An Architectual Description Of China's Forbidden City

1888 words - 8 pages

Architecture mirrors the material and aesthetic standards of a society, and Classical Chinese architectural concepts are indissolubly linked with a social order at once real and ideal, with a structured vision of the universe and with a certain scale of values. The Forbidden City or Imperial Palace (also known as The Palace Museum) is a prime example of this combination of construction and philosophy.Construction of the Forbidden City was started by order of the third Ming emperor, Yongle, in 1406 and was completed near the end of 1420, the eighteenth year of Emperor Yongle's reign, at which time the Ming Dynasty officially moved its capital from Nanjing to Beijing. Over the next 491 years, twenty-four Ming and Qing emperors resided there.When a Chinese city is first laid out, the founder begins by inspecting the region to determine its orientation. "He observes the shadows, examines the sunny and dark sides, the 'ying' and 'yin' of the country to see how the constituent principles of the world are distributed. Lastly, he finds out the direction in which the waters flow. It is he who must realize the religious value of the site, the 'feng sui'"The most ancient rules of Chinese town planning aimed at making the city a cosmos - a true image of the universe as a whole. This pursuit of harmony explains the great importance of orientation. The ideal city was a quadrilateral with walls pierced by twelve gates corresponding to the twelve months of the year. The royal residence lay in the center like a city within the city. Each edifice in the city had its proper place. In the middle, the audience hall opened on a road that passed between the Altar of the Sun and the Temple of the Ancestors and ended at the South Gate. This avenue was used by those on their way to pay homage. The emperor sat facing south, situated at the very heart of the city and, symbolically, at the heart of the universe. The Forbidden City follows these rules, as it can clearly be seen that the focus of Palace architecture as well as that of the surrounding Beijing is south to north.The City is located in the center of Beijing, covering an area of 72 hectares. It is rectangular in shape, 960 meters long from north to sound and 750 meters wide from east to west. There is a 10-meter-high wall surrounding the City, which is also encircled by a 52-meter-wide moat. It is here that brick was used for the first time in the building of city walls in China. At each corner of the wall is a three-storied watchtower. Within its walls are more than 9,000 buildings and 9,999 rooms, the number nine having been deemed to be the luckiest of numbers. In fact, the number nine plays a vital role throughout the Forbidden City. For instance, each of the city's four watchtowers is supported by nine beams and 18 pillars, and the roof of each has three layers of eaves, 72 ridges and a central gilded spire. The main palace buildings, are built in a symmetrical array, representative of the acme of China's...

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