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The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City was the royal palace of Ming and Qing dynasties. It is also known as the Palace Museum . It is about 600 years old and served as the home of the Emperors and their household from mid-Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty. The Forbidden City was also the ceremonial and political center of ancient Chinese government in Ming and Qing dynasties. The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 and listed as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world by UNESCO.

The Forbidden City ( Beijing , China ) is a vivid exhibition of the ancient Chinese wisdom of “Feng Shui”, the geomancy system in ancient China that governed the architectures and buildings. The entire complex contains about 9,000 rooms and covers 250 acres with a symmetrical and hierarchically arrangement. All the important buildings in the complex run down the center along north-south avenue with the main gate in the south.

The formality of the buildings with the immense courtyards, terraces and stairways display an extraordinarily harmonious balance to carry out the wisdom of “Feng Shui”. Emperors and their families of the Ming and Qing dynasties ruled and lived within the walls of the Forbidden City along with their hundreds of servants. All the male servants were castrated before they were allowed to enter the palace. Ordinary Chinese were not allowed inside the wall in ancient China . Hence its name, “The Forbidden City.” When you get a chance to visit the Forbidden City during China tour, you would be amazed by the perfect harmony that the architecture presents. The buildings touch you with a good sense of human scale, yet immersing with a long wealth of history, the image of earthy power and majesty.

Overview of the Forbidden City ( Beijing China )

The Forbidden City was designed to be the center of the ancient Beijing city. Yet it still remains important in the city plan of Beijing today. The central north-south axis of the Forbidden City remains the central axis of Beijing today. To the south, the central axis extends through Tiananmen gate to Tiananmen Square . To the north, the central axis extends through the Bell and Drum Towers to Yongdingmen. The most important buildings are situated on this central north-south axis.

Walls and Gates of the Forbidden City ( Beijing China )

As a tourist visiting the Forbidden City during the China tour, you would be impressed with the protection strategy that the Forbidden City has built in. The city is surrounded by a 7.9 meter (8.6 yard) high wall and a 6 meter (6.56 yard) deep, 53 meter (56.87 yard) wide moat. The city wall was constructed with a rammed earth core and three layers of specially baked bricks on both sides, with the interstices filled with mortar. The wall has a gate on each side. The main Meridian Gate sits at the southern side. The Gate of Divine Might faces Jingshan Park to the north. East Glorious Gate and West Glorious Gate face to the east and west respectfully. Three of those gates are decorated with 9 by 9 arrays of golden door nails, while the East Glorious Gate has only eight rows. The Meridian Gate, “Wumen” in Chinese, has five gateways. The central gateway was part of the Imperial Way that reserved for the exclusive use of the emperor. Even an empress was not granted the privilege of using this central gateway except once in her life time, her wedding day. As a highest honor, three finalists who achieved the highest awards in the national examinations were permitted to come through this gateway to meet with the emperor. This stone flagged path way forms the central axis of the Forbidden City and the ancient Beijing city and leads all the way from the Gate of China in the south to Jingshan in the north.

Layouts of the Forbidden City ( Beijing China )

The Forbidden City is divided into tow parts, the Outer Court and the Inner Court . The Outer Court is also called Front Court which includes the southern sections. Outer Court was used for ceremonial purposes. The Inner Court is also called Back Palace which includes the northern sections. The Inner Court was the residence of the Emperor and his family's and was used for day-to-day affairs of state.

The First Courtyard in the Forbidden City ( Beijing , China ) – The Outer Court

When tourists enter the Meridian Gate during China tour, one can see a large courtyard with five bridges in it. The Inner Golden Water River flows beneath the bridges. The five bridges carry the meanings of the five Confucian virtues of humanity – duty, wisdom, reliability and ceremonial propriety. The central bridge is reserved for emperors exclusively. Across this courtyard stands the Gate of Supreme Harmony.

The Second Courtyard in the Forbidden City ( Beijing , China ) – The Outer Court

Behind the Gate of Supreme Harmony is the largest courtyard in the Forbidden City . There are three grand halls sitting on a raised white marble terrace rising from this Courtyard. They are the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony. The Hall of Supreme Harmony is the largest structure in the Forbidden City and the largest surviving wooden structure in China . The Hall of Supreme Harmony is the ceremonial center. Facing the largest courtyard in the Forbidden City in the south, it can hold thousands of people.

The Hall of Central Harmony is the smallest of the three main halls in the Outer Court . It has the shape of square rather than rectangular. The Hall of Central Harmony served as a rest and preparation area before and during the ceremonies. It was also used as a meeting place for emperors and his high officials to discuss domestic events and rulings.

The Hall of Preserving Harmony is larger than the Hall of Central Harmony but smaller than the Hall of Supreme Harmony. It sits on the northern end of the white marble terrace of the Outer Court . The Hall of Preserving Harmony was used for rehearsing ceremonies, practicing speeches and banquets. It was also the place where final stage of imperial examinations was held.

Behind the Hall of Preserving Harmony lies a huge marble stone ramp carved with dragons and clouds. The carved ramp is placed between two flights of marble stairs. The emperor was the only person allowed to pass over the stone carving ramp. It weights more than 200 tons and is the largest such carving in the China .

The Inner Court in the Forbidden City ( Beijing , China )

The Inner Court is the home for the Emperor and his family. The Inner Court starts with the Gate of Celestial Purity. In front of the gate, there is an oblong courtyard connects the Outer Court and the Inner Court .

There are three halls form the center of the Inner Court – the Palace of Heavenly Purity , Hall of Union, and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility . Three halls are comparably smaller then those three halls in the Outer Court . The Palace of Heavenly Purity was the official residence of the Emperor who represented Yang and the Heavens. The Palace of the Earthly Tranquility was occupied by the Empress who represented Yin and the Earth. The Hall of Union between them represented the place where the Yin and Yang meets to achieve harmony.

There are series of self-contained courtyards and minor palaces along the east and west side of the three main halls in the Inner Court . The Emperor's concubines and children lived in those places.

Imperial Garden sits behind those three halls. It is a relatively small garden with compact yet elaborate landscaping design. The north gate of the palace is the Gate of Divine Might stands at the north side of the garden.

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