Forbidden City (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
The Forbidden City () was the Chinese imperial palace during the mid-Ming and the Qing Dynasties. The Forbidden City is in Beijing, China.
The Forbidden City is no longer occupied by royalty, and is now known as the Palace Museum.
Its extensive grounds cover 720,000 square meters. The Forbidden City has 800 buildings with more than 8,000 rooms.
The Forbidden City is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1977.
The Forbidden City is known by many names. The name by which the site is most commonly known in English, "The Forbidden City", is a translation of the Chinese name Zijin Cheng (???), which literally means "Purple Forbidden City". It is also known as the "Forbidden Palace" in English.
In Chinese, the site is most commonly known as Gu Gong ("?"??), or the "Former Palace." The museum which is located in these buildings is known as the "Palace Museum" ().
In the Manchu language it is called Dabk?ri dorgi hoton, which literally means the "Layered Inner City".
The Imperial Palace Grounds are located directly to the north of Tiananmen Square and are accessible from the square via Tiananmen Gate. It is surrounded by a large area called the Imperial City.
Rectangular in shape, the Forbidden City is the world's largest palace complex and covers 720,000 square meters (178 acres, or 0.28 square miles). It is surrounded by a six meter deep moat and a ten meter high wall. The Forbidden City includes five halls, seventeen palaces, and numerous other buildings.
The Forbidden Palace is reputed to have a total of 9,999.5 rooms. However, according to surveying by the Palace Museum, there are about 8,600 existing rooms. The majority of buildings in the Forbidden City have an odd number of rooms, distributed symmetrically about an axis. However, the Imperial Library (-"???) had six rooms as a charm against fire, because the number six is associated with water in Chinese astrology. To prevent that building from looking out of place, the sixth room was built very small. This sixth room is what is designated as the "half-room".
The wall around the Forbidden City has a gate on each side. At the southern end is the Meridian Gate To the north is the Gate of Divine Might, which faces Jingshan Park. The distance between these two gates is 960 meters, while the distance between the gates in the east and west walls is 750 meters. The walls are thick and squat and were specifically designed to withstand attacks by cannons.
There are unique and delicately structured towers on each of the four corners of the surrounding wall. These towers afford views over both the palace and the city outside.
The Forbidden City is divided into two parts. The Outer Court, which includes the southern and central sections, centres on three halls which were used for ceremonial purposes, such as coronations, investitures, and imperial weddings. The three halls include the magnificent Hall of Supreme Harmony (?"??), itself fronted by the Gate of Supreme Harmony (?"?-). Apart from ceremony, the Outer Court also houses the Imperial Library, archives, and lantern storage. The Inner Court includes the northern, eastern, and western parts of the Forbidden City, and centres on another three halls which were used for the day-to-day affairs of state. The most important among these is the Palace of Heavenly Purity (?"??). The Inner Court was where the Emperor worked and lived with his family, eunuchs and maid-servants.
Outside the main gate to the Forbidden City, the Meridian Gate faces a square where imperial corporal punishments were sometimes carried out. To the south of that square stands Tiananmen Gate.
At the northern end of the Forbidden City is the imperial garden. It is home to some relatively old trees, most between 100 and 300 years of age.
The Forbidden City is surrounded by royal gardens. To the west lies Zhongnanhai, the complex of buildings centred on two lakes which serves as the central headquarters for the Communist Party of China. To the north-west lies Beihai Park, which also centres on a lake and is a popular park. To the north lies Jingshan Park, also known as Jing Shan or Coal Hill, where the last Ming emperor hanged himself as the rebel army overran his palace.
The individual buildings within the Forbidden City housed many important members of the Chinese aristocracy. The famous national civil service exams were given inside one of these buildings. The royal color was yellow, and that color dominates the rooftops. On each corner of the roofs, there are small statuettes, the number of which designated the power of the person living within the building. The number 9 was reserved for the emperor. Only one building has 10 statuettes at each corner.
Today, Tiananmen Gate in front of the Forbidden City is decorated with a portrait of Mao Zedong in the center and two placards to the left and right. The left placard reads "???"?"?"?"?"??"("Long Live the People's Republic of China"), while the right placard reads "-"??"??"?""??"("Long live the Great Unity of the World's Peoples"). The phrasing has great symbolic meaning, as the phrase "long live" was traditionally reserved for the Emperors of China, but is now available to the common people. This is also true of the Forbidden City palace itself,
The Palace Museum is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. Recently, the site has been under extensive renovation. This has limited visitors to the main courtyards and a few gardens.
The Palace Museum in the Forbidden City should not be confused with the National Palace Museum in Taiwan. Both museums derive from the same institution, but were split after the Chinese Civil War.
The site where the Forbidden City stands today was part of the imperial city during the Yuan dynasty. When the Ming Dynasty succeeded it, the first Hongwu Emperor moved the capital to Nanjing and ordered that the Mongol palaces be razed in 1369. His son, Zhu Di, was created Prince of Yan with seat in Beijing. A princely palace was built on the site. In 1402, Zhu Di usurped the throne and became the Yongle Emperor. He moved the capital back to Beijing.
The construction of the Forbidden City started in 1406 and took 14 years and an estimated 200,000 men. The principal axis of the new palace sits to the east of the Yuan Dynasty palace, a design intended to place the Yuan palace in the western or "kill" position in fengshui. Soil excavated during construction of the moat was piled up to the north of the palace to create an artificial hill, the Jingshan hill.
From its 1420 completion to 1644, when a peasant revolt led by Li Zicheng invaded it, the Forbidden City served as the seat of the Ming Dynasty. The following Qing Dynasty also occupied the Forbidden City. In 1860, during the Second Anglo-Chinese Opium War, British forces managed to penetrate to the heart of the Forbidden City and occupied it until the end of the war, being the only foreign power to do so.
After being the home of 24 emperors"?fourteen of the Ming Dynasty and ten of the Qing Dynasty"?the Forbidden City ceased being the political center of China in 1912 with the abdication of Puyi, the last Emperor of China. He was, however, allowed and, in fact, required to live within the walls of the Forbidden City, until a coup launched by a local general in 1924.
Puyi was forced out, and the Palace Museum was established in the Forbidden City. Having been the imperial palace for some five centuries, the Forbidden City houses numerous rare treasures and curiosities. These were gradually catalogued and put on public display.
However, with the Japanese invasion of China, the safety of these national treasures were cast in doubt, and they were moved out of the Forbidden City. In 1947, after they had been moved from one location to another inside mainland China for many years, Chiang Kai-shek ordered many of the artifacts from the Forbidden City and the National Museum in Nanjing to be moved to Taiwan.
These artifacts formed the core of the National Palace Museum in Taipei. This action has been extremely controversial, with some regarding it as looting. However, others regard it as safekeeping, especially after the events of the Cultural Revolution on the Chinese mainland.
The Forbidden City and popular culture
Although no longer occupied by royalty, the Forbidden City remains a symbol of Chinese aristocracy and the image of Tiananmen, the entrance to the Imperial City, appears on the seal of the People's Republic of China.
Marco Polo a joint NBC and RAI (Italy) TV miniseries broadcast in the early 1980s, was filmed inside the Forbidden City. This was artistic license, however, since historically, the Forbidden City did not exist in the Yuan Dynasty, during the time of Marco Polo's relationship with Kublai Khan.
The Last Emperor (1987) was the first feature film ever authorized by the government of the People's Republic of China to film in the Forbidden City.
Giacomo Puccini's opera, Turandot, about the story of a Chinese princess, was performed inside the Forbidden City for the first time in 1998.
The musician Yanni performed inside the Forbidden City to an audience of 120 million in 1997.
In 2004, the French musician Jean Michel Jarre performed the live concert in the Forbidden City, accompanied by 260 musicians as part of the "Year of France in China" festivities.
The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, Washington imitates three ancient Chinese architectural achievements located in Beijing: the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace. A nearly exact replica of the dome from the throne room of the Imperial palace in Bejing's Forbidden City graces the 5th Avenue Theatre's ceiling. Authentic dragons and hoho birds scatter the walls of the theatre with an authentic Chinese quality.
A fictional city called Ba Sing Se in the cartoon series Avatar the Last Airbender is based upon the Forbidden City.
William Bell's novel "Forbidden City" a novel of modern china, is based upon a Canadian reporter and his son Alexander or Alex for short (or Ahrek Shan Da, as most of his Chinese friends call him) go to Beijing to do a reports on the Beijing and its people.
Model displays in the United States
Forbidden Gardens, a privately-funded outdoor museum in Katy, Texas has a one to twenty scale model of the Forbidden City. Palace buildings and occupants are displayed under a 40,000 square foot (3,700 m²) pavilion. Cutaway models in a separate Architecture Room show details of palace roof and beam construction.
The museum's sponsor is a Chinese businessman and his wife. Their goal is to share their country's history.