The Forbidden City & Its Construction
One of the most enlightened monuments of the world, the Forbidden City has been mesmerizing the human race for more than five centuries. Constructed during the Yong Lo era of China’s Ming Dynasty, it covers a total area of 178acre, with a wall stretching 3 kilometers in length and 8.6 meters in height. Its building materials include glazed tiles and yellow bricks complemented by the yellow glazed roofs that reveal richly ornamented dragon designs. Employing over one million people and under the guidance of well-known palace architect Zhang Jize, the Forbidden City was finally completed in 1420.
Lying in the very heart of Beijing, the palace complex has provided shelter to some of the most powerful imperial figures in human history. Initially, the domain of prayer and happiness, the layout of the palace today is an undeniable symbol of the sophistication of the Chinese empire. From the centre of the structure, an elegant symmetry is balanced between the various enclosures, gates and outside elements such as artificial mountains and ponds.
This masterpiece was able to survive the violence of war and the destruction of revolutions. The architecture served as a testament to the best of epochal imperial culture.In overall,it consists of 9,999 rooms with sturdy walls for an overall protection.The palace complex was arranged as a rectangular system with the main palace at its center,four sides encircled by an exterior wall,and then an outer protective wall.
However, most impressively, the building itself wasn’t the only artistic expression of this era. A number of other marvels were crafted using the same material,such as the masterpieces found in the Grand View Garden and the dragon sculptures adorning the Hall of Supreme Harmony. The Forbidden City was a complex structure combining both external design and internal structure.
In 1987 this majestic structure was inscribed into the World heritage list by UNESCO, becoming the first ancient Chinese palace complex to gain such recognition. From that date in, the situation of the Forbidden City had been improved in some aspects, as it has received regular restorations and maintenance by local authorities.
The Rich History of the Forbidden City
This epic structure not only demonstrates the wisdom and great power of the Chinese civilization, but also carries with it a few million years of history.Originally known as the Imperial Palace,it was owned by the dynastic family of the Ming and Qing and was the political,religious and social heart of the empire. It was also the witness of some of the most important decisions ever made in ancient China and a representation of the greatest accomplishments of the hierarchic ruler class.
The architecture of the Forbidden City is a brilliant expression of the Ming Dynasty’s mastery over the building of large complexes.The complex was designed to express the power,grandeur and the unshakable stability of their emperor. The tremendous magnitude of this fortress is an unparalleled sight and a clear indication of China’s military might during the 15th century.
As the most important replica of the Chinese feudal hierarchy,the Forbidden City’s grandeur and structural unity were not just symbols of power, but representative of the creative sophistication, innovations and cultural pride of the imperial dynasty. It is an astonishing accomplishment of the best craftsmanship of the Ming Dynasty and a marvelous witness of over five centuries of Chinese construction.
At that time, architecture was transferred from generation to generation, and the complexity of projects such as this one brought together the skills passed from father to son. Humble apprentice technicians, specialized merchants and professional master builders blended with the knowledge and practices of these masonry and joinery to form a cohesive and organized team.This unique combination of traditional values and artisanship created an unprecedented architecture masterpiece.
For this reason, the Forbidden City is not just a museum of historical buildings, but also one of the greatest feats of craftsmanship and architecture of all time.
Ming Dynasty-Architecture of the Forbidden City
It is true that during their rule,the Ming Dynasty had established a powerful legacy which still pervades Chinese society.Under their command,the Chinese were experts in every branch of the arts and sciences and also in military technological advancement.This led to many technological advancements,which were implemented in the grandiose architecture of Forbidden City,such as iron-reinforced doors,bent iron and steel reinforcement bars and a highly advanced rainwater drainage system.
The overall composition of the complex is an absolute masterpiece. The palace consists of 980 buildings with 8,707 rooms, which include pavilions, halls, towers and courtyards, each with its own unique artistic value and function. Some of the most renowned constructions feature the gates, Elegant Garden, Hall of Supreme Harmony and the Hall of Mental Cultivation. The grandiosity of the relationship between key buildings is represented by the nine-axis central symmetrical axis, from the entrancehall to The Forbidden City.
The Eastern part of the city was built for residential usage,while the West was specifically designed for the court’s rituals and political entourage.The separation of the male and female quarters were definite signs of power and order, reflecting the emphasis placed on ceremonial tradition at the time. In addition, the Forbidden City was designed to be a powerful impenetrable fortress and was fitted with large gates and outer walls, painted such that they appeared red, intimidating would-be invaders.
The overall design serves as a demonstration of Chinese ingenuity as it features an overlap of
the strength of Chinese military technology and Chinese Imperial aesthetics.
How Forbidden City Survived
The original architecture of the Forbidden City remained unaltered for over five centuries in which the palace saw many changes of dynasty. This is largely attributed to the implementation of the Sinan military code, which required rulers to respect their predecessors and refrain from making too many drastic changes. This code helped to ensure that the throne was kept safe and the structure was preserved.
Despite periods of neglect during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Forbidden City underwent many restoration efforts that were commissioned by the various emperors. For instance, the Yongzheng Emperor repaired the roof and the Kangxi Emperor built the Hall of Mental Cultivation and the Hall of Glorious Virtue. The palace walls were also painted and due to the restoration efforts, some parts of the complex survive to this day.
The Forbidden City is a reminder of the glory and power of the Ming and Qing dynasties. It symbolizes their strength, creativity and resilience, as it has been able to stand the test of time. Not only is it a marvel of construction, but its rich history and preservation have made it a cherished site for all the centuries.
The Forbidden City Today
Today the Forbidden City is officially known as the Palace Museum, and is one of the most visited sites in the world. The illustrious palace complex continues to attract a large number of tourists and dignitaries, who marvel at its grandeur and significance to global history. Furthermore, the Forbidden City has become the setting of the 2022 Winter Olympics closing ceremony, which is the first time the Winter Olympics has been held in a heritage site.
The Forbidden City remains an enduring reminder of Chine’s illustrious past. Even though much of its original architecture and artworks have been lost to time, the complex still retains its grandeur. As a testament to global history, the Forbidden City is one of the greatest architectural feats of all time.
The Cultural Significance of the Forbidden City
Apart from being a magnificent representation of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the Forbidden City also has a strong cultural implication. Despite its military roots, the magnificent architecture is also an embodiment of important philosophical and religious undertones. For instance, the Forbidden City embodies the concept of yin and yang, which is demonstrated in the grand symmetry of its construction. The nine-axis iconic symbolism central to the complex, is also symbolic of a unification of power, with the central axis being the paths of the Emperor himself.
The Forbidden City is often referred to as the Purple Forbidden City, evoking the majestic and magical qualities of the purple sky. In Chinese folklore, the color purple is associated with power and royalty, further emphasizing the importance of the Emperor and reinforcing the hierarchical structure of the Imperial court.
Additionally, the Forbidden City also exemplified the loyalty, respect and obedience of the Chinese people. The complex was designed to serve as a representation of the supreme power of the Emperor, and it was created to keep the Emperor at the center of attention while acting as his physical and spiritual representation.
This was further demonstrated through the various rituals that were held during the enthronement ceremony which were specifically designed to demonstrate the Emperor’s divine power.
Summary of the Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was built during the Yong Lo era of China’s Ming Dynasty.Inside the structure lies a complex interweaving of craftsmanship, architecture, philosophy and religion. The idea was to create an outward illustration of the power and absolute authority of the Chinese emperor. Over the centuries, numerous rulers have sought to leave their mark on the Forbidden City, resulting in a unique and stunning visual expression of the Ming Dynasty’s ingenuity and grandeur.
Among today’s visitors the Forbidden City continues to astonish with its grandeur and is considered a remarkable representation of Chinese culture and history. It is both a reminder of the great power of the Ming and Qing dynasties, as well as a symbol of China’s strength, creativity and resilience.