23 January 2010


The Forbidden City is one of the seven wonders of the world.  To really tour the whole place one needs at least 5 days.  Tour only covered a fraction of the City and many areas were not open to public.

金 水 橋 - The Inner Golden River flows beneath the bridges which are consequently referred to as The Inner Golden River Bridges.  The central bridge was used exclusively by the emperor.  The two flanking it were for use by members of the royal family.  The two outer bridges were for court officials.  The bridges have marble balustrades richly carved with dragon and phoenix motifs.  With the ever present threat of fire damage to the palace buildings, the river served as a water reservoir as well as being a decorative feature.

The large courtyard beyond the river covers ten thousand square meters.  It is treeless as, in Imperial China, the emperor was regarded as the Son of Heaven.  Born to rule the empire, his was the loftiest position, no one and nothing could appear higher.  The Hall of Supreme Harmony, is the highest building in the Forbidden City and not even trees could overshadow it.

Taihemen (太和門), north of the square, is the main gate of the Outer Court which is fairly grand.  The gate is guarded by two bronze lions.  These symbolise imperial power.  The lion on the east side is male.  Its right front paw is placed on a globe denoting that imperial power extended world-wide.  The lioness on the west side has its left front paw on a lion cub.  This denotes a thriving and prosperous imperial family.  The gate is important as it was here that the emperors' wedding ceremonies were usually held.

Entering Taihemen is the Taihedian (太和殿), Hall of Supreme Harmony across the spacious square, which covers 30,000 square meters.  Standing on a three-tier marble terrace, this grandest timber framework ever in China is overwhelming.

The hall was erected in 1406 and has undergone many repairs.  As the heart of the Forbidden City, the so-called Golden Carriage Palace, used to be the place where emperors received high officials and exercised their rule over the nation.  Grand ceremonies would be held here when a new emperor ascended the throne.  Celebrations also marked emperors' birthdays, wedding ceremonies and other important occasions such as the Winter Solstice, the Chinese New Year and the dispatch of generals into fields of war.

Inside the hall, the floor is paved with special bricks which were fired long and then polished by being soaked in tungoil.  As a symbol of imperial power, the sandalwood throne, standing on a two-meter high platform, is located in the centre of the hall and surrounding by six thick gold-lacquered pillars decorated with dragons.  Dragons are covered all over the golden throne.  Around the throne stands 2 bronze cranes, an elephant-shaped incense burner and tripods in the shape of mythical beasts.  The hall is heavily decorated with dragons. In the middle of the ceiling is the design of 2 dragons playing with pearls.  They were made of glass, painted with mercury.

The Hall of Central Harmony (中和殿) served as a rest place for the emperor when he was on his way to hold ceremonies in the Hall of Supreme Harmony.  When everything was ready, he would go to the Hall of Supreme Harmony to receive homage.  It was here that he consulted with his ministers and officials.

Baohedian (保和殿) the Hall of Preserved Harmony stands at the northern end of the three-tier marble terrace. It is larger than the Hall of Central Harmony.  It was usual for imperial banquets to be held here.  Such banquets might be to celebrate a princess's marriage.  The emperor would entertain high officials, the bridegroom and his father together with their relatives who served the imperial government.  Each year, on the eve of the New Year's Eve, banquets would be held to feast and honour provincial governors, Mongol princes, civil and military officials.

At every courtyard you will find huge water urns.  They are for storing water to extinguish fire during that period.

Especially during summer, the palace would easily caught fire.

Nine Dragon Screen Wall (九龍辟) - This glazed screen wall facing Huang Ji Men was constructed when Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty renovated the "Ning Shou Gong" (Palace of Peace & Longivity) area.  There are 9 dragons on the wall, hence the name.  It has a double thatched cover with yellow glazed tiles, and sits on a white marble stone.  This wall is comprised of 270 glazed decorative bricks, with seawater as the background.  9 dragons are encircled by waves clouds, and separated by 6 groups of rocks.  A yellow dragon is in the centre, and 8 dragons in blue, white, purple and yellow are on both sides.

The Hall of Spiritual Cultivation was the retired palace for emperors' fathers.  When Empress Dowager Cixi lived in the Hall of Joyful Longevity during Guangxu's reign, she had breakfast and supper in this hall.  The hall is now the main chamber of Treasure Gallery, exhibiting jewellery,  utensils, tea-services, wine pots and cups made of gold, silver or jade, gold seals and gold albums.

Headdress of 1st Empress Dowager of Ching Dynasty (孝 庄 后)

Phoenix Crown with 5 gold filigreed phoenixes inlaid with pearls and gems

Marten court hat with pearl inlay worn by empress

Golden phoenix wash basin for the empress

Golden wine cup with pearl and gem inlay

Gold Ruyi - carved in gold inlaid with gems

Gold ornaments inlaid with pearls and gems

Jade Narcissus

The pearl-inlaid gold celestial globe was made by the Qing Dynasty's imperial Household Dept during the Qianlong reign (1736-1795).  It is the only gold celestial globe that survives today.

Rest room of the emperor

Musical instruments

The emperor's bed

Mourning Chamber in memory of Concubine Zhen.  Concubine Zhen (1876-1900) nee Tatala, was chosen in 1888, together with her elder sister, the 5th level consort, as wives of Emperor Guangxu. In 1894 she was promoted to consort.

In 1900 she was thrown into the well by Empress Dowager and drowned.  In 1901 she was posthumously conferred the title of Noble Concubine, the 3rd-level consort.  Concubine Jin, her sister, set up the mourning chamber to praise her sincerity and determination.

The well-known purple wall that kept those inside the Forbidden City from access to the outside world.

Jingshan (景 山) is an artificial hill in Beijing covering an area of more than 230,000 sq m, and spans across both the Xicheng District.  Originally an imperial garden, it is now a public park known as Jingshan Park.  The hill was constructed in the Yongle era of the Ming Dynasty.  It consists of 5 individual peaks, on top of each peak has an elaborate pavilion.  The last emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Chongzhen committed suicide by hanging himself here in 1644.

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