How Tall Is The Forbidden City

How Tall Is The Forbidden City?

The Forbidden City is a palace complex in Beijing’s historic heart that was built for China’s emperors. This immense complex includes 980 surviving buildings with 8,886 rooms. But just how tall is the Forbidden City? In this article we will delve into the historical and scientific aspects of its towering height.

Firstly, the Forbidden City is a symbol of the imperial power in China, so its enormous structure was designed to be awe-inspiring with immense palace walls, high towering gates, and majestic palace halls. The main walls measure 10 metres in height, and the palace walls an additional 6.5 metres on top, making them 16.5 metres tall in total. This impressive height is purposefully intimidating and symbolizes divine power.

However, recent research has revealed that the Forbidden City was designed even taller. During his reign, Emperor Qianlong of the Manchu Qing dynasty ordered the Forbidden City to be raised due to flooding risks. After several renovations, the height of the main walls were increased to over 18 metres, a feat made possible by workers bringing 180,000 tonnes of earth from the mountains. As a result, by the time of Qianlong’s death, the ground floor walls measured 12 metres, with an additional 6.5 metres from the palace walls, making them an impressive 18.5 metres tall.

When it comes to the towers of the Forbidden City, these structures are imposing, dark, and foreboding. Designed to be even taller than the walls, these towers are impressive structures. The main towers, including the South and North Heavenly Gates, measure an astounding 37 metres tall.

In addition to its immense height, the Forbidden City’s construction further increases its imposing structure, making it a daunting experience to walk through. Its walls are made of grey bricks and raised over 70 centimetres above ground level with a pitted area, making it appear as if the ground is covered in water.

The most impressive sights of the Forbidden City however are its magnificent throne rooms. The most renowned of these is the Hall of Supreme Harmony, which is built upon the highest point of the Forbidden City – an artificial mound known as the nǔlíng. This hall measures a whopping 34 meters across and, at 21 meters tall, stands as the most impressive building in the entire complex.

Materials Used For Construction

The Forbidden City is composed of several palace buildings that were constructed in the Ming and Qing dynasties. The materials used to build the Forbidden City include blocks of granite, kiln-dried bricks, and a mixture of grey bricks made of mud, yellow soil and lime.[1] Inside the palace walls, several wooden structures were built and fitted with a special type of glazed ceramic tile roofing. The roofing tiles have steel edges and are covered with a layer of coloured enamel, giving the Forbidden City its unique aesthetic.

Overall, the Forbidden City was built using premium materials, as befit its imperial status, and employed skilled builders from many provinces. The walls and towers were made of thick-set stones and columns, which are able to withstand both time and attacks. The interior designs use the latest architectural and engineering styles to create interiors with intricate carvings and designs.

Structural Integrity of the Forbidden City

Given its impressive height, something which is especially remarkable considering the lack of modern technology, the Forbidden City is a feat of construction with several components that work together. Firstly, the tall palace walls offer protection and defence against intruders. The bricks were thickly knitted together and reinforced with steel bands. The towers and roofs employ the principle of a tie beam structure with ‘tie-beams’ set across the two wooden columns at the outer walls of the main palace building.

The tie beam structure adds further structural stability to the Forbidden City and adds an extra layer of protection against earthquakes. This is also achieved through the material selection, as the local bricks used are specifically formulated to counter the risk of earthquakes, and the wooden structures are specifically designed to flex, offering further stability.

Interior Design of the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City’s interior design is equally impressive as its physical stature. Rather than a simplistic layout, the Forbidden City is composed of several interconnected courtyards and halls spread over the 180-acre complex. These halls, armed with intricate carvings, are divided into three main categories – the front, the rear, and the side courts. The inner courtyard is the most sacred area, containing the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony.

These inner halls, as well as the rest of the Forbidden City, are crammed full of ancient artifacts. From ancient paintings and calligraphy to statues and furniture, the Forbidden City offers a glimpse into Chinese history and culture. The wood panels feature intertwining dragons, birds, flowers, and animals and were precision-fitted to create the intrincate patterns on the ceilings.[2]

Cultural Significance of the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is more than just a stunning complex of structures and artifacts. It stands as a symbol of the long and illustrious imperial history of China, and it is a popular tourist destination due to its great historical and cultural significance.

The Forbidden City is known as the largest surviving collection of imperial palace architecture in the world and it has been meticulously preserved. Many of its original features have been preserved, from the pottery glazes on the roof tiles to the palace decorations and the intricate carvings on the walls and roof beams.

The Forbidden City presents to visitors an unrivaled insight into Chinese imperial life and culture. As such, it has become a popular destination for Chinese and foreign tourists alike. For these tourists, a visit to the Forbidden City is not just an opportunity to admire its immense architecture, it is also an experience in Chinese culture.

Conservation of the Forbidden City

The immense structures of the Forbidden City have been quietly standing in their rightful place since its completion in 1420. Despite its incredible age and size, it remains well maintained and in a near-pristine state.

This is due to the great care and attention of the many conservators and preservation teams that have been dedicated to preserving the Forbidden City’s cultural heritage. Through painstaking efforts, these conservationists have ensured that many of the original features of the Forbidden City remain intact, and its grandeur and beauty continues to captivate visitors.

In addition to these preservation efforts, the Forbidden City also hosts many events throughout the year, including exhibitions, conferences, and lectures that help to raise awareness of its importance both today and in the future.

Accessibility of the Forbidden City

Although surrounded by a vast moat and high walls, the Forbidden City is surprisingly accessible. To make the complex more accessible to tourists, the opening time for the Forbidden City has been extended to 9am to 5pm, and the entrance fee is now only 150 CNY.[3]

The Forbidden City also has a long history of hosting a variety of international events, from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games to the 2018 Qi Baishi Art Exhibition. By making the Forbidden City more accessible to the public, this ancient structure can reach an even larger audience than ever before.

Final Thoughts

The Forbidden City was originally designed to be an awe-inspiring and symbolic structure, with immense height making it a formidable structure. This cannot be denied and it is easy to feel moved by the expansive majesty of this palace. Imperial power, heritage and magnificence are all encapsulated within the complex and even though the Forbidden City is centuries old, it is still as beautiful and captivating as ever.

Herman Shaw is a passionate traveler and avid photographer who has seen many of the world's most awe-inspiring monuments. He has developed expertise in various aspects of world architecture and culture which he enjoys sharing with his readers. With deep historical knowledge and insight, Herman's writing brings life to these remarkable artifacts and highlights their importance in the grand scheme of human history.

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