From the Ming Dynasty to the end of the reign of Qing Dynasty, Forbidden City was the imperial palace to the Chinese. It is situated in the middle of Beijing and presently houses the current palace Museum. Palace museum is one of the world’s famous museums because of its collection of ancient materials which were used during the reign of the Qing and Ming dynasties. Palace museum served as the home of emperors, together with their family’s households. It was highly respected since ever one viewed it as the throne to the leadership of the Chinese nation. It also served as a political and ceremonial center for the Chinese government.
Constructed in 1406 to 1420, the forbidden city consists of 980 buildings having 8707 bays of rooms, covering an area estimated to be 720,000m squared .It exemplifies traditional china palatial architecture from the palace .It is one of the best located and well planned city in china and highly regarded by the Chinese people as the best tourist attraction. It has influenced culture and architectural development in many places including East Asia. Most of the culture in present china was borrowed from Forbidden City such as painting. In 1987 Forbidden city was declared World Heritage Site, and currently it is listed as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden in the world by UNESCO.Forbidden City has been under care of Palace Museum, whereby the extensive collection of artifacts and art work were put up during the imperial collection of Qing and Ming dynasties.So0me parts of the former collections by the museum is now located in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Both museums, which had descended from the same institution splitted after the Chinese civil war.Bronson (90).
The name ‘Forbidden City’ is a Chinese translation of the name Zijin Cheng.Forbidden palace is another English name having a similar origin as ‘Zijin Cheng’, a name with much significance on many levels. For instance Zi or purple refers to the North Star which according to ancient Chinese was referred to as Ziwei Star .According to the traditional Chinese astrology, it referred to the abode of the celestial emperor, Ziwei.
Endosora, which is the surrounding celestial region, was the realm belonging emperor and the families. The Forbidden City, according to the residents of the terrestrial emperors, was its counterpart. In other words forbidden meant that no one was allowed to leave or enter the palace without the permission of the emperor. Presently it is known as Gugong in the Chinese language meaning former palace .The museum based in this building is referred to as the Palace Museum.
Imperial city was the site for the Forbidden City during the reign of the Mongol Yuan. Hongwu emperor moved to the capital to Nanjig in the south from Beijing on establishing the Ming dynasty and ordered the Yuan palace to be brought down. The son to the former emperor, Zhu Di moved the capital back to Beijing on becoming the emperor and then construction of what would become the Forbidden City started. It took fifteen year and took almost one million workers for the construction. Precious wood from the jungles of the southwest china and marble blocks from quarries not far from the Beijing were used in the construction.Golden blocks paved the floors of major walls
Forbidden City was the seat for the many dynasties from 1420 to 1644, only to be captured in April 1644 by the rebel forces led by Li Zicheng, who had proclaimed himself as the emperor of the Shun dynasty.Bronson (90). Ming dynasty flew before some parts of the Forbidden City were set on fire by the combined forces belonging to Manchu and former Ming general Wu Sangui.These was in an effort to overthrow the Ming dynasty from power and have the forbidden city to be under the reign of another dynasty .Leading the Chinese people from the palace of the forbidden city was the aim of every person who had a desire I leadership. Manchu attained supremacy by October in northern china and held a ceremony at the Forbidden City proclaiming the young Shunzi emperor under the leadership of the Qing dynasty as the ruler of all china. Names on some parts of the principle buildings were changed by the Qing leader in an effort to emphasize ‘harmony’ other than ‘supremacy’ and introduced Shaman element to the palace.
The Anglo –French forces during the second Opium war in 1860 took charge of the forbidden city occupying it till the end of the war .During the Boxers Rebellion in 1900 Emperor Dowagen Cixi flew from the forbidden city leaving it to be occupied by the forces in the treaty powers. Bronson (98)
Forbidden City served as the centre of the Chinese politics in 1912 with the abdication of Chinas last emperor Puyi after it had been used as the home of 24 emperors, ten of them from the Qing dynasty and 14 from the Ming dynasty. It was used as the palatial home for 24 years by the two dynasties together with their families. Before the eviction of Puyi in 1924 during a coup, he was in an agreement with the republic China to use the inner court as his palace while the outer court was left for the public. In 1925 the palace museum was established in the Forbidden City .In 1949 after the establishment of the People Republic of China slight damages were done to the Forbidden City.
Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 by UNESCO and also as the ‘imperial’ palace belonging to the Qing and Ming dynasties because of the role it played in the development of the culture and Chinese architecture.Bronson (102) Currently it is administered by the palace museum which is carrying out a sixteen-year project purposely to repair and restore it to its former shape as the Forbidden City.
Forbidden City is the world’s largest surviving palace covering 72 hectares’ and is rectangular in shape measuring 261 meters to the south and 753 meters from east to west. It has 980 surviving buildings containing 8707 bay rooms. Bronson(102) Walls and Gates-the city is surrounded by 97.9 meters and six meter dip, 82 meters wide moat. The walls have a base of 8.62 meters and tapper 6.66 meters .The walls were meant of retaining and defense purposes an deer constructed using earth cooper, surfacing with three layers of specially baked bricks. There were towers with intricate roofs at the four corners of the wall. The wall had a piercings gates on every side, the gates were, Meridian gate to the south, Gate of Divine Might to the north while the west an d east had the East Glorious Gate.Bronson (122)
Outer Court-Forbidden City was traditionally divided into two, outer and inner court. The outer court which in another name was known as the Front court included the sections to the south and it was purposely meant for ceremonies. The outer court had three halls, Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Preserving Harmony and the Hall of Central Harmony. Hall of Supreme Harmony was the largest and it is the largest wooden structure still surviving in china. It was purposely used as the court by Ming dynasty during its reign.
Inner Court-the inner court was the home of the emperor and family it had there halls which were centrally located namely Palace of Heavenly Purity, Hall of Union and the Earthly Tranquility. Double-eaves, set on a single white marble platform are the palace of the Heavenly Purity. Bronson (244).An imperial garden which contains landscaping features was also located in the inner court. It was meant for beauty to the palatial home to the dynasties. The nine dragon screen located in front of the hall of Tranquility was another attractive feature in the inner court and presently it is under renovation to attain its former glory.
Religion-Religion was quite an important part for the imperial court .Palace of the Earthly Harmony was the ceremonial place for the Manchu Shamant during Qing dynasty. Native Chinese Taoist continued to play an important role during Ming and Qing dynasties. There were two Taoist shrines, one located in the imperial garden and the other one was located in the central part of the inner court purposely for the dynasties families. At the same time Buddhism was also a prevalent form of religion in Qing dynasties palace.
Surroundings-imperial garden surrounded the three sides of the forbidden city Jingstern Park is to the north , which is an artificial hill created from the soil excavated to build the moat and also from the nearby lakes, ’Zhungnanhai is another garden in the west which is centered by two connected lakes. Currently it serves as the headquarters for the communist party of culture and state council of the people’s republic of china. Two shrines-Imperial shrine of the family and imperial shrine of the state are on the south side.
The nature and the design of the Forbidden City was meticulously purposed and planned to reflect the philosophical and the religious principle. Yellow was the colour of the emperor, thus almost every roof of the city had a yellow glazed tile. Many halls of the inner and the outer court were all arranged in groups of three representing heaven. Residences of the inner court are arranged in six to represent the earth. Statuettes’ decorating the slopping ridges of the building symbolizes the status of the building. The buildings layout follows ancient customs which were laid down in the Classic of Rites.
The collection in the palace museum include ceramics, paintings, bronze wares, timepieces jade and palace artefacts.Thre forbidden city has been an influential in the subsequent development of Chinese architecture as well as providing inspiration for many modern construction. The Forbidden City has influenced art, film, literature and popular culture serving as a scene to many works of fiction. It has been demonstrated I televisions and films, for instance, the Forbidden City (1918), a fiction film showing an American and Chinese emperor. It has also been used as a performance venue though due to the heavy effect of performance and equipment on the ancient structure, its use for that purpose has been strictly limited.
Forbidden City therefore is one of the world’s renowned places because of its ancient structures and its reputation of having some of the oldest pieces of art ever to exist. Its influence in Chinese culture has been greatly noted all over in present China and even across the world. Many of the culture in the present China owe their origin from the Forbidden City. Architecture wise, there has been a lot of borrowing of design and plans of construction from the Forbidden City. Forbidden City will remain one of the world’s icons of culture and ancient material if its renovation comes of age for the city to regain its former glory.