at the center of Beijing, the Forbidden City, called Gu Gong, in Chinese,
was the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Now known as
the Palace Museum, it is to the north of Tian'anmen Square. Rectangular
in shape, it is the world's largest palace complex and covers 74 hectares.
Surrounded by a six meter deep moat and a ten meter high wall are 9,999
buildings. The wall has a gate on each side. Opposite the Tian'anmen Gate,
to the north is the Gate of Devine Might (Shenwumen), which faces Jingshan
Park. The distance between these two gates is 960 meters, while the distance
between the gates in the east and west walls is 750 meters. There are unique
and delicately structured towers on each of the four corners of the curtain
wall. These afford views over both the palace and the city outside. The
Forbidden City is divided into two parts. The southern section, or the Outer
Court was where the emperor exercised his supreme power over the nation.
The northern section, or the Inner Court was where he lived with his royal
family. Until 1924 when the last emperor of China was driven from the Inner
Court, 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 houses numerous rare treasures and curiosities. 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.
the palace complex began in 1407, the 5th year of the Yongle reign of the
third emperor of the Ming dynasty. It was completed fourteen years later
in 1420. It was said that a million workers including one hundred thousand
artisans were driven into the long-term hard labor. Stone needed was quarried
from Fangshan, a suburb of Beijing. It was said a well was dug every fifty
meters along the road in order to pour water onto the road in winter to
slide huge stones on ice into the city. Huge amounts of timber and other
materials were freighted from faraway provinces. Ancient Chinese people
displayed their very considerable skills in building the Forbidden City.
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
frustrates attempts to climb it. The bricks were made from white lime and
glutinous rice while the cement is made from glutinous rice and egg whites.
These incredible materials make the wall extraordinarily strong.
Since yellow is the symbol of the royal family, it is the dominant color
in the Forbidden City. Roofs are built with yellow glazed tiles; decorations
in the palace are painted yellow; even the bricks on the ground are made
yellow by a special process. However, there is one exception. Wenyuange,
the royal library, has a black roof. The reason is that it was believed
black represented water then and could extinguish fire.
Nowadays, the Forbidden City, or the Palace Museum is open to tourists
from home and abroad. Splendid painted decoration on these royal architectural
wonders, the grand and deluxe halls, with their surprisingly magnificent
treasures will certainly satisfy "modern civilians".