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In the early 1400's, the third Ming Emperor "Yongle" moved the capital of China to Beijing. In 1406 he began construction on his new capital. The Capital consisted of three main sections: The Forbidden City, which contained the Imperial Palace complex; The Imperial City, which was home to the government officials; and the Outer City which was south of the Imperial City and is where the rest of the people lived. The Forbidden City of China is also known as two other names – the Imperial Palace Museum and Gugong, although the Imperial Palace is an entity of the City.  Both the Ming and Qing Dynasties carried out their administrative duties and lived within the walls of this incredible City. 

The Forbidden City, ( so named because common people were forbidden to enter ) was indeed a city. Over 800 buildings containing 8,886 rooms, and covering 250 acres. The entire complex is surrounded by a 32 foot high wall which is protected by a 165 foot wide drainage ditch forming a mote. The city is only accessible by entering through one of four gates which span the water.

Today, the Forbidden City is a public museum, drawing the attention of millions of people from around the world. It is here that you can see traditional architectural pieces up close and marvel in the treasures of the Imperial family and its court.  You will find this magnificent piece of history sitting directly across from the Tiananmen Square, the heart of Beijing.  Here you will find the main entrance into the museum although smaller entrances are still open through the east and north gages.

The majority of structures found within the walls of the Forbidden City are post-18th Century architecture.  While some of these buildings have experienced levels of damage caused by the Gobi winds, the Manchus, and the 21st Century looting by the Japanese and Kuomintang forces, most of them are still standing firm. 

The operation of the Forbidden City has stretched over five centuries during which time, 24 Emperors from the Ming and Qing Dynasties ruled.  It was in these 500 years that the Forbidden City was considered “off limits” to the world, which even included the Chinese population.  However, that has all changed and today, people mill about every day through the cluster of buildings, free to enjoy the fascinating structures, tranquil gardens, and unbelievable designs. 

When you visit the Imperial Palace, you will have two choices.  The first is a short, two-hour tour and the second is an all-day guided tour that will take you through each of the rooms.  If you prefer the shorter tour, you will still gain valuable insight from the plaques that mark each piece, providing historical information as well as the item’s relevance of importance. 

With the color yellow being the symbol for the royal family, you will find it to be dominant throughout the City.  For example, the roofs have yellow glazed tiles, palace decorations are painted yellow, and the bricks found outside are yellow.  The only exception to this is the royal library called Wenyuange.  This portion of the Forbidden City was built with a black room to resemble water.  It was believed that if the palace should ever catch fire, the water could help extinguish it.  Either tour is a culturally rewarding experience that you will not soon forget. 

A wonderful part of the Forbidden City is the Hall of Preserving Harmony.  This Hall was at one time used as a banquet hall for influential dinners.  The artistry seen as you approach the building is truly mesmerizing, validating the rich history.  The steps that lead down into the main corridor are covered with intricate dragons and other Chinese figures. 

Making the stone even more intriguing is the fact that each step was initially part of a massive stone.  To transport the stone to the palace, the Chinese people had to be ingenuous in that moving it in a traditional manner simply would not work.  Therefore, during one winter when the roads flooded and then froze, they saw their opportunity.  The stone was slide down the road until it finally reached its home at the Hall. 

Another important part of the Forbidden City is the Hall of Supreme Harmony.  This Hall was used for large gatherings where important guests were entertained.  To honor these guests, the Hall was decorated extravagantly.  As you tour through this particular building, you will find 308 bronze vats located throughout the palace.  During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, these very vats were filled with water in case of fire. 

The Imperial Palace is by far the most beautiful structure of all within the Forbidden City.  Each walkway is magnificently designed with stone and enriched with beautiful rose gardens.  If you like, you can rest in any of the courtyards or pavilions and feel the enchantment of this powerful place. 

For a small fee, you can climb the steps of the Tiananmen Gate and once at the top, you will have the opportunity to look out over the Square.  Here you will see the same panoramic view that Mao enjoyed while in reign.  Because this was Mao’s favorite place to watch the people walking below, in his honor a gigantic portrait of him hangs there today. 

Everyone has heard the history of the Great Wall of Chine and sadly, some areas of this great wonder are in poor condition.  What many people do not know is that the Great Wall of China had a vital link to the Forbidden City.  You see, the Wall was designed and constructed with watchtowers all along its structure.  It was from these watchtowers that smoke signals were sent as a way of communicating with the Forbidden City. 

The word “Beijing” translates to mean “Northern Capital”.  Today, Beijing is the home to more than 12 million people.  This city has undergone many transformations throughout the centuries and to most people visiting, they are often surprised at what they see.  The Forbidden City and Imperial Palace are just two examples of the rich history remaining in this part of China for all to enjoy.


Click on Pictures below for Larger View


 

The Great Wall of China The Forbidden City
The Terracotta Army Along the Silk Road
 
Dragon & Phoenix ~ Silk Embroidery
Silk Embroidery
Gold Leaf Painted ~ 10 Inch Turnip Vase
Gold Leaf Lacquer
Pair of 10 Inch Closionne Vases
Cloisonne
Pair of Brass Foo Dogs
Brass & Bronze
Inside Painted Boxes
 
 

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