Beijing Forbidden City, China

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The Forbidden City

There is a world famous architecture in the center of Beijing. It has thousands of splendid rooms and magnificent towers.

It is the Forbidden City - the largest, best-preserved, mass group of palaces in China.

In the past, it was named the Forbidden City. After PRC was established, it was renamed the Palace Museum (Gugong Bowuyuan). You will regret if you come to Beijing and didn't visit the Forbidden City.

Why is the Forbidden City so enchanting? First of all you should know its history. It used to be the palace of Ming and Qing Dynasties. Altogether 24 emperors lived here. Construction of the Forbidden City started in the fourth year of the reign of Emperor Yongle (1406) of Ming Dynasty and was completed 14 years later.

This rectangle-shaped palace is 960 meters long from south to north, 753 meter wide from west to east. It occupies an area of 720,000 square meters, among which the total floor space is 155,000 square meters.

Counting the space enclosed by four pillars as a "room", there are more than 9900 rooms in nearly 900 buildings. Tradition has it that there are altogether 9999.5 rooms in the Forbidden City, only half room less than the Heavenly Palace, which belongs to the Jade Emperor in the heaven. So it is said that the Forbidden City is the largest palace in the world.

Entering the Forbidden City through Wu Gate (Wumen), you will find a square. This is the first square in the Forbidden City. A belt-shaped artificial river runs through the square from west to east. It is the Golden Water River.

On the river there are five marble-made bridges, the middle one of which could only be used by the emperor. Civil and military officials passed from the left side, and members of imperial families passed from the right side. Different people used different bridges, which could not be confused.

Walking forward, you will come across the Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihemen). Two bronze-cast lions stand in front of the gate. The one on the right is male, under which there is a copper ball, symbolizing power. The one on the left is female, under which a little lion is lying. The statue stands for intimacy and maternal love. Watching carefully, you will find something special - there are 13 rolls of hair on the head of lions, signifying the supremacy of the imperial family.

the Gate of Supreme Harmony is the front gate of the three outer halls. The floor was made of "gold bricks" and the interior roof of the gate was painted with golden dragons and colorful phoenix.

The hall opposite to the Gate of Supreme Harmony is the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian). There is a square between the hall and the gate, the Square of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian Guangchang), occupying an area of 30,000 square meters.

What is unusual is that there is neither trees nor grass on the square. It is so vast and so quiet that it makes people feel solemn and respectful.

In the middle of the square is a straight road, which was used only by the emperor. Both sides of the road were paved with bricks. Allegedly, there are 15 layers of bricks spreading disorderly, and they were built to avoid that someone would dig the ground and enter the hall.

Passing through the square, you will see the Hall of Supreme Harmony. "Supreme Harmony" was quoted from a famous Chinese religious book "Zhouyi". According to "Zhouyi", supreme harmony means all things in the universe are harmonious and satisfactory.

There are 18 big copper stoves on each layer of the terrace on the square. Tradition has it that they represented 18 provinces at that time. Combustion sandalwoods were burnt in the stoves on each grand ceremony. On the terrace in front of the hall are a copper tortoises and cranes symbolizing longevity. To the east of the terrace is a sundial. It was used as timer in the past. To the west is a grain-measure, symbolizing that the imperial power was fair. Grand ceremonies were held here.

At the center of the Hall of Supreme Harmony is the throne which stands on a sumeru dais (it originated from Buddhist seat, later it was used as the dais in the high-level architectures in China.). In the front of dais and both sides are wooden steps. On the dais is a golden chair carved with dragons. It was the dragon-chair of the emperor.

Around the throne stand two bronze cranes, elephant, tripods, incense burners and so on. On the elephant stands a precious bottle holding five cereals (rice, millet, sorghum, wheat and beans). It is symbolic of peace and bumper harvests of the five cereals.

Behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony is the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian), the second hall in the Forbidden City. "Central Harmony" was quoted from an ancient Chinese book "Liji Zhongyong". It means that everything should be accomplished impartially and properly. The Hall of Central Harmony is in the middle of the three halls and the smallest one. It was the rest place for Emperor on his way to the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

The last of the three main halls in the outer court is Hall of Preserved Harmony (Baohedian). "Preserved Harmony" means that the consciousness of the members of the imperial family is clear and unconfused so that the emperor could be healthy and the country be peaceful.

In Ming Dynasty when the crown prince was conferred and the empress was appointed, the emperor would be here to receive congratulations from officials. In the Qing Dynasty, imperial banquets were given here to entertain princes of vassal states on the eve of lunar New Year.

Since the Forbidden City is too large, it is impossible to visit all rooms. The above mentioned is only the main part of the palace. After visiting the three halls, visitors can choose three routes according to your own interest and schedule.

The first route is to visit the three rear palaces. The second is to visit the six palaces in the west. The third is to visit treasure houses in the east.

The last scenic spot is the Imperial Garden. Occupying an area of 120,000 square meters, it holds more than 20 architectures in various styles. While viewing the rare "imperial garden in Chinese palace", you will be distinctively enchanted by the exotic flowers, rare herbs, pavilions and towers in the garden.

According to some people, visiting the Forbidden City is a test of eyesight and foot. It is worthy of the name "City in City". The structure is a unique combination of artistic tastes, mechanics, architecture, and craftsmanship. Those people who had visited here said that the most attractive things in the Forbidden City were the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian) and the dragon seat in the hall.

If you want to fully appreciate this ancient palace, you will have to spend more than half of the day. If you only intend to visit it as quickly as possible, you will also need at least two hours.

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