History of the Forbidden City

Topics: Forbidden City, Ming Dynasty, Qing Dynasty Pages: 6 (1498 words) Published: May 9, 2014
Forbidden City Guide

Forbidden City (Chinese: 紫禁城 pinyin: Zǐjinchéng), also known as the Palace Museum, was the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing Emperors. It served as a home for the emperors and their families, a ceremonial hall, and political hub for Chinese rule.

Located at the center of Beijing, China, the Forbidden City is definitely worth seeing when traveling to Beijing. This rectangular-shaped palace is 3,153 ft (961 meters) long and 2,470 ft (753 meters) wide. There are 980 buildings with 8,704 rooms in total here. It took over 230,000 artists and over 1 million civilians to build this palace.

The Forbidden City name in Chinese is Zǐjinchéng which means “Purple Forbidden City”. In ancient China, purple was the symbolic color of the North Star. This is where they believed the Heavenly Emperor lived.

The palace on Earth was thought to be the center of the universe. It is called “Forbidden” because no one could leave or enter the Palace without the permission of the Emperor.

Today, this palace is the biggest and most intact ancient royal palace remaining in China. The design and building techniques of the Palace displays the distinctions within the imperial ranking classification and the highly exalted power of the emperor in feudal society.

History of Forbidden City

Forbidden City Palace Museum 紫禁城 Beijing China
Construction on the palace started in 1406 and was completed in 1421. In 1421, the capital was moved from Nanjing to Beijing. After the capital was moved, 24 emperors called this palace home. Fourteen were Ming emperors, and 10 were Qing emperors.

It took 14 years to build the Forbidden City. Expensive Chinese Cedar wood (called “nanmu” in Chinese) from southern China and huge blocks of marble from around Beijing were some of the materials used in the construction.

The foundation design of the Forbidden City was taken from an existing imperial design in Nanjing, the former capital. The size of the palace was comparable, but the temples, gates, and palace were made bigger and more extravagant.

Like many other ancient sights in China, this palace had a number of natural disasters and other manmade debacles. Just 3 months after opening, three halls of the outer court were burned down. Years later, the Palaces of Heavenly Purity and Earthly Tranquility, and the Gates of Worshipping Heaven and Meridian Gate were burned down during Emperor’s Zhengde, Jiajing, and Wanli’s reign.

During the Qing Dynasty reign, a number of improvements to prevent fires were installed. All the important structures were first renovated with fire proof walls. Next, a fire squad was established and routinely conducted fire drills. Finally, more water vats, buckets, and sprinklers were placed around the palace. This effectively stopped the fires and protects the palace’s splendor for many years.

Towards the end of the Qing Dynasty rule, less and less attention was given to maintenance of the palace. Garbage piled up, the Golden Water Rivers were blocked up, and the fires started again. The Hall of Martial Valor was burned down during Emperor Tongzhi’s reign, the Gate of Supreme Harmony caught on fire, and in the early years of the Republic of China, the Palace of Building Fortune burned to the ground.

The Forbidden City ceased being used as a political hub in 1912 when the last Qing Emperor Puyi was abdicated. He remained on the inner court until 1924 when he was evicted during the Beijing Coup D’etat. The Palace Museum was then established the following year in 1925. On October 10, 1925, a ceremony was held at the Palace Museum and was then opened to the public.

In 1961, the Palace Museum was one of the first sights of significant cultural importance to be put under government protection.

In 1987, the Palace was added to UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage List.

Layout of Forbidden City

The palace can be divided into two sections: the front court and the Inner Court. The...
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