On the first day in Beijing itself I was all geared up to tackle this humongous palace but unfortunately it was closed so I had to come back on the last day of my trip to Beijing….and oh gosh this must be the most visited place in China, or in the world… never have I see such a humongous crowd in any of my visits anywhere before yet…..
Even at the security check points and ticketing booth there are hundreds or thousands of people clamouring to enter the Forbidden City…
It took us a very least 45 minutes to get through from the subway to the security checkpoints, ticketing counter, and another security checkpoint before finally entering this imperial palace.
Smack dab in the middle of Beijing’s city center and called Gu Gong in Chinese, the Forbidden City was home to 24 emperors over a span of 500 years…
Entry to the Forbidden City cost RMB 60 per person.....
Astronomers back in those days believed that the Purple Star (Polaris) was in the center of heaven and the Heavenly Emperor lived in the Purple Palace. The Palace for the emperor on earth was so called the Purple City. It was forbidden to enter without special permission of the emperor. Hence its name 'The Purple Forbidden City', usually 'The Forbidden City'.
It is no wonder at all the Forbidden City, also named the Palace Museum, is one of five world-famous palaces along with the Palace of Versailles in France, Buckingham Palace in England, the White House in the U.S. and the Kremlin in Russia.
The palace, the most magnificent and splendid palace complex in China was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the construction of this group of buildings took fourteen years from 1406 to 1420. In the Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it was the imperial palace where twenty-four emperors ascended the throne and exercised their strong power to the nation.
In a nutshell, the Forbidden City is:
the best-preserved imperial palace in China,
the largest ancient palatial structure in the world,
the essence and culmination of traditional Chinese architectural accomplishment.
Now known as the Palace Museum, it is to the north of Tiananmen Square. Rectangular in shape, it is the world's largest palace complex and covers 74 hectares. Surrounded by a 52-meter-wide moat and a 10-meter-high wall are more than 8,700 rooms. The wall has a gate on each side. Opposite the Tiananmen Gate, to the north is the Gate of Divine Might (Shenwumen). The distance between these two gates is about 960 meters, while the distance between the east and west gates is about 750 meters. The towers on each of the four corners of the curtain wall are unique and delicately structured. The views are amazing and you can see inside the palace and also the city outside
Until 1924, fourteen emperors of the Ming dynasty and ten emperors of the Qing dynasty had reigned here. Having been the imperial palace for some five centuries, it naturally contains numerous rare treasures. Listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987, the Palace Museum is now one of the most popular tourist attractions world-wide.
This palace complex was ordered built by Zhu Di (the Yongle Emperor) who lived A.D. 1360-1424. He was crowned emperor in 1402 after forcefully overthrowing his nephew.
Moving the capital and building a new palace was a great operation that meant expanding China’s canal system and mobilizing around a million workers to cut down trees, quarry rocks, make bricks and transport supplies, among the many other necessary activities as well as including one hundred thousand artisans who were driven into the long-term hard labor beautifying the palace.
Vast numbers of huge stones were mined and sent there for the city's construction in the 15th and 16th centuries. The heaviest of these giant boulders, aptly named the Large Stone Carving, now weighs more than 220 tons (200 metric tons) but once weighed more than 330 tons (300 metric tons).
It was completed fourteen years later in 1420, and then the capital city was moved from Nanjing to Beijing the next year...........
The palace was very big and too big to really take your own sweet time so I only saw bits and parts of it.....
Without a firm destination in mind and by just wandering around, I came to the Tai He Dian or Hall of Supreme Harmony...
The Hall of Supreme Harmony sits on a dais and stands about 115 feet (35 meters) tall. At the top of the building, at each end of the roof ridge, are two dragons facing one another.
Hall of Supreme Harmony (Tai he Dian) also called 'Hall of Golden Throne', is the grandest hall in the palace and the largest wooden structure in China. It was originally constructed in 1402 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), but was burnt down in later years.
Taking a peek inside the throne room is no easy feat as there is a crowd outside of hundreds of people pushing and all clamouring to look inside as well...
The present-day hall was rebuilt in 1695 by Emperor Kangxi, a sagacious emperor in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). During the dynasties, the hall was used to hold ceremonies on grand occasions, like the Emperor's enthronement, birthday and wedding day, the dispatch of generals to battles, the Winter Solstice and the Spring Festival.
This imposing hall, about 27 meters (88.5 feet) high, stands on a three-terrace base of white marble. The base is about eight meters (26 feet) high and is decorated with balusters with artistic design of dragons and phoenixes.
Many stone dragons' heads on the balusters serve a practical purpose of drainage. On rainy days, over one thousand dragons on the terraces spout rainwater from their mouths at the same time. Won't that be such a glorious scene....
On the terrace are laid a sun dial and a standard measure which symbolize the unity of the state. There is also a pair of bronze cranes and a pair of tortoises, suggesting longevity.
Eighteen bronze vessels, which are actually incense burners, are arranged in order. Three stairways lead to the hall and the one in the middle has a huge stone engraving with dragons playing with pearls (scroll up for the picture though you can't quite see it that clearly...)
The Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghe Dian) is the smallest hall among the three main halls in the Outer Court. This pavilion-style hall used to be the place for the emperor to do preparations for ceremonies. When there was a ceremony in the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the emperor had a short rest and waited here.
Every year, emperors did customary sacrificial rituals at altars; the emperor read the elegiac address one day ahead at this hall. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the genealogical records of the royal family were edited every ten years.
After a new genealogy was ready, it should be submitted to the emperor for an approval on the rite held in the Hall of Central Harmony.
Then there was the Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohe Dian), which is the last main hall in the Outer Court. Like the Hall of Supreme Harmony, this rectangular wooden hall has multiple eaves, with ten different animal statues at each corner.
In ancient China, the number of different animals on a house was a sign of its rank. A group of ten animals is the maximum which is only seen on imperial palaces.
The hall doesn't have many columns inside which makes it seem quite spacious.
The hall was said to be used for different purposes as dynasties changed. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), ceremonies were held here when the emperor made declarations, such as a new empress or crown prince.
During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), feasts were given to nobles and ministers on special occasions, such as the Spring Festival (lunar January 1st), the Lantern Festival (lunar January 15) and princesses' wedding days.
The candidates who had won a series of preliminary contests took the Final Imperial Examination at the hall. The Final Imperial Examination took place every three years and the topic for an essay was assigned by the emperor himself.
Behind the Hall of Earthly Tranquility is the Imperial Garden where the imperial family members recreated themselves. It was built up in 1420 and remains unchanged in its original layout.
The garden with an area of about 1.2 hectares (2.97 acres) has more than twenty structures distributed symmetrically but not prudishly.
The garden centers Qin'an Dian (Hall of Imperial Peace), with other buildings framed by a background of old trees. Surrounding the Hall of Imperial Peace, four dainty pavilions are of a great originality in their styles and are named after four seasons of a year.
The steep rockery with a chic pavilion on in the north was where the emperor and empress climbed up to view the distance on the lunar September 9th.
Even the paths convey a distinct flavor. They are paved with pebbles with different colors, forming a variety of designs portraying people, flowers, scenery or stories
At the north gate of the Imperial Garden are a pair of gilded bronze elephants, said to symbolize universal peace
Isn’t it amazing how olden days Chinese people displayed their very considerable skills in building it without all out modern equipment… Take the grand red city wall for example. It has an 8.6 meters wide base reducing to 6.66 meters wide at the top. The angular shape of the wall totally repels attempts to climb it. The bricks were said to be made from white lime and glutinous rice while the cement is made from glutinous rice and egg whites. These incredible materials make the wall amazingly strong.
How to get there:
Entry is allowed only through the Meridian Gate, the south gate of the museum.
a. Take subway line 1, get off at Tiananmen East Station (Exit A) or Tiananmen West Station (Exit B), find the Tiananmen Tower, and then walk north to the Meridian Gate;
b. Take subway line 2, get off at Qianmen Station (Exit A), walk north through the Tiananmen Square, pass the Tiananmen Tower, and then find the Meridian Gate further north.
a. Take bus no. 1, 2, 52, 59, 82, 99, 120, 126, Tourist Line 1, or Tourist Line 2, and get off at Tiananmen East Station;
b. Take bus no. 1, 5, 52, 99, Tourist Line 1, or Tourist Line 2, and get off at Tiananmen West Station.
How to leave:
Exit is allowed only through the Gate of Divine Prowess in the north of the museum, and the East Prosperity Gate.
1. Leaving from the Gate of Divine Prowess:
a. Take bus no. 58, 101, 103, 109, 124, 685, Tourist Line 1, or Tourist Line 2 at Gugong (Forbidden City) Station.
b. Take bus no. 58, 111, or 124 at Jiangshan East Gate Station.
2. Leaving from the East Prosperity Gate:
a. Take bus no. 2 or 82 at Donghuamen Station.
b. Take Tourist Line 2 at Gugong East Gate Station.
For more info visit HERE