Forbidden City

Forbidden City
When people mention Beijing. the first thing comes into mind would be "Forbidden City and Tian'anmen Square". both stands in the centre of Beijing. face to face. and serves as 'the symbol of Beijing. the heart of whole China'. We can never imagine or calculate how many time changes it has gone through and how much it experienced. but as an important witness of what happened and what's happening in China in the last some 600 years. as the largest and the most complete imperial palace complex in the world. it explains naturally why it's so impressive and plays such an important role in Chinese people's hearts.
 
Forbidden City
The Forbidden City (also known as the Palace Museum) houses and presents an ensemble of Chinese traditional architectures and more than 900.000 pieces of court treasures from all dynasties in ancient China. Totally 24 Chinese emperors in history used to reside inside since it's firstly constructed in 1406 till the year of 1911.among whom 10 are from Ming Dynasty-the 2nd last feudal dynasty in China; the other 14 are from Qing Dynasty. which marks the end of Chinese Feudal period.10.000 artists and a million of workmen involved in the construction spent almost 14 years to finish the whole complex. finally made it a time & energy-consuming but also the most splendid and impressive work in the world at that time.

Forbidden City
Rectangular in shape. the Forbidden City covers an area of 72 hectares (about 713 acres). with a 56-metre wide river moat running around and 4 Tibetan-style watch towers standing respectively on each of the 4 corners. People used to believe that it consists of 9999.5 rooms. as 9 is regarded as the supreme number in China. popularly used by imperial families to reveal their identity and dignity. and 10 is a heaven number which only the God of Heaven has right to use. so the middle number was preferred. But as the statistic shows. it actually consists of 800 buildings with 8886 rooms. No one would like to have this figure tested out. and it's not important either. as we'd rather take it as a 9999.5-room complex. the supreme and sacred palace in heart.

Forbidden City
The whole pattern is symmetrically designed with a central axis running through from south to north. along which totally 6 major halls. the south gate-Meridian Gate. the north gate-Shenwu Gate and the Imperial Garden are set facing south. On both sides of the central axis are many comparatively small buildings. like in the northeastern section lie the six Eastern Palaces and in the northwestern section the six Western Palaces; horizontally. the palace area is divided into two parts: the Front Court and the Inner Palace. The former consists of the first three main halls. which all stands on a 3-tiered white marble terrace elaborately carved in cloud and dragon design. where the emperor received his courtiers and held grand ceremonies. handling state affairs; while the latter was the living quarters where the imperial family spent their daily life. The other 3 halls are arranged in this area along the central axis and is flanked by the six Eastern Palaces and the six Western Palaces. At the north rear of the Inner Palace is the Imperial Garden where the emperor and his family had leisure and recreation.

Forbidden City
By going through Tian'anmen Rostrum. where Chairman Mao proclaimed the founding of People's Republic of China on Oct.1. 1949. and the Duan Gate behind. we come to the main entrance gate of Forbidden City. known as the Meridian Gate. The emperor believes that the Meridian Line which is the central axis of the universe went right through this gate. and his residence is regarded as the centre of the whole universe. thus the name. It’s also named beautifully as "Five-Phoenix Tower". because of the five towers stand on top. This used to be the place where the emperor dispatched the troop to battles. and announced imperial edicts or lunar calendars to public. The officials and ministers who committed crimes were also punished here. Behind the Meridian Gate. five white stone bridges spanning over the Inner Golden Water River appear. The five bridges are said to be symbol of the five virtues preached by Confucius. the great philosopher lived about 2000 years ago-benevolence. righteousness. rites. intelligence. and fidelity. If take a bird's eye view. the river and bridges pattern presents a set of cross-bow and five arrows. reporting symbolically to the central government.

The first three main halls on the 7-metre-high marble terrace stand at the north end of the ceremonial courtyard. where stood hundreds of officials and ministers who were supposed to perform the highest salute known as "Kowtow” to show their respect towards the emperor when the ceremonies were held. One after another. the three majestic halls are respectively: the Hall of Supreme Harmony. the Hall of Complete Harmony. and the Hall of Preserving Harmony. Used to be the highest building in ancient Beijing. the Hall of Supreme Harmony is 27 meters in height and 2.300 square meters in area. also the grandest and most important hall in the Palace complex. It's where the emperors celebrated birthday. ascended the throne. held imperial courts and state ceremonies were also held here. like the Winter Solstice & the Spring Festival Celebration etc; The Hall of Complete Harmony takes a pyramid-shape roof with curved up eaves. It was used for the emperor to rest before went to the Hall of Supreme Harmony to attend the ceremonies and rehearsals were also performed here. Besides. seeds for spring sowing were examined here. showing the emperor's concern over state's agriculture; the Hall of Preserving Harmony played an important role in ancient Chinese imperial examinations. which was a once in three years' state event attended by scholars across the nation. This examination served the purpose of recruiting Confucius scholars to be officials and ministers. then might serve the emperors to handle state affairs. This hall was used to hold the last round of exam which was personally supervised by emperor. There hang a huge wood plank over the throne in the up front of the hall. bearing words in Chinese meaning "be open and aboveboard". to remind the scholars not to cheat and also to show the justice of the emperor. Behind the Hall of Preserving Harmony. there is a huge stone ramp in dragon and cloud design leading down from the back side of the terrace. which is said to be a complete piece quarried from Fangshan district scores of kilometers away from Beijing. and was then transported into Forbidden City by sinking wells along the way in winter. letting water out to form an ice road. over which the piece was pushed to slide mile by mile; and in summer. rolling logs were used. The ancient emperors compared themselves as "son of dragon”. so dragon images are widely seen in Forbidden City. which was also exclusively used by emperors in their robes and on buildings in ancient China. This ramp reveals wonderful craftsmanship and presents an expressive and vivid dragon image. which is taken accordingly as the master piece of all carving works. 

In history. only if the ceremonies or imperial courts were held in the Front Court. should the emperors go to attend. or they just stayed in the Inner Palace at the back. Most of the rooms and courtyards in the Forbidden City locate in this area. as the imperial family members like the emperor. empress. princes. concubines and the servants like palace maids. eunuchs. palace army etc. all live in the Inner Palace in separate sections. thus made it the most private and secret space at that time. Along the central axis ahead. we can see the other 3 smaller main halls. respectively the Palace of Heavenly Purity. the Hall of Union. and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. The Palace of Heavenly Purity was once the residence of 10 Ming emperors and the first two of the Qing emperors. Then the third Qing Emperor. Yong Zheng moved his residence to the Palace of Mental Cultivation(one of the six Western Palaces ) and turned it into an audience hall to receive foreign envoys and handled the state affairs in his spare time. The promotion and demotion of officials were also decided in this hall. After the emperor's death his coffin was placed here for a 49-day period of mourning; The Palace of Union was the empress's throne room and the Hall of Earthly Tranquility. once a private living room for the empress. was partitioned. As the Qing dynasty was founded by Manchu people who came to Beijing from northeast part of China and believe in Shamanism. in order not to forget their ancestors and also to pray for the good. the west chamber was accordingly changed for religious purpose. The east one was the bridal chamber where the newly married emperor and empress spent their first two nights after their wedding.

Take a left turn. and don't miss the most important palace in the six Western Palace area-the Hall of Mental Cultivation. After the emperor of YongZheng moved his residence here. it became the busiest place and where the emperor spent most of the time. It's inside a private courtyard which is well protected by buildings around. The hall is divided into 3 sections: west chamber. middle chamber and east chamber. In his spare time. emperor also held some private courts in the middle chamber with officials and ministers who brought with them documents for emperor to sign on. The west chamber gained its own name as "Three-Treasure Room" because of the three precious calligraphy works housed inside. and it's also where the emperor read books. The east chamber tells an interesting history period known as "Power behind the Throne" from 1860 to1908.Empress Dowager Ci Xi.who controlled state power and 3 baby emperors in hand for 48 years. put China into disasters in the late Qing Dynasty. When the officials and ministers came to ask for opinions from the emperor. it’s actually her who sat behind the emperor's throne with a curtain unrolled in between (as women in ancient China were not allowed to exposed themselves in public and not supposed to involve in state affairs. so she still hided herself behind. though she had already broken the rules) to give the words. rather than the real emperor who was just a "puppet" in her hands.

The rear end of the central axis stands the Imperial Palace which is elaborately decorated with hundreds of years' antique trees and strange-shape rocks with naturally chiseled numerous holes. Small garden paths are finely paved with colorful cobble stones. presenting pictures of human figures. sceneries. Chinese ancient fairy tales etc. Those above show a different angle of Forbidden City.

In 1988. Forbidden City is listed as "world cultural heritage" by UNESCO. It's also known as the Palace Museum as it houses an exhibition of more than 900.000 court treasures. As time goes by. more secrets would be discovered and more sections would be opened for visitors. Forbidden City is forever the masterpiece work in history. as well as in all people's hearts.

Tips of Visiting Forbidden City:

1.Service Centre besides the Meridian Gate. where you can rent wheelchairs and audio-guiding machines; Maps guiding non-barrier visiting routes provided for free for the physically challenged visitors;Brochures available.

Add: Non-barrier visiting routes and facilities(like elevators and escalators for climbing) available now.Follow the guiding map.

2.It's open for visitors all year round.
Daily openning time:  Apr.1-Oct.31  08:30 - 17:00
                            Nov.1-Mar.31(next year) 08:30 - 16:30
Ticket stopping time: Apr.1-Oct.31  16:10
                            Nov.1-Mar.31(next year) 15:40

3.Ticket Price: Plain Season(Nov.1-Mar.31 next year) 40RMB/p.p.
                Peak Season(Apr.1-Oct.31)            60RMB/p.p.
                Stutents with Student ID             20RMB/p.p.

4.Approx.Time of Visiting: Half to one day.

5.Steps: about one hundred(including up and down);
Walking Distance: long. vertical distance about 1km.but breaks in between; Especially in hot summer time. bringing drinking water and wear hats are quite necessary;scarcely see shads.

6.Small shops available along the way for diposable digital cameras. memory chips.batteries drinks, ice-cream and other souvenirs.