The Forbidden City, known as the Imperial Palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties, is located in the heart of Beijing. It is the largest and most complete cluster of ancient Chinese palatial architecture, preserved to this day. The Forbidden City has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its unique cultural importance and overwhelming aesthetic beauty. The building features on China’s national emblem and stamp, and has been the inspiration behind numerous books, films and television series.
The construction of the Forbidden City began in 1406, following the orders and designs of Emperor Chengzu of the Ming dynasty. It took more than 14 years, with the help of more than 1 million workers, to complete the palace’s structure. Throughout the three imperial dynasties which it hosted, the Forbidden City was constantly being renovated, reconstructed, and delicate additions were made to the imperial palace’s prestigious appearance.
The Forbidden City has a vertebral structure consisting of three main axes. It is designed to demonstrate the power of the imperial court and to embody Chinese ancestor worship. The length of the palace runs almost 961 metres, extended across 720,000 metres square, and stands the highest above sea level within Beijing. Its walls measure 8.6 metres in height with a thickness of 3.2 metres at the base. The complex has a total of 9,999 rooms, of which roundabout one-third are located on the external walls and the rest within the inner palace.
The entire complex is made up of large palaces surrounded by an inner wall, and an outer wall which encircles the entire palace. The outer wall is composed of bricks and stone, which are coloured a deep red to symbolize the prestige and grandeur of the palace. The inner wall is made up of bricks, stones and wood. Similarly to the outer wall, it is a deep red hue adorned with vibrant yellow glazed tiles. The imperial palace’s gates are arched and tiled, along with the superior halls and concubines’ quarters. Inside the Forbidden City, the complex is made of two major constructions, Kuaihou and Yuhou, as well as numerous picturesque courtyards and annexed halls which boast intricate designs and ornate decorations.
The Ancient Sites
In the outer court is where grand ceremonies were held, such as imperial weddings and feasts. Emperors from past dynasties were entombed in various sites such as the Imperial Tombs, which vary in design and size, each reflecting the unique taste of the leader of the dynasty. The Imperial Altar is a circular platform which is used for sacrificial ceremonies and religious offerings. It is known to be the site of the annual sacrifices to heaven and to Earth of ancient periods.
The inner court is where personal quarters of the emperor and his family were located. Constructed in 1536, the Palace of Heavenly Purity is the living area of past emperors and their convents during the ruling period of their respective dynasties. Directly opposite is the Hall of Union which is used for royal functions and other religious ceremonies.
Inside there are several other palace halls located on various levels which are interconnected and arranged around an open space. This serves as the courtyard for the inner court, which is surrounded by several halls, such as the Palace of Earthly Tranquility, the Palace of Heavenly Purity, and the Hall of Mental Cultivation.
The imperial family’s living quarters are known to be some of the most beautiful and exclusive sites within the Forbidden City. They contain ancient artifacts, such as priceless vases, patterns, and calligraphy, that were commissioned by the emperors and empresses over the centuries.
The Forbidden City is renowned for its architectural and symbolic features, representing protection and good fortune. All over the walls, one can find carvings of dragon, phoenix, and other mythological creatures that are considered to bring luck and good fortune according to ancient Chinese beliefs. The threshold consist of five steps, which is believed to reflect heaven, earth and the three cardinal principles. The yellow glazed tiles used in the archways are said to represent the imperial power and the golden dragons which decorate the palace roofs are a powerful symbol of strength.
The grandeur of the Forbidden City can still be seen in its wonderful works of stone, bricks, wood and mythical symbols. Its walls are strong and robust, while the intricate design of each hall and room is breathtaking. The imperial palace is a potent reminder of the power and glory of ancient China’s emperors and still stands as a stunning homage to its people as a symbol of strength, power and prestige.
The Ornamental Garden
The ornamental gardens in the Forbidden City are glorious and astounding. At the Garden of Veritable Tranquillity, visitors can find exquisite vegetation such as magnolia and pine trees, as well as enjoy a picturesque view of the surrounding mountains from the Joyful Palace. The Imperial Garden is filled with various rare species of plants and over thousand rare stones, and is incredibly popular among tourists and locals alike.
The Treasures of the Forbidden City include three large lakes, huangcheng, huangqiao and lotus pond. Their beauty offers peace and solitude to those who visit.The halls and gardens are a famed attraction in Beijing, offering picturesque landscape and a pleasant environment to explore and relax.
Other attractions in the Forbidden City include the Forbidden City Opera House and the Pavilion of Multi-cultural Art. The opera house has some of the best acoustics in the world, and hosts events such as Peking Opera and traditional Chinese music. The Pavilion of Multi-cultural Art exhibits fashion, folk, photography and sculpture.
The Restore and Protection
Over the centuries, the Forbidden City has gone through several periods of extensive restoration to preserve its original architecture. The most notable renovations took place in the 1950s and the 1980s, which involved restoring the buildings’ original design and covering areas that had been weathered by time. More recently, a foundation was launched to promote the preservation of the site and to improve the protection of the priceless artifacts that can be found there.
The Forbidden City has been a cultural treasure for centuries and is one of the main tourist destinations in Beijing. The Chinese government has put in an impressive effort to protect this unique historical site and to maintain it in its current condition. The dedicated team of preservationists strive to continue the maintenance and cultivation of this precious and irreplaceable building, into a place of beauty and awe.
In recent years, the Forbidden City has become a laboratory of sorts, where the world’s leading conservation and historical experts can come to explore and learn about the grandeur of Chinese legacy. The preservation and maintenance of the palace is a prestigious honour and testament to the skill and dedication of its master builders.
The Tourist Attraction
The Forbidden City today is a tourist attraction, open to visitors from all over the world. Each year, tens of millions of tourists flock to the Forbidden City to experience its grandiose style and catch a glimpse of the life of its past rulers. Visitors can now explore many of the unique spaces and halls, some of which were once inhabited by the highest levels of the imperial court. Modern souvenir shops, restaurants and cafés have been added to the complex to cater to the needs of the tourists.
The palace has inspired legend and even attracted the attention of many foreign visitors. Abraham Pietersen, whose writings about his visit to the Forbidden City are widely known, once wrote “The largest palace in the world is here, with a beauty and grandeur that shall remain uncontested in eternity!” The palace has been declared as a symbol of China’s historical and cultural identity and has even been depicted on several banknotes.
The Forbidden City has captivated the imagination of many, and continues to be an awe-inspiring testament to China’s grand imperial history. While the palace is known for its grandeur and majesty, visitors are most charmed by the imaginative and intricate beauty of its gardens and buildings.
The cultural Relics
The Forbidden City holds a wealth of Chinese cultural relics which have been carefully preserved over the centuries. Many of the artifacts inside the Forbidden City are highly sought after on the international art market, such as ancient bronzes, pottery and jade. Some of the most prized treasures include the Imperial Plates and the Imperial Seals which were used by past emperors to mark important documents.
The priceless artifacts provided valuable insight into the aesthetics, technology and skills of their time. Most of these precious relics can be found in the chambers and reception rooms of the imperial palace, which display the symbol of supreme authority of emperors.
The Forbidden City is home to some of the world’s most valuable artifacts, which offer great insight into the history of China and the lifestyles of its people. These artifacts also reflect the achievements of past rulers and their devotion to maintaining the highest standards of excellence.
The Forbidden City still stands today, a beautiful and powerful symbol of Ancient China. Despite its immense wealth and great power, the Forbidden City serves as an example of humility and grace, inviting visitors from all over the world to come and explore the riches it has to offer.