The construction of the Forbidden City was commissioned by Emperor Yong Le, the third Ming Emperor, after he relocated the capital city to Beijing in 1406. Following the ancient rules of spatial design, and the Chinese belief that emperors were gods bestowed by heaven, the arrangement of the buildings reflects the hierarchical order in heaven; all principal buildings are aligned on the vertical axis from south to north, flanked by a symmetrical arrangement of minor structures on horizontal axes. This arrangement puts the Forbidden City right at the centre of downtown Beijing.
After 14 years, the construction of all main structures was finished. A maze of bright-red walls, white marble balustrades with ornate relief patterns and yellow tiled roofs became the signature of this Imperial City. For the next 500 years, it housed the administrations and imperial households of 24 emperors, survived several peasant revolutions and saw millions of treasures come and go. Then China plunged into a period of political turmoil, ending the phase of feudal rule with Pu Yi – the last emperor of China. In 1925, the Forbidden City was open to public.
Highlights and Features
- Meridian Gate: The southern (main) entrance with five individual gates, for admitting people of certain ranks. The central gate was traditionally preserved for the use of the emperor.
- Hall of Supreme Harmony: The largest hall within the Forbidden City, used for ceremonial purposes, such as coronations, military leader nominations and imperial weddings. It is set on a three-tiered marble stone base and houses the ornate Dragon Throne.
- Hall of Preserved Harmony: Pillar-free hall used for banquets and later imperial examinations.
- Gate of Heavenly Purity: Separates the Inner Court from Outer Court, guarded by a pair of bronze lion statues.
- Clock Exhibition Hall: Houses about 200 antique clocks and timepieces given to the emperors by foreign envoys and Chinese-made clocks, including the six-metre high water clock – the largest in China.
- Imperial Garden: Where the imperial family spent their leisure time. Peppered with sculptures and four pavilions symbolising the four seasons, this landscaped garden is ideal for relaxing in.
- Treasure Gallery: It is believed that today, approximately one million imperial treasures – paintings, silver, gold, jades, bronze ware, ceramics, porcelains, embroidered silk – are kept in the Forbidden City. They are on display at the Treasure Gallery located at the northeastern corner, inside the three exhibition halls: Hall of Spiritual Cultivation, Hall of Joyful Longevity and Belvedere of Well-Nourished Harmony.