As China's largest and most significant ancient palace, The Forbidden City is the best preserved one. It now serves a function as China's Palace Museum. This magnificent palace, located in the center of Beijing city, was built in 1406 and completed in 1420. In the past, it was used as the imperial residence for 24 emperors from Ming and Qing Dynasties. It is the palace most representative of Chinese civilization, considered a holy place by the Chinese people. The palace covers an area of over 2,350,000 square feet. It has 9,999 rooms built in traditional architectural style. Ten-foot-high walls surround the palace, reinforced by a massive moat and observation towers. The Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Middle Harmony, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony are at the center of this awe-inspiring palatial complex. The Hall of Supreme Harmony is famous as a lama temple. These three halls divide the complex along a north-south and east-west axis. Just outside the palace complex is Tian'anmen Square, the largest city square in the world.
Henry. S. Churchill, an American layout expert, once said that the three-dimensional design layout of the city's grand palaces, pagodas, and city gates create a perfect effect in arts and architecture. The colors incorporated into the palace's design are also deeply symbolic. Yellow is primary in the Forbidden City, because yellow represents both the emperor, the central figure of China, and also represents land, the root and origin of all earthly creatures. The palaces golden tiles flicker above the gray rooftops of the common people.
The Forbidden City is the supreme example of Chinese traditional architecture - an art form built upon the mystical conception of Feng Shui, also known as Chinese geomancy. Taoism and Confucianism are considered the foundations of Chinese traditional culture. They penetrate into every part of Chinese life. As such, the Forbidden City is a reflection and exhibition of their ideals. Chinese people believe in an essential unity between the universe, humanity, and nature. The Forbidden City, embodying Chinese life and philosophy, was created according to the descriptions of the heavenly palace in Chinese fairy tales. The names of Forbidden City mainly include benevolence, harmony, balance and stability. All of these characters represent the essence and core of Confucian thought. Qianqing Palace was the residence of the Emperor. Jiaotai Hall and Kunning Palace are closely connected with the Book of Changes, perhaps the most fundamental Confucian classic. In this book, the Chinese character Qian means Heaven and symbolizes male energy, while the character Kun means Earth and symbolizes female energy. The character Tai means safety, honesty, and tranquility.
More about the tradition of the Forbidden City
An authorized American architect just said: On the earth, human's most magnificent single project may be the Beijing Royal City designed as domicile of emperor to release this place is the universal center. The whole city is deeply immersed in the criteria of ceremony and rituals. Its remarkable and miraculous graphics design presents us abundant ideas and inspirations for current urban construction.
The Title of the Forbidden City is concerned with China's ancient philosophy and traditional astronomical theory. Chinese people follow the principle of the Heaven-Human Unity or Heaven-Human Interaction. Hence, the Forbidden City is said to build via modeling the legendary Heaven Palace. In ancient astronomy, the fixed stars are categorized into three kinds (in Chinese "三垣"). They cycle around 28 Star Mansions (星宿), and the Ziweiyuan(in Chinese "紫微垣" ), which, currently, is entitled Polaris, is located in the center of the heaven. It is the center of the star mansions. Zijincheng (Forbidden City, in Chinese "紫禁城") has the same meaning as it to show the Imperial Palace is the heart or center of humankind. Jin (禁) means this place is exclusively for Emperor. It is incomparably holy, so the commoners are forbidden to come in and stay in.
The number of rooms in Forbidden City is 9,999, and the number of bronzy doornails on each door is also 9 in both horizontal and vertical counting. This strange figure is also linked with ancient people's understanding to digit. The ancient people think "9" is the largest digit and Emperor on earth is also the largest. Therefore, they are in agreement for superiority. Besides, the same tone of "9" as Chinese Character "久" jointly means eternality or permanence, which further indicates the territory and rule of Emperor are everlasting . The idea of Confucianism is also deeply shown in the titles of buildings of the Forbidden City. For instance, the Chinese characters such as "仁"(benevolence) 、"和"(peace)、"中"(centralization) 、"安"(stability) are all on behalf of the essence and core of Confucian ideas and highlighting the traditional ideology of Confucianism.
The residential places of the Emperor and Empress titled Qianqing Palace(乾清宫), Jiaotai Hall (交泰殿) and Kunning Palace(坤宁宫) are also connected with the Book of Changes, one of the five classical theoretical books in Confucianism School. "乾" symbolizes "Heaven", representing "Male";"坤" symbolizes "Earth", representing "Female"; "泰"in middle means" safety and smoothness". The whole meaning is the harmony and stability of Heaven and Earth. It also indicates the harmonious relations between the Emperor and the Empress. Plus cleanness, honesty and quietness, the imperial life will be much more admirable and beautiful.
The color of the Forbidden City has the profound meaning. The yellow colored-glazed tiles used in the Forbidden City. The indoor color is also mostly yellow. The layout of Qiangqing Palace is more prominent. It comes from the Five-Element Theory in The Book of History, also one of the five classical theoretical books in Confucianism School. The ancient people think this world is composed of five elements, namely, Gold, Wood, Water, Fire, and Dust. Such five elements help one another and also disturb one another. It shows the changeable world. The yellow symbolizes dust, and dust is the root for all lives' growth, in other words, it means the Emperor is the root of people's life. The only building, as the royal library titled Wenyuange (文渊阁in Chinese), has the black colored-glazed tiles, because, in Five-Element Theory, black symbolizes water for fire-resistance. It fully shows the elaborate design.
In 1406, Emperor Yongle of Ming Dynasty started to build the Forbidden City. There were 100,000 top-class craftsmen and 1 million labor-workers were employed for building this unparalleled royal palace group, and totally, 15 years were spent for palace building. It is not changing a lot, although it underwent many times of rebuilding and extension. The Forbidden City is an architectural group mainly made of bricks and woods. The raw materials were the best at that time. The bricks for city-wall building is called Clear-Slurry Brick (澄浆砖), which was made in a complicated and secret procedure. The size of this special brick is larger than others'. It is 48 centimeters long, 24 centimeters wide and 12 centimeters thick. The weight of each brick is 24 kilograms. There are 12000,000 bricks in total used for royal-wall building. The ground bricks of the Forbidden City are called Golden Bricks, which are made elaborately. It has the golden color and loud-clear sound after striking. The total number of the ground bricks surpasses 100,000,000. The material for conglutination among the bricks and stone-plates was also elaborately selected. Such bond-material was made of cooked sticky rice and fresh egg white, and it is strongly sticky and beautiful in shape. It is called Chinese-style concrete. The woods were some from near counties and some from southern China via the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. The colored-glazed tiles were all pre-made and the designers fixed its size and carvings according to royal orders. Tens of thousands of giant stones are also used for the Forbidden City. The sculptures and statues in the Forbidden City are first-rank representatives of Chinese arts. The treasures in it are rare and invaluable. The Forbidden City is Chinese largest museum.
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