China celebrates 600 years of the Forbidden City
December 1, 2020 - Beijing’s Forbidden City, so-named because commoners were forbidden to enter, was home to 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for five centuries, and has since served as a public museum. All aspects of the design, in the imperial colours of yellow and crimson, were intended to project the pre-eminence of the emperor. Construction was completed in December 1420.
Laid out by Emperor Yongle between 1406 and 1420 with the help of more than a million labourers, the Forbidden City is the world’s largest palace complex, consisting of 980 surviving buildings covering 720,000 square metres. It is separated from the rest of Beijing by a 52-metre moat and 10-metre wall, with gate towers guarding its entrances.
The palace is not just a collection of buildings. It is actually a huge museum housing China’s largest collection of imperial treasures, including the emperor’s superb Dragon Throne and Buddhas bedecked with almost every precious metal and gemstone imaginable.
The Hall of Supreme Harmony, the biggest and most important structure of the palace, was the centre of the imperial court. Inside, the throne is guarded by two luduan (mythical beasts who can detect if a person is lying).
The emperor resided in the Palace of Heavenly Purity until the mid-Qing dynasty when it became an audience hall in which ambassadors and other luminaries were received.
The Imperial Garden was designed as a place of relaxation for the emperor, with a fanciful arrangement of trees, fish ponds, flower beds, and sculpture.
After six centuries, during which the vast complex endured fire and conflict, natural disaster and periodic neglect, the Forbidden City has now been adopted by China’s leaders as a proud symbol of the nation’s history and culture, with money lavished on its restoration and preservation.
It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 in recognition of its importance as the centre of Chinese power for 500 years, as well as for its unparalleled architecture and its current role as the Palace Museum of dynastic art and history.
A range of cultural activities, including seminars, forums and exhibitions, have been organised to mark the 600th anniversary.