. The Palace of Heavenly Purity then became the Emperor's audience hall, where he held court, received ministers and emissaries, and held banquets. At the centre of the Palace, set atop an elaborate platform, is a throne and a desk, on which the Emperor wrote notes and sign documents during councils with ministers. A caisson is set into the roof, featuring a coiled dragon. Above the throne hangs a tablet reading "Justice and Honour" (Chinese: Õý´ó¹âÃ÷; pinyin: zh¨¨ngd¨¤gu¨¡ngm¨ªng). From the Yongzheng Emperor onwards, the Emperor designated his heir in secret, with one copy of the will hidden behind this tablet and another carried at all times by the Emperor.

The Palace of Earthly Harmony is a double eaved building, 9 bays wide and 3 bays deep. In the Ming Dynasty it was the residence of the Empress. In the Qing Dynasty, however, large portions of the Palace were converted for Shamanist worship by the new Manchu rulers. Thus, the front part of the hall featured shrines, icons, prayer mats, and a large kitchen where sacrificial meat was prepared. From the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor, the Empress moved out of the Palace following the Emperor's move out of the Palace of Heavenly Purity. However, two rooms in the Palace of Earthly Harmony were retained for use on the Emperor's wedding night. The wedding ceremony would be held in the main room, and afterwards the Emperor and Emperess would retire to one of these rooms.

Between these two palaces is the Hall of Union, which is square in shape with a pyramidal roof, Stored here are the 25 Imperial Seals of the Qing Dynasty, as well as other ceremonialitems, including the clocks that set the official time in the palace (first a water clock, later a mechanical clock, both still displayed in the hall).

Behind these three halls lies the Imperial Garden. Relatively small, and compact in design, the garden nevertheless contains several elaborate landscaping features. To the north of the garden is the Gate of Divine Might, the north gate of the palace. Distributed to the east and west of the three main halls are a series of self-contained courtyards and minor palaces, where the Emperor's concubines and children lived. Directly to the west is the Hall of Mental Cultivation. Originally a minor palace, this became the de facto residence and office of the Emperor starting from Yongzheng. In the last decades of the Qing Dynasty, empresses dowager, including Cixi, held court from the eastern partition of the hall. Located around the Hall of Mental Cultivation are the offices of the Grand Council and other key government bodies.

The north-eastern section of the Inner Court is taken up by the Palace of Tranquil Longevity, a complex built by the Qianlong Emperor in anticipation of his retirement. It mirrors the set-up of the Forbidden City proper and features an "outer court", an "inner court", and gardens and temples. The entrance to the Palace of Tranquil Longevity is marked by a glazed-tile Nine Dragons Screen.

Religion was an important part of life for the imperial court. In the Qing Dynasty, the Palace of Earthly Harmony became a place of Manchu Shamanist ceremony. At the same time, the native Chinese Taoist religion continued to have an important role throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties. There were two Taoist shrines, one in the imperial garden and another in the central area of the Inner Court.

The most prevalent form of religion in the Qing Dynasty palace, however, was Tibetan Buddhism, or Lamaism. A number of temples and shrines were scattered throughout the Inner Court. Buddhist iconography also proliferated in the interior decoration of many buildings. Of these, the Pavilion of the Rain of Flowers is the most important. It housed a large number of Buddhist statues, icons, and mandalas, placed in ritualistic arrangements.

The Forbidden City is surrounded on three sides by imperial gardens. To the north is Jingshan Park, also known as Coal Hill, an artificial hill created from the soil excavated to build the moat and from nearby lakes. the last Ming emperor hanged himself here as the rebel army overran his palace.

To the west lies Zhongnanhai, a former garden centred on two connected lakes, which now serves as the central headquarters for the Communist Party of China and the State Council of the People's Republic of China. To the north-west lies Beihai Park, also centred on a lake connected to the southern two, and a popular park.

To the south of the Forbidden City were two important shrines - the Imperial Shrine of Family and the Imperial Shrine of State, where the Emperor would venerate the spirits of his ancestors and the spirit of the nation, respectively. Today, these are the Beijing Labouring People's Cultural Hall and Zhongshan Park (commemorating Sun Yat-sen) respectively.

Further to the south stands the Tiananmen Gate, which is decorated with a portrait of Mao Zedong in the center and two placards to the left and right: "Long Live the People's Republic of China" and "Long live the Great Unity of the World's Peoples"). The Tiananmen Gate connects the Forbidden City precinct with the modern, symbolic centre of the Chinese state - Tiananmen Square.

While development is now tightly controlled in the vicinity of the Forbidden City, throughout the past century uncontrolled and sometimes politically motivated demolition and reconstruction has changed the character of the areas surrounding the Forbidden City. Since 2000, the Beijing municipal government has worked to evict governmental and military institutions occupying some historical buildings, and has established a park around the remaining parts of the Imperial City wall. In 2004, a 1984 ordinance relating to building height and planning restriction was renewed to establish the Imperial City area and the northern city area as a buffer zone for the Forbidden City. In 2005, the Imperial City and Beihai (as an extension item to the Summer Palace) were included in the shortlist for the next World Heritage Site in Beijing.

The design of the Forbidden City, from its overall layout to the smallest detail, was meticulously planned to reflect philosophical and religious principles, and above all to symbolise the majesty of Imperial power. Some noted examples of symbolic designs include:

Yellow is the colour of the Emperor. Thus the roofs in the Forbidden City all bear yellow glazed tiles. The only exception is the library at the Pavilion of Literary Profundity, which had black tiles because black was associated with water, and thus fire-prevention.

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 residences of the Inner Court on the other hand are arranged in groups of six - the shape of the Kun triagram, representing the Earth.

The sloping ridges of building roofs are decorated with a line of statuettes. The number of statuettes represents the status of the building - a minor building might have 3 or 5. The Hall of Supreme Harmony has 10, the only building in the country to be permitted this in Imperial times. As a result, its 10th statuette, is also unique in pre-modern buildings.

The collections of the Palace Museum is based on the Qing imperial collection. According to the results of a 1925 audit, some 1.17 million items were stored in the Forbidden City. In addition, the imperial libraries housed one of the country's largest collections of ancient books and various documents, including government documents of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

From 1933, the threat of the Japanese invasion forced the evacuation of the most important parts of the Museum's collection. After the end of World War II, this collection was returned to Nanjing. However, with the Communists' victory imminent in the Chinese Civil War, the Nationalist government decided to ship the pick of this collection to Taiwan. Of the 13,427 boxes of evacuated artefacts, 2,972 boxes are now housed in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Almost ten thousand boxes were returned to Beijing, but 2,221 boxes remain today in storage under the charge of the Nanjing Museum.

After 1949, the Museum conducted a new audit as well as a thorough search of the Forbidden City, uncovering a number of important items. In addition, the government moved items from other museums around the country to replenish the Palace Museum's collection. It also purchased and received donations from the public.

The Palace Museum holds 340,000 pieces of ceramics and porcelain. These include imperial collections from the Tang Dynasty and the Song Dynasty, as well as pieces commissioned by the Palace, and, sometimes, by the Emperor personally. This collection is notable because it derives from the imperial collection, and thus represents the best of porcelain production in China. The Palace Museum holds about 320,000 pieces of porcelain from the imperial collection. The rest are almost all held in the National Palace Museum in Taipei and the Nanjing Museum.

The ceramic collection of the Palace Museum represents a comprehensive record of Chinese ceramic production over the past 8.000 years, as well as one of the largest such collections in the world.

The Palace Museum holds close to 50,000 items of paintings. Of these, more than 400 date from before the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). This is the largest collection in China and includes some of the rarest and most valuable paintings in Chinese history.

The collection is based on the palace collection in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The personal interest of Emperors such as Qianlong meant that almost all surviving paintings from the Yuan Dynasty and before were held by the palace. However, a significant portion of this collection was lost. After his abdication, Puyi transferred paintings out of the palace, and many of these were subsequently lost or destroyed. In 1948, some of the best parts of the collection were moved too Taiwan, and by 1949 the Palace Museum had less than 5000 items, none of which dated from before the Yuan Dynasty. From that time, the collection has been gradually replenished, through donations, purchases, and transfers from other museums.

Bronze holds an important place in Chinese culture, and was always an important part of state ceremony. The Palace Museum's bronze collection dates from the early Shang Dynasty (founded c. 1766 BC). Of the almost 10,000 pieces held, about 1600 are inscribed items from the pre-Qin period (to 221 BC). A significant part of the collection is ceremonial bronzeware from the imperial court, including complete sets of instruments for ancient orchestras.

The Palace Museum has one of the largest collections of mechanical timepieces of the 18th and 19th centuries in the world, with more than 1000 pieces. The collection contains both Chinese- and foreign-made pieces. Chinese pieces came from the palace's own workships, Guangzhou (Canton) and Suzhou (Suchow). Foreign pieces came from countries including Britain, France, Switzerland, the United States and Japan. Of these, the largest portion come from Britain.

Notable pieces in the collection include a clock with an attached automaton who is able to write, with a miniature writing brush on inserted paper, an auspicious couplet in perfect Chinese calligraphy.

Jade has a unique place in Chinese culture. The Museum's collection, mostly derived from the imperial collection, includes some 30,000 pieces. The pre-Yuan Dynasty includes several pieces famed throughout history, as well as artefacts from more recent archaeological discoveries. The earliest pieces date from the Neolithic period. Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty pieces, on the other hand, include both items for palace use, as well as tribute items from around the Empire and beyond.

Palace artefacts
In addition to works of art, a large proportion of the Museum's collection consists of the artefacts of the imperial court. This includes items used by the imperial family and the palace in daily life, as well as various ceremonial and bureaucratic items important to government administration. This comprehensive collection preserves the daily life and ceremonial protocols of the imperial era.

Influences of the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City, the culmination of the two-thousand-year development of classical Chinese and East Asian architecture, has been influential in the subsequent development of Chinese architecture, as well as providing inspiration for many modern constructions. Some specific examples of its influences include:

Emperor Gia Long of Vietnam built a palace and fortress that was intended to be a smaller copy of the Chinese Forbidden City in the 1800s. Its ruins are in Huế. In English it is called the "Imperial City". The name of the inner palace complex in Vietnamese is translated literally as "Purple Forbidden City", which of course is the same as the Chinese name for the Forbidden City in Beijing.

The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, Washington was designed to incorporate elements of classical Chinese architecture and interior decoration. The dragon panel and chandelier at the centre of the auditorium is based on the design of the caisson in the Palace of Heavenly Purity.

Depiction in art, film and literature
The Forbidden City has served as the scene to many works of fiction. In recent years, it has been depicted in films and television series. Some notable examples include:

The Last Emperor (1987), a biographical film about Puyi, was the first feature film ever authorised by the government of the People's Republic of China to film in the Forbidden City.

Marco Polo a joint NBC and RAI TV miniseries broadcast in the early 1980s, was filmed inside the Forbidden City. This was artistic license, however, since the present Forbidden City did not exist in the Yuan Dynasty, when Marco Polo met Kublai Khan.

Kingdom Hearts 2 used the Forbidden City as the site for a climactic battle within the "Land of the Dragons", inhabited by the character Mulan.

As performance venue
The Forbidden City has also served as a performance venue. However, its use for this purpose is strictly limited, due to the heavy impact of equipment and performace on the ancient structures. Almost all performances said to be "in the Forbidden City" are held outside the palace walls.

Giacomo Puccini's opera, Turandot, about the story of a Chinese princess, was performed at the Imperial Shrine just outside the Forbidden City for the first time in 1998.

In 2004, the French musician Jean Michel Jarre performed the live concert in the Forbidden City, accompanied by 260 musicians as part of the "Year of France in China" festivities.
Forbidden City : History   
The site where the Forbidden City stands today was part of the imperial city during the Mongol Yuan dynasty. When the Ming Dynasty succeeded it, the first Hongwu Emperor moved the capital from Beijing in the north to Nanjing in the south, and in 1369 ordered that the Mongol palaces be razed. His son, Zhu Di, was created Prince of Yan with seat in Beijing. A princely palace was built near the site. In 1402, Zhu Di usurped the throne and became the Yongle Emperor. Soon after, he made Beijing a secondary capital of the Ming empire, and construction of the palace that would become the Forbidden City started in 1406.

Construction of the palace took 14 years and an estimated 200,000 men. For the pillars of the most important halls, Zhu Di ordered whole logs of precious Phoebe zhennan wood to be sourced from the jungles of south-western China. Such a feat would never be repeated, and the great pillars seen today were re-built in the Qing Dynasty using multiple pieces of pinewood. For the grand terraces and large stone carvings, stone was sourced from quarries near Beijing. The scale of the palaces meant that larger pieces could not be transported by conventional means. Instead, wells were dug at regular intervals along the way, and water poured onto the road in deep winter to form a layer of ice, with the stones dragged along the ice.

The floors of major halls were paved with "golden bricks", specially baked bricks from six counties of Suzhou (near Shanghai). Each batch takes months to bake, and the resulting brick is perfectly smooth, and rings with a metallic sound. Most of the interior pavings seen today are still 600-year-old originals.

The principal axis of the new palace sits to the east of the Yuan Dynasty palace, a design intended to place the Yuan palace in the western or "kill" position in fengshui. Soil excavated during construction of the moat was piled up to the north of the palace to create an artificial hill, the Jingshan hill.

Ming dynasty
Even before the palace was completed, Zhu Di moved to Beijing under the name of "touring and hunting" (Ѳá÷), which meant that the administrative centre of the empire gradually shifted from Nanjing to Beijing. When the palace was completed in 1420, Zhu Di moved to the new palace, and Beijing officially became the primary capital of the empire. However, scarcely nine months after their construction, the three main halls including the throne room burnt down, and it would be 23 years before they were rebuilt.

From its 1420 completion to 1644, the Forbidden City served as the seat of the Ming Dynasty. In April 1644, rebel forces led by Li Zicheng captured the Forbidden City, and Chongzhen, the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty, hanged himself on Jingshan Hill. Li Zicheng then proclaimed himself emperor of the Shun Dynasty. However, he soon fled before the combined armies of former Ming general Wu Sangui and Manchu forces.

Qing dynasty
By October, the Manchus had achieved supremacy in northern China, and prince regent Dorgon proclaimed the Qing Dynasty the legitimate successor to the Ming. A ceremony was held at the Forbidden City to proclaim the young Shunzhi Emperor ruler of all China. The Qing rulers largely maintained the Palace's Ming Dynasty scheme. However, one change they quickly made was to the names of the principal buildings. Whereas the Ming Dynasty names favoured the character ji, meaning "supremacy" or "extremity", the new Qing names favoured names meaning "peace" and "harmony"; for example, Huangji Dian, the "Hall of Imperial Supremacy", was changed to Taihe Dian, the "Hall of Supreme Harmony".

They also added some uniquely Manchu touches - all signs and name plates were now bilingual (Chinese and Manchu), and the main part of the Empress's official bedchamber, the Hall of Earthly Serenity, became a Shamanist shrine.

Thereafter, the Forbidden City became the centre of power of the Qing Dynasty as it prospered and later waned. In 1860, during the Second Opium War, Anglo-French forces took control of the Forbidden City and occupied it until the end of the war. In 1900, Empress Dowager Cixi fled from the Forbidden City during the Boxer Rebellion, leaving it to be occupied by forces of the treaty powers until the next year.

After being the home of 24 emperors (fourteen of the Ming Dynasty and ten of the Qing Dynasty ), the Forbidden City ceased being the political centre of China in 1912 with the abdication of Puyi, the last Emperor of China. However, under an agreement signed between the Qing imperial house and the new Republic of China government, Puyi was allowed (and in fact required) to live within the walls of the Forbidden City. Puyi and his family retained the use of the Inner Court, while the Outer Court was handed over to the Republican authorities. A museum was established in the Outer Court in 1914.

After the revolution
Amidst the political chaos that was the Beiyang government of the Republic of China, there was growing opposition to Puyi's continued stay in the palace. In 1923, Reginald Johnston, Puyi's English teacher, told him about eunuchs smuggling treasures out of the palace to sell in antique shops. Puyi ordered an audit of the palace's collections. However, before it could begin, a fire consumed the gardens of the Palace of Establishing Prosperity (½¨¸£¹¬), where the bulk of the City's collection, built up by the Qianlong emperor, were stored. In his memoir, Puyi thought that the fire was started by eunuchs wanting to conceal evidence of embezzlement. The gardens were never rebuilt.

Puyi stayed in the Forbidden City until 1924, when Feng Yuxiang took control of Beijing in a coup. Denouncing the previous agreement with the Qing imperial house, Feng expelled Puyi from the Palace. On October 10, 1925, the Palace Museum was established in the Forbidden City. Having been the imperial palace for some five centuries, the Forbidden City housed a large amount of rare treasures and curiosities. These were gradually catalogued and put on public display.

However, with the Japanese invasion of China, the safety of these national treasures were cast in doubt, and they were moved out of the Forbidden City. Starting from 1933, important artefacts from the Forbidden City were packed and evacuated. They were first shipped to Nanjing and thence to Shanghai. However, the Japanese forces soon threatened Shanghai. A decision was made by the Executive Yuan to evacuate the collections to the remote west. The artifacts were split into three lots. One took the northern route towards Shaanxi. One was shipped up the Yangtze River towards Sichuan. The final lot was transported south towards Guangxi. However, the pace of the Japanese advance meant that the artefacts had to be moved, often with just hours' notice, to escape bombing and capture. In the end, all three collections reached the relative safety of Sichuan, where they stayed until the end of the war. Meanwhile, the Japanese army had captured the Forbidden City in Beijing. However, with the artefacts evacuated, the Japanese were only able to remove a number of large bronze tubs and a few cannons (1944). Most of these were recovered after the war in Tianjing.

With the end of World War II in 1945, the artefacts were finally free to be moved back to Nanjing and Beijing. Remarkably, the efforts of Palace Museum staff ensured that not a single piece was damaged or lost. However, the artefacts soon had to move again. In 1947, with the Kuomintang-led government losing the Chinese Civil War, Chiang Kai-shek ordered the artefacts from the Forbidden City and the National Museum in Nanjing to be moved to Taiwan. As it turned out, no artefacts were shipped from Bejing. However, a significant proportion of the Forbidden City's best collections stored in Nanjing were shipped to Taiwan, and today they form the core of the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

Under the People's Republic
In 1949, the People's Republic of China was proclaimed at Tiananmen, directly in front of the Forbidden City. While the Palace Museum worked to restore the Palace and its collections, over the next two decades various proposals were raised to raze or reconstruct the Forbidden City to create a public park, a transport interchange, or "places of entertainment".

These ambitious proposals never came to fruition. Nevertheless, the Forbidden City suffered some damage during this period, including the dismantling of the throne in the Hall of Middle Harmony, the removal of name tablets from several buildings and gardens, and the demolition of some minor gates and structures.

The voices of destruction peaked during the mayhem of the Cultural Revolution. For example, in 1966 the Hall of Worshipping Ancestors was modified and some artefacts destroyed for an exhibition of revolutionary mud sculptures. However, further destruction was prevented when Premier Zhou Enlai intervened by sending an army battalion to guard the city. These troops also prevented ransacking by the Red Guards who were swept up in the storm to demolish the "Four Olds". From 1966 to 1971, during the peak of the Cultural Revolution, all gates to the Forbidden City were sealed. As a result, it escaped the destruction that befell many other historical sites in China.

The Present
Today, the Palace Museum is responsible for the preservation and restoration of the Forbidden City. Building heights around the City are restricted, and plans were recently unveiled to restrict demolitions and reconstructions in the surrounding area. From 2005, a 16-year major restoration project will seek to repair and restore all buildings in the Forbidden City to their original state before 1912. This is the largest restoration of the Forbidden City undertaken for 200 years, and involves progressively closing off sections of the Forbidden City for assessment, repairs, and restoration. As part of the project, some derelict or destroyed sections such as the gardens of the Palace of Establishing Prosperity will be re-built.

While great effort has been made to prevent the commercialisation of the palace, a variety of commercial enterprises exist, such as souvenir shops and photography stands. These commercial enterprises often rouse controversy. A new Starbucks store has sparked objections, while sourvenir shops that refuse to serve Chinese citizens has caused much media controversy.

From Wikipedia
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