Beijing’s Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is a conservation complex situated in the heart of Beijing where ancient Chinese palace architecture has been preserved since the Ming and Qing dynasties. Founded in 1420 and located at the very centre of China, the Forbidden City is renowned as one of the greatest and largest palaces of the world. This massive palace complex is surrounded by a large stone wall, with four gates of entry that lead to central part. With the imperial palaces, Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Central Harmony, and Hall of Preserving Harmony all located inside.
In 1987, the Forbidden City was inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List. The World Heritage Committee praised the complex for having “remained important and intact from the Ming and Qing dynasties to the present day”. This deeply resonates with robustness of the complex, as it withstood several floods, fires and pillaging during its long history. Inside, multiple courtyards provide for an aesthetically pleasing contrast between somber grey-bricked walls, brightly coloured temples and white tiled roofs, forming an unforgettable scene.
In addition to its historical significance, the Forbidden City also played an important role in Chinese culture, with the Emperor being considered a demigod by both commoners as well as royals. To most Chinese people, a trip to Beijing would feel incomplete if there was no stopover at the Forbidden City. Due to the severe repercussion of tourism and archeological conservation, only a few sections of the complex are open to the public while the other sections are closed off.
Fortunately, tourists interested in the Forbidden City can visit and observe various sections of the complex. The Zhengyangmen and the Donghua Gate are two of the four key gates to the outer palace. Visitors are allowed to enter through these two gates and look around, and the extra walking hour through the Forbidden City will enable a far greater experience for visitors. However, those interested in going further down the complex should consider applying for the Palace Museum for a much more comprehensive experience. According to Yinyan Zhu, the director of the Palace Museum, the “Palace Museum logs 1.5 million visitors each year” – a testament to the city’s enduring cultural power as a global tourist destination.
Tourism to the Forbidden City also serves to further contribution and preservation of the cultural legacy left behind by the Chinese emperorship. In 2009, Chinese authorities undertook a massive restoration project to fully repair and renovate all sections of the Forbidden City, whilst also allowing for easier visitor access. Driven by a desire for restoration and conservation of Beijing’s heritage, this project has sustained the Forbidden City’s delightful retain of its 17th century essence. With its wealth of cultural and historical importance, on visits to Beijing, most tourists wouldn’t want to miss out on a visit to the Forbidden City.
The Prized Palaces
The Forbidden City, also known as the “Gugong”, is made up of over 980 buildings, with 8800 bedrooms. Inside the vast palace lies the 9000 metres of amazing halls and palaces which contain many prestigious artefacts, sculptures and paintings. Among the prized palaces are the Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Middle Harmony, Hall of Preserving Harmony and Palace of Heavenly Purity. The Hall of Supreme Harmony was used as venue for various ceremonies, ancestral worship and the enthronement of the Emperor. As the most exalted building in the Forbidden City, the hall is clothed in a rich array of colors, exquisitely decorated with intricate patterns, sculptures and other artifacts.
Inside the Hall of Middle Harmony, where the Emperor passed judgement on matters of state, is a magnificent bronze “ding”, made in 1153 BC during the reign of King Yi-Di. Hall of Preserving Harmony also houses numerous artifacts and sculptures, which includes two marble lions in front of it. The Palace of Heavenly Purity has bright yellow walls that provided a backdrop for Empress Dowagers, who exercised regency before the emperors reached maturity. To the east of the Palace is the Imperial Garden, a recreational area where the Imperial family enjoyed private peace and tranquility while the Three Western Buildings is the location used by high ranking officials to entertain the Emperor – a testament to the city’s remarkable attention to detail.
The Perfect Blend of East and West
In addition to its Chinese heritage, the Forbidden City is also recognized for its strong European influence. The Western-style courtyards, buildings, and architectural features are a striking contrast to their oriental counterparts. For example, the western buildings constructed in the early 20th century were strongly influenced by European architecture and contained various dining halls, furniture, and even fire-proof cabinets.
Moreover, the carefully placed bronze sculptures were sourced from Europe The details in the Forbidden City were not just for decoration but were significant in every aspect; for instance, each building was built and arranged to signify auspiciousness, with colors made to signify virtue. Remarkably, the placement of stones in certain sections of the city were meant to represent various aspects of modern and traditional Chinese culture such as the Tiger and the Dragon. Through the art and architecture of the Forbidden City, visitors can truly experience the perfect blend of East and West.
A Breathtaking Artistic Expression
At the Forbidden City, one can enjoy some of the world’s most stunning artworks, crafted by craftspeople whose meticulous work spans four centuries. The decorative details have been carefully designed to represent Confucian principles, such as integrity and prudence, and these details are present in almost all of the Forbidden City’s walls and sculptures. The colors, made from ground and glazed stones, exhibit a breathtaking visual expression that showcases exceptional craftsmanship.
The Forbidden City is decorated with dragon carving and human patterns, which incorporates traditional beliefs, philosophies and values. Although their strict guidelines were meant to limit the creativity of the craftspeople, these same guidelines also enabled them to be extremely attentive to detail. This extends to the tiled roofs of the buildings, which are decorated with bright colors and intricate patterns, depicting birds, mythical creatures and dragons.
The Forbidden City also features sculptures crafted by world’s most renowned artists. Sculpted out of white marble, the carvings show incredible attention to detail; some works have survived the ages, though most pieces have been taken out. These sculptures demonstrate the high level of respect and admiration the Chinese held for their past emperors, and they convey powerful lessons even today.
Robust Structures of China
The Forbidden City is renowned as one of the world’s most enduring and impenetrable fortresses as none of its components can be easily weakened. Its walls consist of towers, compressed earth, and bricks made from clay-lime-firewater combination that were covered with a thick layer of white paint. This combination of strong materials gives the wall the most robustness and made a siege nearly impossible. It is no surprise that during its 600-year history, the Forbidden City has withstood numerous natural disasters, war invasions and fires.
The ingenious structure present within the Forbidden City is also a testament to its robustness. Architects of the time made it hard for any invaders to enter the palace. With numerous strategically placed ditches, walls and moats to confuse and slow the invaders. On top of this, the east and west portions were only connected by a long, winding road; a design that would only slow invaders further and make them vulnerable as they move from one end to the other.
Architects also ensured that many of the Forbidden City’s structures were connected underground. This allowed soldiers to move freely and quickly without being spotted. On the other hand, the commoners who were permitted to stay inside the Forbidden City were using mud paths for easy movement between compounds so that the residents would be able to quickly get away to safety if an invading force breached the city’s walls.
A Monument of Chinese History
The Forbidden City serves as an enduring monument of Chinese history. It has seen thousands of years of growth and development which have been documented and accumulated in its ancient walls. Surviving numerous floods, wars and fires, the Forbidden City testifies to the resilient will of the Chinese people and their remarkable organisational abilities. For centuries, the city has been an ode to the ingenuity of Chinese architects, engineers and artisans.
The Forbidden City also provides insight into the daily life of the Chinese—from the highly sophisticated architecture and artworks, to the everyday trivialities that flourished in its walls. The richness of the cultural and historical value represented by the Forbidden City is incomparable. As such, the importance of protecting and preserving the Forbidden City is equally immense, and visitors must bear this in mind when navigating the vast palace.
An Important Cultural and Religious Center
Since the founding of the Ming dynasty, The Forbidden City has become a source of constant religious and cultural activities, ceremonies and festivals. Thousands of pilgrims and believers from all over the world visit the city every year in search of blessing and spiritual fulfillment. Events such as the Chinese New Year are celebrated with pomp and grandiose, attracting numerous visitors which further attests to the Forbidden City’s importance to Chinese culture.
Throughout its lifetime, the Forbidden City has experienced numerous changes, and over the centuries, the Chinese emperors had made adjustments to the palace to better meet their requirements and living conditions. Along the way, technological advancements have been integrated into the palace, making it one of the most technologically modern landmarks in the world.
In the present age, the Forbidden City remains a powerful reminder of Chinese history and an important cultural and religious center. From its humble roots, the Forbidden City has developed over centuries to become a symbol of pride for the Chinese people, akin to the Western world’s connection to the Great Wall of China. This ancient yet significant landmark is truly a must-see for all visitors.
A Symbol of Chinese Heroism
While the Forbidden City has stood for centuries as a symbolof Chinese power, might and authority, it has also been a source of inspiration for people in search of freedom. Throughout its long history, the city has served as a base for both nationalist and revolutionary movements. From Sun Yat-sen’s Revolutionary Alliance to the East is Red Youth Corps, the Forbidden City has seen its fair share of heroes, eccentrics, and martyrs all fighting for the same cause.
The Forbidden City is also an ancient beacon of hope that has withstood the test of time, and it continues to shine to this day. In the 1950’s, it symbolized the nation’s first glimmer of hope after a century of strife and political turmoil, and today, it still serves as a reminder that no matter how overwhelming the challenge, a brighter future awaits. The resilience of this ancient palace serves as a source of strength for the Chinese people, inspiring them to thrive in the face of adversity by staying true to their traditions and beliefs.
A Rich Cultural Experience
The Forbidden City offers much more than exquisite beauty and antiquity; it provides a rich cultural experience that is unique to its place. Visitors can find themselves immersed in a vast array of traditional customs. For instance, visitors can witness the traditional yán man ceremony in which the emperor greets the incoming emissaries at the gates of his palace. Also, the Chinese activities such as the Ming and Qing Garden Fairs, Chinese New Year celebrations, Lantern Festivals and Mid-autumn Fairs offer some insight into the cultural contributions of the Chinese people.
Apart from the historical importance of the Forbidden City, it has much to offer in terms of cultural significance too. With activities such as calligraphy, painting, and martial arts, the Forbidden City enables visitors to explore traditional Chinese customs. Additionally, visitors can also witness how food has evolved through the centuries, by savouring dishes that have been passed down through generations of emperors and their courts.
Moreover, traditional performances including music and dancing have always been popular in the Forbidden City. The traditional ‘Music and Dance Show of the Empress Dowager’ is particularly renowned. The show is performed inside the Palace of Heavenly Purity and is a powerful display of music and dance that transport the audience to another time.
Learning Traits of Resourcefulness and Resilience
The Forbidden City has also been a source of resilience, strength and courage in Chinese society, and it serves as a reminder for people to never give up in the face of adversity. Through visits to the Forbidden City, people can learn to draw inspiration from the