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The Forbidden City – Palace of the Emperors

The Forbidden City – Palace of the Emperors


Throughout their history Chinese have been known to be able to create thing which were larger than life such as paper, the Great Wall of China among others and among those creations the Forbidden City of Beijing is perhaps one of their greatest creations. The Forbidden City or Palace is the English name of the palace located in the dead center of China’s capital Beijing. A center of Chinese Empire’s economic and political power, the palace served as a beautiful abode for more than 24 emperors who ruled the lands from the 14th century till the 20th century. It is one of the biggest buildings in China being spread over 720,000 meter square comprising of 990 buildings each intricately built, designed and decorated keeping in mind the traditions of Chinese architecture and culture. The power center of Chinese influence on East Asia the Forbidden City was a mammoth reminder to outsiders of China’s might. The palace was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and was converted into a Palace Museum in 1925.


On the occasion of Zhu Di becoming the Emperor after the establishment of the Ming Dynasty he ordered the construction of a grand palace in 1406, the construction of the palace continued on for fourteen years with the help of over a millions laborers and artisans. Upon its opening in 1420, it became the center of power of the Chinese Empire under the flagship of the Ming Dynasty who ruled the premises till 1644. In 1644, the Ming emperor was ousted by the rebel forces of Li Zicheng who proclaimed himself the ruler of China soon after. His army was then defeated by the combined forces of the former Ming General and the Manchus who were successful in defeating the rebel forces. Upon their victory the Manchus took the reins at the Forbidden City and declared themselves the rulers under the Qing Dynasty. For the coming two centuries, the palace became the center of power and politics in China with the Emperor demonstrating his influence over the lands through the giant walls of the Forbidden City.


During the attacks by the Imperial forces of the European Empires on China, the Anglo-French forces took control of the Palace during the Second Opium War till the end of the war. In 1900, the then empress Dowager Cixi fled the City when attacked by the rebel forces during the Boxer rebellion. The Palace finally seized to be the center of power in China after the fall the last Chinese emperor Puyi who was ousted from power post the establishment of the Republic of China. In 1925, the Forbidden City was finally retired from serving the Emperors of China and converted into a Palace Museum. The museum was soon turned into the largest collection of artifacts belonging to the Qing and Ming Dynasty and became a place for the preservation of Chinese heritage and culture. During the Second World War, the Republican Revolution of 1949 and the Cultural Revolution the Forbidden City suffered a lot of damage. The Government of China since then has taken upon itself to restore the Palace to its erstwhile glory.


The numbers related to the Forbidden City are just staggering; the Palace is rectangular in shape measuring 963 meters from north to south and 753 meters from east to west surrounded by giant walls from all corners which measure to the height of 7.9 meters and being 8.62 meters wide at the base rising up to a width of 6.66 meters at the top. Within its premises the City has around 980 surviving buildings which together have some 8886 rooms. At each of the four corners of the Palace stand mammoth towers which over look the imperial city of Beijing and are a big part of the folklore of the city. Each of the four walls is pierced by giant gates with the north being called ‘Gate of Divine Might’, the south ‘The Meridian Gate’, east ‘The East Glorious Gate and the west ‘West Glorious gate. Traditionally, the Forbidden City has been divided into two parts namely the Inner Court and the Outer Court. The Inner Court was the private premises of the King where the King and his family resided along with the day-to-day state functions also being performed from here. The Outer Court was meant for public ceremonies and celebrations.


The Forbidden City is a landmark of Chinese history on par with the Great Wall of China, today it s the site of the largest conservation effort of Chinese history in the form of the Palace Museum which has been able to protect the many artifacts that belonged to the Palace, the interior of the Palace which consists of many famous paintings depicting the life and times of the Ming and Qing Dynasties and also other artifacts which have been collected from different eras in Chinese history.  The Museum has the largest collection of paintings in China totally to a staggering 55000 and also many collection belonging to ancient China. The Forbidden City is a great example of Chinese imagination, ability, architecture and foresight.

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