The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the mid-Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, and now houses the Palace Museum. It was built from 1406 to 1420 by the third Ming emperor Yongle, who upon usurping the throne, determined to move his capital north from Nanjing to Beijing. In 1911 the Qing dynasty fell to the republican revolutionaries. The last emperor, Puyi溥儀, continued to live in the palace after his abdication until he was expelled in 1924. Twenty-four emperors lived and ruled from this palace during this 500-year span. "The Forbidden City" is a translation of the Chinese name Zijin Cheng紫禁城. The name "Zijin Cheng" is a name with significance on many levels. Zi紫, refers to the North Star, which in ancient China was called the Ziwei Star, and in traditional Chinese astrology was the abode of the Celestial Emperor. The Forbidden City, as the residence of the terrestrial emperor, was its earthly counterpart. Jin禁, referred to the fact that no-one could enter or leave the palace without the emperor's permission.
The Forbidden City is surrounded by 10-metre high walls and a 52-metre wide moat. Measuring 961 meters from north to south and 753 meters from east to west, it covers an area of 720,000 square meters. Each of the four sides is pierced by a gate, the Meridian Gate 午門on the south and the Gate of Spiritual Valor 神武門 on the north. Once inside, visitors will see a succession of halls and palaces spreading out on either side of an invisible central axis. It is a magnificent sight, the buildings' glowing yellow roofs against vermilion walls, not to mention their painted ridges and carved beams, all contributing to the sumptuous effect. The southern portion of the Forbidden City centers on the halls of Supreme Harmony, Central Harmony, and Preserving Harmony. These are flanked by the halls of Literary Glory and Military...