A Bit Of Information About The Forbidden City
The Forbidden city is located at the exact center of the ancient city of Beijing. To the south of the Imperial Palace grounds is the Tienamen Square. Access to the Forbidden City is through the square via the Tienamen Gate. Today Tienamen Gate is decorated with a giant picture of Mao Zedong or Chairman Mao as he is known.
It was the imperial palace for 14 emperors during the mid-Ming and the Qing Dynasties. The extensive grounds cover 720,000 square meters or 178 acres. There are 800 buildings and more than 8,000 rooms. It is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world, and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987. It is surrounded by a six meter deep moat and ten meter high wall. The walls were designed thick enough to withstand attacks from canons.
The construction of the Forbidden City started in 1406 and took 14 years and an estimated 200,000 men. Soil excavated during construction of the moat was piled up to the north of the palace to create an artificial hill, the Jingshan hill.
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.
Our Exploration Of The Grounds
We find a lot of the attractions in China very sterile and lifeless. There are some interesting courtyards and artifacts within the buildings of the Forbidden city. The mass scale of the grounds are impressive, I think it might be larger than the town I grew up in! Everything seems to sit like an empty museum. It is very different from sites we saw in Thailand where you can see temples that are still active and working, they have life to them. You have to really stretch your imagination to envision what the Forbidden city was like when it was functioning. It can also get repetitive looking at sites like this because all the buildings are the same colours and have the same architecture.
It is no longer occupied by royalty but remains a symbol of Chinese sovereignty. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. The name as it is commonly known in English “The Forbidden City” a translation of Zign Cheng, which literally means the “Purple Forbidden City”. This is a reference to the fact that commoners were not allowed inside the imperial palaces.
We payed extra money for talking guide devices. They worked automatically, you had no control over them other than the volume. They were supposed to be triggered by sensors as you walked around. You could walk freely in any order around the grounds and buildings. The problem was they never seemed to coordinate with what we were looking at. Or they would start to talk when we were not near anything. We had to laugh, this is yet another place with Starbucks, it is right in a main courtyard of the Forbidden City!
The Forbidden City is divided into two parts. The Outer Court, these areas were used for ceremonial purposes, such as coronations, investitures, and imperial weddings. The Outer Court also housed the imperial library and archives. The Inner Court has halls that were used for day-to-day affairs of state. The Inner Court is where the Emperor worked and lived with his family and servants.
We were limited to the main courtyards, a small number of buildings and a few gardens due to the ongoing renovations. They will continue up until the Olympics. A lot of the buildings were under giant tented scaffolding. I guess we have to give credit for the fact that they put pictures on the tenting to show what the buildings are supposed to look like!
We did have access to a few different pavilions with some royal clothing, furniture and other artifacts. Apparently a lot of the rare treasures that were in the Forbidden city were removed for safekeeping during invasions of China and today remain in the National Museum in Taipei.
The individual buildings within the Forbidden City housed many important members of the Chinese aristocracy. 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.