on October 12, 2009
This is a city built for the Chinese Emperor who was cocooned in the vast city within a city. Building started on the palace in 1406 and it took 16 years to build. Over one million workers were involved in the building of it and precious woods and marble were used from all corners of China. In total it housed 24 Emperors 14 from the Ming Dynasty and 10 from the Qing Dynasty.As the most of the palace is made primarily of rare woods it has during its history experienced many fires. There are massive bronze cauldrons filled with water in case of fire throughout the palace. The fires were started both accidently and on purpose. There was an abundance of use of lanterns which sometimes caused a fire. Fireworks were another cause of fires. The rectangular shaped palace is surrounded by a massive 29 foot high wall which is 28 feet wide at the base and 21 feet wide at the top and it has four entrances. The city is surrounded by a water filled moat 170 foot wide. At each corner there is a large watchtower. The South entrance was used by the Emperor that is now adorned with a massive picture of Chairman Mao Tse Tung.There are five arched entrances in the south wall the middle entrance is the largest only the Emperor was permitted to enter. After this entrance there was a stone flanked walkway through to the palace that only the Emperor was allowed to walk on. Anyone who dared attempt to enter the palace by this entrance was executed by beheading. The other entrances were used by different grades of ministers according to their rank.The palace is divided into two parts and the first courtyard where ceremonial and business meetings took place and then the inner courtyard which was the living quarters of the palace for the Emperor and his concubines.Walking through the centre archway you come into a massive open courtyard which is a huge open area with a river flowing through it. Here there is a military presence on the right hand side for the red army whose role is the ceremonial guard duties around the palace and in Tiananmen Square. They have a practice area here for marching and perfecting their high leg swings. This leads to five bridges that cross the river to reach the gate of the Supreme Harmony. When you have gone through this gate you enter the square of the supreme harmony and standing majestically the magnificent Hall of the Supreme harmony appears before you and two other great halls, the hall of central harmony and the hall of preserving memory. The Hall of supreme harmony was used for coronations, investitures and imperial weddings. The halls are ornately decorated and painted with intricate paintings on the ceilings. The ramp leading up to the Hall of supreme harmony is 150 feet of solid marble that had been hand carved with dragons and other delightful carvings. At the base of the ramp there is a pair of lions standing guard. The roofs of the buildings within the palace all had golden coloured tiles which denoted that royalty lived there. They were decorated with sets of dragons down the edges of the roof. Reaching the inner courtyard you are now entering the private quarters of the Emperor and those of his concubines. There are three more massive halls called the hall of the palace of heavenly purity lived in by the Emperor, the union hall and the palace of earthly tranquillity the empresses quarters. Only the emperor was permitted to be dressed in golden or yellow coloured garments. Only the Emperor and Empress were permitted to eat off gold or silver plates.After this great collection of buildings are minor quarters where the concubines lived. There are music rooms, tea rooms, sleeping quarters, courtyards, gardens and various rooms where activities took place. The only men other than the Emperor that were allowed in this area were Eunuchs who were there to protect the women of the harm. The Eunuchs had their testicles removed which were placed in a small box so that when they died they could be buried with them otherwise they believed they would never enter heaven as they would have been incomplete and would be damned to walk the earth for eternity never being able to rest. The method of castration was particularly barbaric the man was sat in a chair with a hole in it and a swift swing of the knife removed his testicles in one fair swoop. Many men died bleeding to death but for those who survived it lead to a fairly comfortable life. At the beginning of the Qing dynasty there were 9000 Eunuchs in the palace and only 1800 by 1908. Life was very harsh for the Eunuchs and many were executed for the most simplest of reasons. When the Emperor wanted one of the concubines he would decide which one he wanted to spend the night with. She was washed and bathed by the eunuchs and all hair from below her chin was removed. She was wrapped in a yellow cloth and carried to the Emperors room. This ensured that no weapons were concealed about her person. Once the deed had been completed she was not permitted to spend the night with the emperor but slept in an ante room. The date and time of the union was recorded in case there was a resulting pregnancy.Towards the back of the palace is the north gate. There is the dragon’s wall with a relief of 9 dragons along the wall. It is brightly coloured with blue glazed tiles and it is quite beautiful. The Forbidden City is a fantastic collection of rooms and hallways all decorated in red and gold. There is no way that you would see everything on one visit as the palace has 980 buildings within the palace and 9,999 including ante rooms.
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