In the central heart of Beijing, the Forbidden City
(Imperial Palace) remained the residence of the emperors for nearly five hundred
years, from the 15th century to the early 20th century, and was the actual and
symbolic seat of imperial power. Popularly known as the Forbidden City, it was
built in the Ming Dynasty between the 4th and the 18th years of the Yongle
period (1406 - 1420 AD). Many of the buildings of the Palace have been repaired
and rebuilt, but their basic style and layout remain in their original
This magnificent, palatial architectural complex covers an area
of over 2,350,000 square feet and contains 9,999 rooms. It is surrounded by
ten-foot-high walls which are crowned by four observation towers and
flanked by a deep moat. The walls are pierced by four large gates, each with
three openings and a broad crowning pavilion.
The layout of the Forbidden City is based on a Chinese cosmic
diagram of the universe that clearly defines the north-south and east-west axes.
The buildings represent the largest and best-preserved examples of Chinese
traditional architecture found today. The overall layout is centered on the
three primary Halls of State: The Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian), The Hall
of Middle Harmony (Zhonghedian) and The Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohedian).
State ceremonies were held in the Outer Court (Wai Chao) of the Forbidden City.
Here the emperors governed from their thrones, holding court sessions with their
ministers, issuing imperial edicts and initiating military expeditions. The
Outer Court was also the site for important ceremonies: the accession of a new
emperor to the throne, birthdays and weddings. The Inner Court (Nei Ting) was
the residential area of the emperor and the imperial household, as well as the
place where the emperor dealt with routine state affairs.
The Forbidden City was the scene of many significant events
affecting the course of Chinese history. Secret World of the Forbidden City:
Splendors from China's Imperial Palace explores the objects housed in this
important complex, lending insight into the mysteries of the imperial court
under the Qing Dynasty, from the entry into the city of Manchurian troops led by
Li Sicheng to the pinnacle of artistic creativity under Qianlong to the decline
of the dynasty and the abdication of the last Emperor Xuantong in 1912.
Today, the Forbidden City is one of the world's foremost museums
of Chinese art. Its palaces and halls are filled with innumerable works of art
and cultural artifacts, including gifts of state, military campaign loot and
furnishings and possessions of members of the imperial households. A great
number of these treasures represent the peak of artistic and inventive genius
exhibited by the countless artisans who worked exclusively for the imperial
court. Nine Dragon Screen