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

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

The palace structures themselves covered 720,000 square meters and included more than 9,000 rooms. Construction during the Ming dynasty engaged 100,000 craftsmen and more than one million laborers. The Nanmu hardwood came from Sichuan, Guangdong and Yunnan provinces. Renovations during the Qing dynasty used pine wood from northeastern China. The bricks for the walls were made at Linqing in Shandong province, and the square tiles paving the floors came from special Suzhou kilns. Marble slabs were from Fangshan county south of Beijing. Colored stone was from Jixian county, and granite from Quyang county, both in Hebei province. The grand halls are of wood with crimson walls and yellow glazed tile roofs.

The layout is strictly symmetrical. Main halls are on the central axis. Exclusive courtyards of different sizes lie on either side. Imposing and lavishly furnished, the palace symbolized the supreme power of the emperors and illustrated the high workmanship of Chinese architecture.

The palace consists of two complexes, the Outer and the Inner Courts. The main structures of the Outer Court are the Taihe Dian (Hall of Supreme Harmony), Zhonghe Dian (Hall of Central Harmony), Baohe Dian (Hall of Preserving Harmony), and two wing halls: Wenhua Dian (Hall of Literary Glory) and Wuying Dian (Hall of the Martial Spirit). The three main halls were where the emperors held official audiences, award ceremonies, weddings, birth celebrations and official banquets. North of the three grand halls is the Inner Court, where the emperor and his family once lived.

Qianqing Gong (Palace of Heavenly Purity) was the residence of the emperor. Kunning Gong (Palace of Earthly Tranquility) housed he empresses. Between the two palaces is Jiaotai Dian (Hall of Union) implying the union of Heaven and Earth. Through the Kunningmen Gate one reaches the imperial gardens, a fine example of traditional Chinese landscaping art. Artificial rock formations, pavilions, ancient firs and cypresses, flowers and bamboo blend into a harmonious unit.

-to be continued-

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