The Forbidden City also called
the Imperial Palace Museum, which was built by Emperor Yong Le,
the third Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. The construction continued
from 1406 to 1420 but the palace buildings were burnt down, rebuilt,
renovated for many times. There are 24 emperors once lived and wielded
their power in the Forbidden City for over 500 years. In 1925 the
Forbidden City was open to public. It was listed by the UNESCO as
World Cultural Heritage in 1987.It is one of the most important
tourist attractions in China. The Forbidden City is encircled by
a 52-meter-wide, 6-meter-deep moat and a 10-meter-high, 3,400-meter-long
city wall which has one gate on each side. The Forbidden City covers
an area of 72 hectares. It is 960 meters long and 750 meters wide.
There are over 8,700 rooms covered by yellow glazed tile roofs,
which look very magnificent and dignified. There are four unique
turrets overlooking the city inside and outside on the four corners.
Generally, it was divided into two parts, the southern half, or
the Outer Court where emperors executed their supreme power over
the nation and the northern half, or the Inner Court where they
lived with their royal family. There are numerous valuable historical
relics collected by ancient emperors in the Forbidden City. Some
of them are on exhibition.
of the Forbidden City
Main Gate of the Forbidden City, the Meridian Gate
More Stories about the Forbidden City.
The Meridian Gate It is the outer front gate and
also the southern gate of the Forbidden City, embodying the solemnity
and dignity of the Imperial Palace. With five pavilions on top,
it is also called “Five-phoenix Tower”. It formed into the shape
of the letter “U”. There are three main gateways and two side gateways
through it. The central gateway was exclusively reserved for the
emperor, but the empress had the right to go through it only once
in her life at her wedding ceremony and the scholars who came the
first, the second and the third in the Imperial Examination presided
over by the emperor were permitted to leave the palace through it.
All other high-ranking officials were permitted to go through the
left gateway and the members of the royal family were permitted
to go through the right gateway. The other petty officials could
do the entry by the two side gateways.
There are bell tower and drum tower built on top. When the emperor
presided in court drum would be beaten and bell would be sounded.
When the emperor went to the Temple of Heaven to offer sacrifice
the bell would be sounded. The drum would be beaten when the emperor
went to the Ancestral Temple to offer sacrifices.
Every Winter Solstice, the emperor would promulgate the next year’s
lunar almanac on the Meridian Gate. "The “Presenting captives’
ceremony” was held in front the Meridian Gate. The generals would
present captives from the victory wars to the emperor to get awards
here in the Qing Dynasty. In the Ming Dynasty, the place in front
of the Meridian Gate was also used for punishing the officials who
offended the emperor, by flogging on the bottom. That was called”
Court Flogging”. In 1519, the ministers advised the emperor to cancel
a trip to South China. That made the emperor very angry because
he wanted to choose more beauties by that tour. So he had some 130
officials flogged by court guards. 11 of them died of the torture.
In 1524, one emperor had 134 officials published on one time and
17 of them were beaten to death on the spot. In Qing Dynasty this
cruel practice was abolished.
The Gate of Supreme Harmony It is the front gate
of the three main outer halls in the Forbidden City. In the Ming
Dynasty, it was a place for the emperors to hear the reports by
his officials and also to make important decisions. In the Qing
Dynasty, the emperor would alight from his carried chair to take
a canopied chariot here on the way to offer sacrifices to altar
temples. The Qing emperors once held the banquets here. Ceremonies
for receiving dowry, wedding and conferring the title to the empress
would pass this gate.
Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Throne Hall
The Hall of Supreme Harmony Every
year, grand celebrations were held here on the first day of the
first lunar month, the day of the Winter Solstice and the emperor’s
birthday. Other important ceremonies such as issuing the imperial
edict about the new emperor’s enthronement, announcing the list
of the successful candidates from the imperial examination and dispatching
a general on an expedition would be held here. Imperial examinations
were held here in the Ming Dynasty and the beginning of the Qing
The Hall of Complete Harmony Before going to the
Hall of Supreme Harmony for grand ceremonies, the emperor would
take a short rest here and make some preparations. The emperor could
receive his ministers to listen to the report about the arrangement
of the ceremony. The emperor also reviewed the sacrificial address
before going to the Temple of Heaven to offer sacrifice. Before
the sacrifice was offered at the Temple of Agriculture, the emperor
would hold a ceremony to check the grain seeds for sowing and the
farming tools for use.
The Hall of Preserving Harmony In the early days
of the Ming Dynasty, banquets were set to entertain the emperor’s
son in law and other top officials. In the later period of the 18th
century, it was a place for palace examinations. In the Qing Dynasty,
banquet was given here on every New Year’s Eve for entertaining
the Mongolian nobles and officials.
He in Chinese means the harmonized relation among
various things in the world. Taihe means that the relations between
various things in universe are in perfect. Zhonghe means impartial,
i.e. to handle things in a proper and restrained way so that relations
between the various things could be kept in harmony without going
astray. Baohe denotes to keep in order the harmonized relations
already obtained between various things.
The Hall of Heavenly Purity From the Ming Dynasty
to the early days of the Qing Dynasty, it was a place where the
emperors resided and handled his routine affairs. During Emperor
Yongzheng’s Reign period, he moved to work and stay in the Hall
of Mental Cultivation. Occasionally he came here to receive his
officials and envoys, go over memorials and work out policies. After
the emperor died, his coffin would be laid here for a few days.
From Emperor Kangxi, the crowned prince would not be announced avoiding
the princes’ killing each other. The emperor would write down the
name of heir prince on one paper and seal it inside a box, which
would be put behind the board of “Being Open and Aboveboard” in
this hall. When the emperor passed away, the box would be opened
and the successor to throne would be announced right on the spot.
The Hall of Union and Peace Celebration was held
here on the birthday of the empress. In 1748, Emperor Qianlong put
25 imperial seals representing the supreme royal power here. Besides,
some clocks and a copper clepsydra were placed here. In the Qing
Dynasty, the ceremonial rites would be held here before the empress
went out to offer sacrifice on the Altar of Silkworm.
The Hall of Earthly Tranquility In the Ming Dynasty,
it was called “Central Palace” lived by the empress. In the Qing
Dynasty, the west part became a place to offer sacrifices to gods,
the east part was the bridal chamber for the emperor and the empress.
Emperor Kangxi, Emperor Tonzhi and Emperor Guangxu all were married
The Hall of Mental Cultivation
From the Emperor Yongzheng to the end of the Qing Dynasty, the hall
was a place where the emperor lived. The room in the middle was
used to receive ministers and foreign envoys. The books on the shelf
were the experiences and lessons gained by the previous emperors.
They were left for the coming emperors. The emperor used the western
room to read and comment memorials and planned political and military
decisions together with ministers. The eastern room was a place
for Empress Dowager Cixi to exercise her “Ruling Behind the Curtain”
during the reigning periods of Tongzhi and Guangxu. In 1911 the
imperial edict of abdication was announced from here. The rear hall
was the bedchamber of the emperor. Shunzhi, Qianlong and Tongzhi
in Qing Dynasty all passed away here.
Emperor's Bed Room
Sundial and grain measures The
Sun Dial, a time-meter invented in ancient China and firstly was
used in Qin Dynasty 2,000 years ago. Using the projection by sun
and the principle of the rotation of the earth, it tells time by
shadow projected by handle on the dial-panel with an inclination
angle of 50 degrees. In the center of the sundial panel, standing
an iron handle at a right angle. Its upper tip points to the North
Pole and the other end to the South Pole. On both sides of the dial-penal
are carved with a time divisions of the 12 two-hour periods. From
morning to night the shadow of the handle on the upper side of the
dial goes anti-clockwise and the handle on other side goes the other
way around. After Vernal Equinox the time is read by the shadow
on the upper side and by that on reverse side after the Autumnal
Equinox. The Imperial Grain Measure “Jialiang” It was a complete
set of standard volume measures in ancient China. The whole set
consists of five volume units: Hu, Dou, Sheng, He and Yue. In accordance
with the traditional system, two “Yue” equal to a “He”, ten “he”
equal to a “Sheng”, ten “Sheng” equal to a “Dou”, and ten “Dou”
equal to a “Hu”. But latter changed into five “Dou” a “Hu”.
Eunuch in Feudal China Eunuchs were castrated male
attendants whose official job was to supervise the management of
daily business in the palace and look after the emperors’ life.
Using the eunuchs in the court had existed for more than 2,000 years.
In the Ming Dynasty, by the time of Wanli (1573-1620) there were
over ten thousand eunuchs in the capital. The eunuchs lived close
to the emperor to serve the royal family. So they became crucial
intermediaries between the outer bureaucrats and the inner royal
members. Some bad eunuchs became very powerful and tyrannical to
persecute the faithful and honest, which would lead the politics
to darkness. Like Weizhongxian, a famous eunuch in the Ming Dynasty,
he was so powerful that he even could dominate to choose the succeeding
emperor. In the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, strict laws were
made to restrain the behaviors of eunuchs. But later eunuchs became
powerful again because Empress Dowager Cixi needed to collide with
them to rule China. For example, Eunuch Liliangying was a famous,
powerful and favored one in the late of the Qing Dynasty.
Coffered ceiling It is called the skylight in ancient
times. With beautiful decorations such as dragons and flowers it
was only used on palatial buildings, temples or mansions for reverend
lords to show the masters’ dignity and solemnity; no houses of common
people were allowed to use it. A concave in the shape of well was
made at the most important part of the ceiling of a building, such
as above the throne or Buddha statue, hence the name” coffered ceiling”
It was also said that the coffered ceiling could keep the fire.
The five famous Famous palaces in the
The Forbidden City In Beijing, China, Buckingham Palace in England,
White House in America, Chateau de Versailles in France, Kremlin
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