Forbidden City in Beijing - China

The Tian'anmen (天安門), the gate of the heavenly peace, forms the entrance to the Forbidden City (紫禁城), the former imperial palace in Beijing, China.

Forbidden City Beijing
Forbidden City
Once you pass the Tiananmen Gate and several antique cannons, you stand before a gate – the Meridian Gate.  With its impressive dimensions, every visitor is reduced to feeling incredibly small.  The immense size of the grounds serves to clearly demonstrate in an impressive manner how powerful the Chinese rulers were.

No trees were allowed to be planted in this area due to fear of attack against the Emperor's life. The gigantic oil lamps served as lighting while the large metal containers were filled with water to extinguish any flames. The three-tiered terraces upon which the halls are built serve both as a demonstration of power and to channel rainwater.

This structure was built between 1410 and 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, following a 10 year period of construction. The construction involved 100,000 soldiers and 1 million workers.   24 emperors resided in this palace.  The Forbidden City was the center of political power in China for over 500 years.

Forbidden City Emperor's throne
Emperor's throne
Behind the Gate of Supreme Harmony is the Hall of Supreme Harmony (太和殿), which is guarded by two powerful lions.  This hall served exclusively for the Emperor's ceremonial events such as ascendancy to the throne, birthdays or weddings.  The outer courtyard was used for political events.
A view of the Emperor's throne is possible if you are patient and can face the almost life-threatening press of crowds.

After the Hall of Supreme Harmony we come to the Hall of Central Harmony (中和殿), where the Emperor would once a year check the wheat seeds to be sown. We also come to the Hall of Preserving Harmony (保和殿) where the Emperor conducted government exams.  Whoever passed this exam could leave the Palace through the main gate.

From here you have a beautiful view of the White Pagoda -Baita Pagoda - in Beihai Park 
(北海公園), which was erected in 1651 to commemorate the visit of the 5th Dalai Lama.

Forbidden City Emperor's Garden
Emperor's Garden.
In the northern section of the Forbidden City lies the Emperor's Garden.  Not all of 8000 rooms in the palaces are open to the public. However, it is still possible to spend quite a bit of time visiting some of the outbuildings, such as the Palace Museum or the Palace where Pu Yi, the Last Emperor, lived between 1912 and 1924.

At the back of the Forbidden City ends the 1800 km long Grand Canal (京杭大运河), linking the mouth of the Yangtze River to Beijing. It was vital for the procuring of materials to the Forbidden City and also for the supply of the capital.

Since 1987, the Forbidden City belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

See also: Tiananmen Square

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