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Forbidden City
  • Forbidden City 
     
    Lying 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 Tiananmen Square. The Palace complex lay at the heart of the original Ming Dynasty plan for Beijing devised by the Yong Le emperor in the fifteenth century, and is still regarded as the central point of the modern capital. 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.

    Rectangular in shape, it is covers 74 hectares. A high red wall with a total length of 3,400 meters and a 6m moat protect the complex. The walls served as defensive walls and retaining walls. The complex was built adhering to a traditional north-south axis with the main entrance, the Wu Men, facing the south. Surrounded by a six meter deep moat are 9,999 buildings. There are unique and delicately structured towers on each of the four corners of the curtain wall.

    The Forbidden City is divided into two parts, the southern section of the Outer Court, which was where the emperor exercised his power, and the northern section or the Inner Court, which served as the residence for him and the imperial family. Both courts account for an area of 163,000sqm. These areas were designed according to the architectural hierarchical code to reflect the status and power of the emperor. The court was limited to royal members and the emperor; common people would be prohibited from entering or coming within close proximity of the area. 
     
    Construction of 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.  

    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.

    The Forbidden City is a huge complex, and a visit can be an exhausting experience. 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".