Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Forbidden City

These are the photos taken at the Forbidden City during my visit recently. It was raining on the day I was there, and the temperature drops drastically to around 6 to 10 degree Celsius.


* * *

In the early 1400s, the third Ming Emperor, YongLe, moved the capital of China to Beijing. In 1406, he began construction of a new 'Forbidden City' that would include the imperial palace complex.

The Forbidden City, located at the exact center of the ancient city of Beijing, was the home and center of power for 24 emperors during the mid to latter Ming and Qing dynasties.

The Forbidden City cover 720,000 square meters (74 hectares). There are 800 buildings that have in total 9,999 rooms, less one room than the Palace of Heaven, a palace of gods in the sky. In some accounts, the Forbidden City has 9,999.5 rooms - the half-room, apparently, houses nothing more than a staircase. The Forbidden City is as well the world's largest palace complex.

The digit 9 was seen as a special, magic number, especially for emporers, because it is the highest value ordinal. Also, the word for nine in Chinese, 'jiu', is a homonym for 'long / lengthy'. The number of rooms has a further rationale : because the Forbidden City was on Earth, it was impossible to have 10,000 rooms, which would conflict with the number of rooms in the version found in Heaven because the number 10,000 symbolizes infinity.

The Forbidden City is surrounded by a six meter deep, 52 meter wide moat.

Inside the moat, the outer wall is 10 meters high and 3,400 meters long. The walls are very thick (8.6 meters wide at the bottom and 6.7 meters wide at the top) and were specifically designed to withstand attacks by cannons.

The bricks of the wall are said to be made partly from white lime and glutinous rice while the cement is made partly from glutinous rice and egg whites. These incredible materials were said to make the wall extraordinarily strong.

The Tiananmen Gate

The Tian'Anmen Gate, or literally the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the entrance to The Forbidden City. As seen at the center is the portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong and the seal of the People's Republic of China..

The portrait weighs 1.5 tonnes.

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The First Courtyard

The huge courtyard covers a space of over 10,000 square meters. The grand size was both to acommodate large numbers of people on ceremonial occasions and to create a sense of imperial majesty.

The gate is guarded by a couple of bronze lions which aimed to show imperial dignity. The west one is male, with its front right paw resting on a ball, symbolizing imperial power extended worldwide.

The lioness on the east side has its front left paw on a lion cub, indicating a prosperously growing family and the never-ending secession of the imperial lineage.

The original tiles at the courtyard.

There are no trees here because in ancient China emperors considered themselves to be a Son of Heaven, born to reign over the country, so they should occupy the highest position. Nothing was allowed to overwhelm the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the highest building in the Forbidden City - and trees were no exception.

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The Hall of Preserving Harmony

The Hall of Preserving Harmony sits on the northern end of the three-tier marble terrace of the Outer Court, similar in style but a bit smaller than the Hall of Supreme Harmony but larger than the Hall of Complete Harmony. It was first built in 1420, rebuilt in 1625 and renovated in 1765.

The walkway to the main courtyard of the hall.

Rows of Gargoyles.

Decorative ballustrades.

During the Ming dynasty, emperors would often prepare for ceremonies here, practicing speeches and changing clothes; for example, before ceremonies of conferring the title of Empress or Crown Prince. During the Qing dynasty, imperial banquets would usually be given here. To celebrate a princess's marriage, emperors would invite high officials, the bridegroom and his father, and any relatives who have served the imperial government to a banquet. Every New Year's Eve, banquets would be held to feast and honor margraves, Mongol princes and civil and military officials.

Decorative ballustrades.

There are over 1000 gorgoyles around the raised platform for the Outer Court halls. In heavy rain, each becomes a fountain as rain drains out through each mouth except for those in the corners.

A dragon head sculpture.

The mystical creatures guarding the imperial roof. Originally the roofs were made mostly of wood, and to prevent the tiles from sliding off, wooden nails were used. However, without lightning rods, the palace roof would easily catch fire. Therefore, some alchemists suggested that symbols of the fish-tail star could be installed on the roof to prevent fire. Later, these symbols were replaced by glazed tiles which were shaped like lucky animals, some of them mythical.

Closeup look at the door holder.

* * *

The Gate of Celestial Purity

The Gate of Celestial Purity is the main gate of the Inner Court. In front of the gate, there is a courtyard which is 200 meters long from east to west and is 30 meters from north to south.

This courtyard both separates the Outer Court and the Inner Court and integrates them.

The opening gate to the Inner Court. All gates in the Forbidden City are decorated with a nine-by-nine array of golden door nails, except for the East Glorious Gate, which has only eight rows.

Along the walls flanking the gate the are ten gilded bronze vats. These huge vats are both decorations and reservoirs in case of fire. Each one weighs 4 tons by itself and can hold 4 tons of water.

One of the many strange creatures guarding the roof of the imperial palaces. Yellow is the color of the Emperor. Thus almost all roofs in the Forbidden City bear yellow glazed tiles.

* * *

The Palace of Earthly Tranquility

The Palace of Earthly Tranquility is a double-eaved building, 9 bays wide and 3 bays deep. In the Ming Dynasty, it was the official residence of the Empress.

The sculptures on one of the two pots at the main courtyard of the palace.

The Dragon holding a fireball.

The pot, the deer and the dragon - all in one set at each side of the palace.

The inside look of the sleeping chamber in the palace. These items are the originals as once used by the empresses, including the jade candle-holder and the tea set.

The front yard of the palace.

One of the cool-looking rock display by the wall of the walkway.

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The Imperial Garden

The garden was built in 1417 during the Ming dynasty. It covers an area of about 12,000 square meters and was the private garden of the imperial family. This garden was used exclusively by the imperial family to sip tea, play chess, meditate and generally relax.

A specially shaped rock promotes harmony and peace in the Imperial Garden

Rows of hundreds of years old cypress trees in the Imperial Garden

A closeup look at one of the many cypress trees.

A lonely dragon head watching over a still pool of cold water.

Towering cypress tree surrounding an Imperial building.

A very old cypress tree inside the Imperial Garden

The rear exit of The Forbidden City. The moat is highly visible here.

* * *

Me at the main courtyard of the Forbidden City.


FarA said...

whoa! magnificent :) that explains your hiatus.

Mohamad Nazmi Zaidi said...

yea. haha. hi fara ~

ayong said...

wow! amazingggg! :D

Mohamad Nazmi Zaidi said...

thanks qiela :)

weda said...

d setting reminds me very much of a kung fu movie starred by cecelia cheung and louis khoo (:

woody said...

jack, no words pls.. the pics are already talking.. more pics!!!! :D