Forbidden City – Zijin Cheng, 紫禁城; pinyin: Zǐjinchéng; literally: “Purple Forbidden City”. Also known as “The Palace Museum” (故宫博物院). Above Meridian Gate (Wu Men). From the balcony the emperor would review his armies and perform ceremonies marking the start of new calendar.
Forbidden City is located in the center of Beijing just north from Tian’an Men Square. It’s huge. It really is. Even though I watched travel videos and pictures before we went I was surprised by its size. It really is a city within a city. We devoted one day to sightseeing it and we were able to see Outer Court, Inner Court and some of the Eastern Palaces. We didn’t get to see the Western ones.
There were crowds inside. To be able to see anything inside the building you had to seriously be good with your elbows and persistent. People would use any, even the smallest space to get ahead of you. This was mainly a problem in Outer and Inner City not so much after that.
Five marble bridges, symbolizing the five cardinal virtues of Confucianism (Ren, Yi, Zhi, Xin, Li), cross the Golden Water, which flows from west to east in a course designed to resemble the jade belt worn by officials.
- Rén (仁, humaneness);
- Yì (義, righteousness or justice);
- Lǐ (禮, proper rite);
- Zhì (智, knowledge);
- Xìn (信, integrity).
Pairs of lions guard the entrances to the halls. The male is portrayed with a ball under his paw, while the female has a lion cub.
Hall of Supreme Harmony is the larges hall in the Palace. It was used for major occasions. Inside the hall there is an ornate throne and a very ornate ceiling. Not much else besides the two.
An odd number of roof guardians, all associated with water, are supposed to protect the building from fire.
Copper and iron vats were part of the fire-fighting equipment. They were filled with water to be used to douse fires. From October to February every year, the vats were covered with quilts to prevent the water freezing, and on very cold days they would be heated by charcoal fires. The Qing Dynasty vats had two beast shaped bronze rings, a big belly and small mouth. Now it seems everyone believes that rubbing heads of those beasts brings good luck.
Behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony there is The Hall of Middle Harmony (Zhonghe dian) and The Hall of Preserving Harmony. At the Hall of Central Harmony emperor received homage from officials in charge of ceremonial matters before he proceeded to hold court or lead ceremonies at the Hall of Supreme Harmony. The phrase ‘Central Harmony’ derives from the book of Rites in which it refers to impartial and just conduct appropriate to each situation. The hall was also used before he went to the Altar of Agriculture to ceremonially plough the earth and sow seeds every spring, as it was here that he inspected the seeds and the farming tools to be used before the ceremony.
and then on to the Inner Court…