The beautiful and historical complex was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty in the mid 15th century until 1912, when the country became a republic. These days it is referred to as the Palace Museum. Not only has it served as the home of emperors and their family and households, it has always been used as the ceremonial and political centre for the government for about 500 years. Forbidden City is considered one of the finest examples of Chinese traditional architecture.
Construction of the palace was completed in 1420 and it consists of 980 buildings scattered over 72 ha of land, exhibiting the country’s traditional palatial architecture. The palace is also home to several magnificent halls and gates. The Forbidden City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and holds the largest preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
It is such an amazing and fascinating place that I decided to visit the palace twice during this trip!
Gate of Heavenly Peace
Situated on the northern edge of Tiananmen Square where the archway hangs the portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong, the Gate of Heavenly Peace served as the gatehouse during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is 66 metres long, 37 metres wide and 32 metres high. The gate is made up of a platform and tower and houses five arch gateways, of which the largest ad centre is used for the emperors while the rest of them are used by ministers and officials.
Gate of Supreme Harmony
The Gate of Supreme Harmony is the second large gate from the south entrance of the Forbidden City. It is seven bays wide and three bays deep with a total area of 1,371 m2 and houses two small gates, Zhendu and Zhaode Gates.
During the Ming dynasty, this gate was used by the Emperor to hold morning sessions and discuss state affairs with the ministers. During the Qing dynasty, when the Emperor was a much more frequent attendee of the court than his predecessors, morning sessions were held at the Gate of Heavenly Purity. The Gate of Supreme Harmony was sometimes used for official banquets and other ceremonies.
From the back of the Gate of Supreme Harmony you can find the majestic view of the Hall of Supreme Harmony.
Hall of Supreme Harmony
This is the largest hall in the Forbidden City, rising about 30 metres above the level of Tiananmen Square. Here is the ceremonial centre of Chinese imperial power, as well as the oldest and largest surviving wooden structure in the country.
This hall is nine bays wide and five bays deep. The six pillars surrounding the imperial throne are covered with gold and the overall interior is decorated with a dragon motif, with the Dragon Throne depicting five dragons coiled around the back and handsets. This hall was used originally for discussion of state affairs to coronations, investitures and imperial weddings.
Hall of Central Harmony
This is one of the smallest hall in the Forbidden City and is square in shape. Hall of Central Harmony was previously used by the Emperor as a place for preparation and resting before and during ceremonies.
Gate of Heavenly Purity
Gate of Heavenly Purity divides the Forbidden City into the Outer and Inner Courts. It serves as the man entrance to the imperial household. It is five bays wide, three bays deep and sixteen metres high.
Both Ming and Qing emperors were allowed to have more than one wife and several concubines. It is up to the emperor who he would choose to keep him company in his bedroom! The frequency a concubine was called on by the emperor would determine her social rank.
The Imperial Garden is located outside the Inner Court of the palace and was constructed during the Ming dynasty in 1417. Its shape is rectangular and takes up about 12,000 m2 of land. The garden was used as a private retreat for the imperial family and at most reflects the Chinese imperial garden design.
Lastly, the Forbidden City is surrounded by an 8 meters high city wall which is about 6 metres deep. They are from 7 to 9 metres deep. The walls served as a defensive and retaining mechanism to strongly protect the entire area of the palace.