The Forbidden City / The Palace Museum, Beijing (I).

The Forbidden City / The Palace Museum, Beijing (I).

In the year 916 the Liao dynasty established its capital at Beijing, and the city remained the national capital during the Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Beijing is the largest and best-preserved of China’s historic six capital cities.

During the Ming dynasty, the imperial palace in the center of Beijing, also known as the Forbidden City, took shape as a magnificent architectural complex. Now the Palace Museum, the former palace is famous worldwide for its striking architecture and precious collections of cultural and art objects.

Construction of the palace began in 1406, during the reign of Emperor Yong Le of the Ming dynasty, and was completed in 1420. Over the next 491 years, the palace housed 14 Ming and 10 Qing emperors.

The palace was built on the eight-kilometer south-north axis of Beijing city. Its southern gate, Tian’anmen, faced directly toward the old city gates of Yongding, Zhengyang and Daming. Inside the Tian’anmen were the palace gates of Duan and Wu. The central axis passed through the palace’s Outer and Inner Courts. Immediately outside the northern palace gate is Jingshan (Coal Hill). Farther on are the Drum and Bell Towers in the far north of the city. Symmetrically arranged in the four corners of Beijing four temples were located-the Temple of Heaven in the south, of the Earth in the north, of the Sun in the east, and of the Moon in the west. The imperial palace was in the center of the four temples.

The entire palace area, rectangular in shape and 960 meters from north to south and 750 meters from east to west, was surrounded by walls 10 meters high and 3,428 meters long. At each of the four corners of the wall was a tower with nine beams, 18 pillars and 72 roof ridges-a unique design of Chinese traditional architecture. The imperial palace was guarded by 36 battalions and a moat 52 meters wide and 3,800 meters long. The defense was described as impregnable-„a city of bronze with boiling water around it.”

-to be continued-

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