Be Lost in the Forbidden City of China

Posted in Asia | March 26, 2010 | 0 Comments

If you are looking for the most famous historical site in China, it is the Forbidden City in central Beijing. It refers to the Chinese royal palace that served as the residence of the rulers of the Ming Dynasty to those of the Qing Dynasty for 500 years. The site is a complex of some 980 intact buildings that exhibit traditional Chinese architecture. It is not only entitled as the UNESCO World Heritage Site but is the only complex holding the maximum largest olden wooden structures on Earth.

Being rectangular in plan, the Forbidden City of China was built to be the hub of the walled city of Beijing. It is within a larger walled area known as the Imperial City, which in turn, is situated in the Inner City and Outer City. The Forbidden City is now a Palace Museum holding the great collections of artwork belonging to the two dynasties. The main divisions for visit are as follows:

  • The Meridian Gate

  • Gate of Divine Might
  • West Glorious Gate
  • East Glorious Gate
  • Corner towers
  • Gate of Supreme Harmony
  • Hall of Supreme Harmony
  • Hall of Military Eminence
  • Hall of Literary Glory
  • Southern Three Places
  • Palace of Heavenly Purity

  • Imperial Garden
  • Hall of Mental Cultivation
  • Palace of Tranquil Longevity

My Visit

The Forbidden City of China is enclosed by a high wall and a deep, wide moat. At its four corners, the corner towers are seen from the outside of walls replicating the Pavilion of Prince Teng and the Yellow Crane Pavilion as mentioned in the paintings of the Song Dynasty paintings. To the south of the gate lies the Meridian Gate, at north is the Gate of Divine Might facing the Jingshan Park, while the east and west gates are East Glorious Gate and West Glorious Gate. Except for the East Gate, all of them are adorned with a 9×9 series of golden door nails.

The Forbidden City is split in two parts namely, the Outer Court holding the southern monuments for ceremonies and the Inner Court with northern area as the residence.

Forbidden city Outer Court

First visiting the Outer Court, I entered from the Meridian Gate that has two wings and five gateways. Then, a big square sliced by the Inner Golden Water River crossed by five bridges is seen. At its rear, the Gate of Supreme Harmony takes you to the Hall of Supreme Harmony Square from where a three-tiered white marble terrace grows holding three halls namely, the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony is the largest one in China known for its ceremonial activities of the imperial power. It has nine wide bays and five deep bays wherein the numbers 13 and 20 symbolically links to the ruler’s dignity. Within the hall, into the ceiling is an elaborate caisson adorned with a curved dragon that deliver chandelier-like metal balls known as the Xuanyuan Mirror. The Hall of Central Harmony is a square hall where the Emperor could prepare for the ceremonies and rest in between. At its rear, the Hall of Preserving Harmony facilitated for rehearsing ceremonies and execution of the final stage of the Imperial examination. The central area of the ramps to the terraces hold ceremonial ramps showing symbolic bas-reliefs among which the one behind the Hall of Preserving Harmony is the largest one in China.

Next, to the south west and south east are the halls of Military Eminence for holding ministers and court and Literary Glory as a printing house. The Southern Three Places are to the north-east, which formed the dwelling place of the Crown Prince.

Forbidden city Inner Court

Standing in its middle, there are three halls known as the Palace of Heavenly Purity, Hall of Union, and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility forming the official residences of the Emperor and the Empress.

The Palace of Heavenly Purity, a double-eaved edifice linked to the Gate of Heavenly Purity on south was the residence of the Emperor. In olden days, the Emperor symbolizes the Yang and Heavens and so would stay in this hall. Due to the later shift of the emperor to the smaller Hall of Mental Cultivation, it became the audience hall. The Palace of Earthly Tranquility was the residence of the Empress as she represents the Yin and earth. Between these two lies the Hall of Union, a square layout with pyramidal roof holding 25 Imperial Seals of the Qing Dynasty and is so named to regard the union of the Yang and Yin to generate harmony.

Behind these halls, the small Imperial Garden is seen comprising of many elaborate landscapes. To its north, the Gate of Divine Might forms the north gate of the palace.

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