Forbidden City

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The Forbidden City 故宮 - 紫禁城 First created 20 Feb 2011. Version 1.0 Jerry Tse. London . All rights reserved. Available free for non-commercial and non-profit use only .

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Plan The Outer Court The Inner Court The palace was divided into two parts . The Outer Court was used for state ceremonies. The Inner Court was the residence of the Emperor and his family. It was also used for running the day-to-day affairs of state. It was run by eunuchs. In early Ming Dynasty, there were about 1630 halls. In early Qing there were 1800 halls. Currently the palace has 2631 halls and 90 courtyards.

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The Ming Builders 明 Zhudi was the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty. He decided to move the capital from Nanjing to Beijing. He was a megalomaniac. Not only did he built the Forbidden City In Beijing, he also restored the Great Wall & the Grand Canal and sent his armada of ships into the Indian Ocean reaching Saudi Arabia and Africa. Zhu Di 朱棣 A late 15C to early 16C painting depicting the Heavenly Succession Gate 承天門 and the Outer Five Dragons Bridge 外五龍橋 near today’s Tiananmen. In 1406, he started building the Forbidden City , which took 15 years to complete in 1421, employing 200,000 craftsmen and million of labourers to build. It created an architectural complex unmatched in history. It is the biggest palace the world have even seen, with some 1630 halls. Unfortunately, it was burned down 3 times by major fires during the 273 years of the Ming Dynasty and had to be rebuilt again.

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Construction Materials Bricks and Golden Bricks 金磚 – Bricks were used for paving and for the external walls. Floor tiles are known as Golden Bricks, made in Suzhou. These were made of clay and took two months firing in kilns. A floor tile took two years to made, and can last for centuries. They are called Golden Bricks because they are expensive to made. Timber – All palace buildings used timber frame structures. The most important of timber are the pillars of Nanwu wood 楠木 (Phoebe Zhennan). These logs were transported from south western China and took 4 years for the journey. Some 100,000 Nanwu pillars were used in the construction. The wood work were covered by a secret formulated paste, mixed with pig’s blood, flour and earth for preservation. Marble 漢白玉石 – The main buildings of the palaces were build on marble terraces. There is a huge inclined slab, with carved dragons, weighs 300 tons. These were transported on sheets of ice pulled by 20000 men and horses and took a month to travel the 50km journey. Glazed Roof Tile – By far the most common roof tiles are the yellow glazed tiles. Yellow being the colour of the emperor. A few houses are covered with green tiles for the princes.

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Qing 清 During the Qing dynasty, the palace was rebuilt many times after fires. Many buildings were also added to the palace. Below is a view of the palace on the wedding of the Qing Emperor Guangxu.

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Qianlong 乾隆 The longest reigning emperor (1736-95) of Qing Dynasty. He started a 60 years major upgrade of the palaces. He was a highly cultured emperor, with a diverse range of interests – from collecting jade to calligraphy etc. It was his collection more than any other emperors that form the backbone of the collection of the Qugong Museum in Beijing and of the Palace Museum of Taipei. Under him, imperial China reached the zenith of her power. (1711-95)

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Moat The palace is surrounded by a 52 m wide moat.

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Walls The exterior walls is 10m high, 8.6m thick at the base. The core of the wall is filled with earth, surfaced with three layers of special bricks

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Corner Towers 角樓 There are four watch towers at the four corners of the palace walls.

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Gates There are some 10,000 gates in the palace.

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Meridian Gate 午門 This is the grandest of all the palace gates. It is nearly 38m high. This marks the beginning of the palace complex.

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Decorative Glazed Tiles 琉璃 Apart from the distinctive yellow glazed tiles used for the roofs, tiles were also used as decorations on screens and walls.

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Distinctive yellow glazed tiles make the palace stand out from the rest of the city. Mythical creatures on the roof ridges showing the status of the building. Roof Because most Chinese roofs were curved, the timber frame that supported the roof became more complicated.

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Wooden Construction Chinese carpenters developed some of the most complicated wooden joints used in buildings (see diagram on the right). One of these complicated joint is the Luban Locking Joints 魯班鎖 , which is a joint used for three perpendicular beams. Timber Frame 梁架 Traditional large Chinese buildings were mainly built of wood. All the weight of the building are supported by a wooden frame. Thus the wall are light and not weight bearing. Bracketing Dougongs are brackets that lock beams together with pillars together. The technique dated back to two thousand years. 斗栱

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Ceilings Coffered ceilings. Caisson 藻井 天花

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Terraces 台基 The use of terraces in Chinese architecture dated back to over 3000 years. The three main buildings of the outer court were built on a three tiers of marble terraces decorated with beautiful carved balustrades.

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Carved Slab The carved slab on the central staircase of the main terrace. Only the emperors were allowed to be carried over it.

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Outer Court 外朝 During the Ming Dynasty, the Outer Court is used by the emperor to attend the daily affairs of the state. During the Qing Dynasty, this usage was moved to the Inner Court. However, the Outer Court was always used for the special state occasions and ceremonies. The three most important buildings lies on the central north-south axis. They are the Hall of Supreme Harmony 太 和 殿 (first building on the photo), the Hall of Central Harmony 中和殿 (the small building behind) and the Hall of Preserving Harmony 保和殿 .

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Supreme Harmony 太和殿 The original Ming building was twice as large as the current hall. It is one of the largest wooden structure within China. The building is the focal point of the palace. It was used in Ming Dynasty to administration state affairs. In Qing Dynasty it was used only for ceremonial occasions.

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Hall of Supreme Harmony - Interior Richly decorated with beautiful carvings, the Dragon Throne stands on a raised platform, surrounding with urns, incense burners, carved dragons, cranes and elephants. Envoys were required to kneel and kowtow to the floor nine times on approach to the emperor. 太和殿

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Supreme Harmony 太和殿 It is the largest timber frame building in China. The building was destroyed 7 times. The last rebuilt was in 1695-1697.

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Central Harmony 中和殿 It is small square hall, serving as a rest room. It was a stop over room for the emperor for last minute preparations before conducting state or ceremony affairs.

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Throne A beautifully carved dragon standing on the back of the throne. There are several thrones in the palace. They are all beautifully carved. Some are in gold colour and others with natural wood colours.

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Hall of Preserving Harmony 保和殿 The hall was used for the ‘imperial examination’, as well as banquets on Lunar New Year’s Eve to entertain ministers, generals, as well as Mongolian and Tibetan nobles.

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Musical Instruments A rack of gilded musical bronze bells used during ceremonial and state occasions. The bells are similar in size and different notes are produced using bells with different thickness.

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Inner Court 內朝 The Gate of Heavenly Purity (above) leading into the Inner Court. The three most important buildings in the Inner Court echoes the group of the three buildings in the Outer Court. They are the Hall of Heavenly Purity 乾清宫 (first building on the photo), the Hall of Union 交泰殿 (the small building behind) and the Hall of Earthly Tranquillity 坤宁宫 . The Inner Court was the home of the Emperor and his family. In Qing Dynasty the some halls within the Inner Court were used by for administering state affairs.

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The Gate of Heavenly Purity 乾清門 Entrance to the private world of the emperor.

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Palace of Heavenly Purity 乾清宫 In early Qing Dynasty and Ming Dynasty, it is here that the emperor conducted the day-to-day affairs. In late Qing, it was used as an audience hall to receive foreign envoys and high ranked officials.

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Hall of Union 交泰殿 The building was used as the empress’ dressing room or celebrations of her birthdays. The imperial seals were also kept in here in Qing.

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Clepsydra (Water clock) The main mechanism of the water clock consists of three copper containers filled with water. Water drips from the top container to containers below in turn. The amount of water collected at the bottom is used to tell the time.

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Hall of Earthly Tranquillity 坤寧宫 The last of the Inner Court halls.

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坤寧宫 Hall of Earthly Tranquillity In Ming Dynasty, the building was used as the residence of the empress. In Qing it was converted into several rooms and set out in Manchurian style for religious services. The building included a kitchen for preparing food for worship. It also has a bridal room and a study for the emperor.

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The Qing emperor Yongzhen 雍正 moved the emperor residence here. The empress Dowager Cixi 慈禧 (reign 1861-1908) used the place to received state officials and ruled China. Hall of Mental Cultivation 養心殿

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Hall of Mental Cultivation 養心殿 The main reception room where later Qing emperors attended state affairs.

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Hall of Mental Cultivation 養心殿 This is the Cixi 慈禧 throne room. Behind the screen of the throne was another throne, on which the Dowager Empress ruled China.

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Hall of Mental Cultivation 養心殿 This was the emperor’s bedroom behind the reception room of the Hall of Mental Cultivation.

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Imperial Garden 御花園 A giant incense burner in the garden. There are four gardens in the Inner Court of the palace. The Imperial Garden being the largest of them all.

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Imperial Garden 御花園 Pavilion of Imperial Prospect overlooking the garden. 御景亭

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Imperial Garden 御花園 Studio of Spiritual Cultivation. 養性齋

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Imperial Gardens 御花園 This is the First Gate of Heaven 天一門 .

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Court Life Emperor Qianlong watching princes playing in snow. To maintain the palace during the Qing Dynasty, 280,000 taels of silver were needed each year or approximately 340,000 troy ounces of silver. Last emperor and empress of China.

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Theatre – Pavillion of Pleasant Sounds, 暢音閣 . The largest stage of the three stories theatre in the palace.

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Painted decorations Painted beams and brackets Suzhou style polychrome painted decorations

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Bronze Animal sculptures Bronze tortoise incense burner. Gilt bronze elephant in the garden. Gilt bronze lion. Bronze lion at the Gate of Supreme Harmony.

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Doors decorations Gate of Martial Spirit. Hall of Union. Carved panel on the doors at the Hall of Imperial Supremacy Hall of Mental Cultivation

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Qugong Museum The Forbidden City is also the home to the Palace Museum, Beijing.

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Music – Flying Dragons and Jumping Tiger 龍騰虎跃 composed by Li Minxiong 李民進 and performed by Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra. The End Advance to next slide to see brief notes on Chinese architecture.

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Using timber as primary building material, this is the most important single characteristics of Chinese architectural approach. Transportation costs can be very high. Using timber also put a limit on the size, the height and the age of buildings . The availability of large hard wood timber is also a limitation. Chinese Traditional Palatial (Dian 殿 ) Architecture Chinese Dian buildings are based on a timber frame . The walls of the buildings are not weight bearing. This allows more light and airy interior. Buildings are cool in summer but difficult to keep warm in winter. Buildings are inherent ‘earthquake proof’. To give the timber frame strength, interlocking joints were developed to a very high level of sophistication. This can be seen in the Dougong bracketing techniques. The basic principles and architectural design did not changed much for centuries . Chinese architecture uses modular architectural plan . Buildings are connected by corridors or unified by courtyards . Buildings are not integrated to form a larger building. Chinese buildings are very colourful and timber does not preserved well. The maintenance costs are very high . Finally Chinese buildings are very vulnerable to fire . The Hall of Supreme Harmony was rebuilt 7 times, in 500 years.

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Timeline

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The End Carved dragon on wooden screen behind the throne.

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