The Palace of Earthly Tranquility was used as the bridal chamber for the emperors and empresses during Qing Dynasty. It was closed for visit as I was only allowed to see it through a glass window.
The signboard was written as:
" This hall was first constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty and was later rebuilt in 1655 during the Qing Dynasty as a copy Qing Ning Gong (Palace of Peace and Tranquility) in Shenyang (Liaoning Province). The hall symbolizes Manchu architectural style with its gate on the eastern side rather than in the middle. It was renovated in 1798. It is nine bays wide and three bays deep. This hall has double eaves and a wudian (thatched hall) style roof covered with yellow glazed tiles.
During the Ming Dynasty, this hall was the residence of the empresses. After the rebel peasants army led by Li Zicheng, captured Beijing in 1644, Emperor Chongzhen's empress hung herself in this hall. The two rooms on the eastern side were imperial bridal suites. Emperor Kangxi, Emperor Tongzhi, Emperor Guangxu and the last Emperor Pu Yi lived in this hall after they married, before moving to other halls. The four rooms on the western side are the sacrificial shrines where there are ring-shaped pits for holding the statues of gods and cauldrons for cooking sacrificial meat. The rooms enshrine statues of Sakyamuni, the Goddess of Mercy, Lord Guan and other Mongolian gods.
Traditionally, Qian Qing Gong (Palace of Heavenly Purity) and Kun Ning Gong were where the emperor and empress slept. "Qian Qing" and "Kung Ning" mean that the "sky is clear, and the earth is peaceful", implying that the emperor would rule the country forever. "
NEXT: Imperial Garden
In Chinese: 坤宁宫 (Kun Ning Gong)
The Hall of Union is located between the Palace of Heavenly Purity and Palace of Earthly Tranquility. This square building has similar architecture as the Hall of Central Harmony. This was also a ceremonial site. Great photo opportunity this building together with the Palace of Heavenly Purity. Don't miss beautiful golden rooftop with ancient light, and the golden door knobs.
The signboard was written as:
" This hall was constructed from 1522 to 1566during the Ming Dynasty and was rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty. This square hall is three bays wide and three bays deeps with single eaves and pyramid-shaped roofs on the floor corners. Each roof has a gold-plated top similar to but smaller than that of Zhong He Dian (Hall of Central Harmony). In the center of the hall, there is a throne, behind which hangs a board inscribed with words written by Emperor Kangxi, meaning "doing nothing." Below the board, there is a screen with an inscription by Emperor Qianlong, on the left side is a copper clepsydra (a kind of ancient Chinese water clock), and on the right side is a bell . In the Qing Dynasty a yearly grand ceremony was held here on the empress' birthday, the lunar New Year and the Winter Solstice. In 1748, Emperor Qianlong placed 25 jade seals, symbolizing imperial power, in this hall. On the "Day of Opening Up Treasures" in the first lunar month, the emperor held a grand ceremony.
The words "Jiao Tai" come from The Book of Changes and mean the union of heaven and earth. Hence, Jiao Tai Hall is situated between Qian Qing Gong (Palace of Heavenly Purity) and Kun Ning Gong (Hall of Earthly Tranquility). "
NEXT: Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunning Palace)
In Chinese: 交泰殿 (Jiao Tai Dian)
Hall of Central Harmony is the resting place for the emperor before any ceremonies. It is located in the center between Hall of Supreme Harmony and Hall of Preserving Harmony.
The signboard was written as:
" First constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, Zhong He Dian was destroyed and reconstructed several times over the centuries. The existing hall was constructed in 1627 during the Ming Dynasty. in the early Ming Dynasty, this hall was called Hua Gai Dian (Hall of Over Whelming Glory) but was renamed Zhong Ji Dian (Hall of Central Extremity) in 1562 and Zhong He Dian in 1645 during Qing Dynasty. The square building has a single pyramid-shaped roof, with a gold plated bronze covering. The floor is paved with high-quality square clay bricks, commonly known as "golden bricks." A throne is placed in the center of the hall and a board hangs above the throne with inscription written by Emperor Qianlong. The inscription reads: "Yun Zhi Jue Zhong" meaning "The Way of Heaven is profound and mysterious and the way of mankind is difficult. Only if we make a precise and unified plan and follow the doctrine of the mean, can we rule the country well."
This hall served as a resting place for the emperor on his way to attend an important ceremony or hold court. Officials kowtowed to the emperor here. The day before the emperor held a sacrificial ceremony he would read the prayer tablet aloud in this hall. Before offering sacrifices at the Altar of the God of Agriculture, the emperor examined ceremonial farm tools here. After the revision of the imperial pedigree, which was revised once every ten years, the emperor read the pedigree out loud and held a grand ceremony at the hall. The words "Zhong He" come from the Book of Rites, meaning " When we handle matters properly and harmoniously without leaning the either side, all things on earth will flourish."
NEXT: Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohe Hall)
In Chinese: 中和殿 (Zhong He Dian)
There are several items that were displays around Hall of Supreme Harmony. Each of these items have significant beliefs from the ancient emperor, and the customs of the Imperial Palace.
1) Stone Stairway- The middle stairway of Hall of Supreme Harmony has a giant slop stone curved with dragons represented the capability of God, and the power of the emperor. Only the emperor can walk by the stairway.
2) Incense Burner- Total 18 incense burners were built during Emperor Qianlong's reign. It was used to burn sandalwood and pine branches during ceremonies. The 18 incense burners represent 18 states as ancient important ritual wares.
3) Grain Measure- " The grain measure is a standard measure of ancient China, and consists of five units; hu, dou, sheng, he and yue. The upper part of the large container in the middle is hu, and the lower part, dou; the container on the left is sheng; and the upper part of the container is he; and the lower part is yue. The grain measure was made in 1744 (the ninth year of the Qianlong reign period, in imitation of those of the Wang Mang reign of the Han Dynasty. Cast in bronze, the grain measure is plated with gold, and bears as inscription by Emperor Qianlong. The placing of the grain measure in front of the hall indicates that emperor designated weights and measures to unify the country." (Note from signboard).
4) Sundial- " Round in shape, this sundial is made of white marble stone, with graduations on both side. The gnomons are made of iron, and placed vertical to the dial. The square base of the dial is supported by four stone pillars. The dial is located on a base obliquely, parrallel with the equator. The gnomons point to the North and South Poles, respectively. The sundial is a device which during hours of sunlight indicates the time by a shadow cast by a gnomon on a dial marked in hours. The placing of the sundial in front of the hall symbolized that the emperor had the highest power to grant time to all the people in the country." (Note from Signboard)
5) Copper & Iron Vats- "Copper and iron vats were part of the fire-fighting equipment in the palace. 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 oldest vats were cast during the Hongzhi reign period (1488-1505) of the Ming Dynasty. Each of the Ming Dynasty vats has two iron rings, ancient, simple and nature. The Qing Dynasty vats had two beast-shaped bronze rings, a big belly and small mouth. " (Note from Signboard).
6) Bronze Tortoise and Crane- These spiritual animals symbolize luck and longevity in Chinese culture.
NEXT: Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghe Hall)
The Hall of Martial Valor is located west of the Gate of Supreme Harmony. It was my second stop before I visited the Gate of Supreme Harmony. The beauty about this hall is the river flow from the Golden River Bridges in front of the Gate of Supreme Harmony pass through this hall. So, there are bridges in front of the Hall of Martial Valor. The back of the Hall of Martial Valor is the Hall of Respect and Thinking (Jinsidian).
In the early Ming dynasty, this was the place where the emperors lived and worked. Later, it moved to the Hall of Literary Glory, east side of the Gate of Supreme Harmony. At the end of Ming dynasty, Li Zicheng, the peasant rebel leader, set up his regime here when Beijing was under attacked. Then, during Qing Army's control, Duoergun, a regent, was working here as his office, and small scale ceremonies and religion rituals were held here.
NEXT: Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihe Gate)
In Chinese: 武英殿 (Wu Ying Dian)
"Take the grand red city wall for example. It has an 8.6 meters wide base reducing to 6.66 meters wide at the top. The angular shape of the wall totally frustrates attempts to climb it. The bricks were made from white lime and glutinous rice while the cement is made from glutinous rice and egg whites. These incredible materials make the wall extraordinarily strong."
I read this in Travelchinaguide.
Would you imagine? Rice and eggs! And no one tried to bite the wall!
I always wanted to visit the Forbidden City because it was ...well...forbidden...but I never expected it to be taken so seriously! While back in the day it may have been forbidden for an average Joe...err...Li...like myself to enter times have changed and anyone paying the admission price can enter the Forbidden City. However I came on a special day when some high and mighty dignitary was visiting and all the tourists where herded away from the main attractions with ropes so the special bigwig could have a private tour. I was forbidden to visit the rest of the city until their tour was finished and armed guards from the Chinese army made sure of this. The plus side was I got my picture taken next to a visibly annoyed guard.
That aside my visit was amazing! The Forbidden City seems to go on forever and there is much to see and do. The ancient Chinese architecture is on full display here and the city is laid out as perfectly and symmetrically as Paris. It was easy to get lost both physcially and mentally as I felt like I had been transported into a different time and place. Visiting the Forbidden City demands at least three or four hours to properly experience it and so I would recommend an early start. I would recommend visiting from the southern entrance and working your way to the northern exit where you can visit a park that is across the street and has point where you can view the Forbidden City from above.
A very serious advice:
Pay attention to every detail of the explanation done by our guide (person or book), during the visit: that way you will find out that "peace and harmony" is the dominant concept all across the place. You will visit doors, palaces and halls of all kinds of peace and harmony: Supreme harmony, preserving harmony, Heavenly peace, terrestrial peace, central harmony...
Take a lot of pictures to document, all the differences (?) among them.
Back home sort them carefully, and find out that... you are lost. For us, western people, everything is so similar that all the descriptions become... words.
So, mix your pictures, and find the harmony resulting from that mess.
That's the forbidden city: a beautiful big old city (with harmony) whose details are only for expert's eyes.
Well, finally it comes to the end of Forbidden City after the Well of Concubine Zhen. I left the far east palace of Forbidden City, turned left passing through a long wall with trees to reach Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwu Men) and exit The Forbidden City. When I left the Forbidden City, I felt release from some kind of stress. And I saw the beautiful Jingshan Mountain, and enjoyed seeing the sunset views at the water canals on both side of the gate. Imagine how difficult for people who lived and worked inside the Forbidden City in the ancient time without leaving the palace for their entire life!!
Gate of divine Prowess is the main gate at the north of Forbidden City. It was built in 1420. During Ming Dynasty, it was called the "Xuanwumen， 玄武门". It named after a divine animals of ancient time, the Black Tortoise (the seven mansions of the north sky) 玄武。During Qing Dynasty, to avoid reiteration with name of Emperor Kangxi, whose name was Xuanye 玄烨, the gate's name had changed to Shenwumen, 神武门 untill today. In 1924, feudalistic period Emperor Pu Yi was expelled out of Forbidden City through this gate.
In Chinese: 神武门 (Shen Wu Men)
Duanmen is the gate between Tian'anman Gate and Wumen Gate (Meridian Gate). It was established in 1420 as one of the main gates for the royal palace in Qing Dynasty and Forbidden City in Ming Dynasty.
Currently, the main hall for the gate is the exhibition of previous emperors' history and profiles, and exhibition of Calligraphy and Painting masterpieces. You can't really see much of the views from this gates because they have fenced up the outside corridor.
In Chinese: 端门 (Duan Men)
This was the home of the emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It is the largest palace complex in the world with some 999 rooms and multiple thrones. It was last lived in by Puyi, the last Emperor of China.
The palace is entered through a series of gates each with 9 rows of 9 door nails. There are numerous incense burners and guardian lions decorating the courtyards. In addition, as gold is the color of the emperor, the roofs here are all painted thus.
The Hall of Supreme Harmony is the central building and is where the emporer met foreign dignataries as well as officials from throughout nthe realm.
The Forbidden City today is a UNESCO world Heritage site and maintains a museum of artefacts, mostly from the qing Dynasty (17th Century-1911). Admission is charges and one can also rent headsets describing what one sees.
I allowed myself a whole day for my visit to the Forbidden City and what time was left over I just wanted to spend walking around this amazing place.When I first arrived in Beijing I was a little perplexed as my knowledge of the language was minimal and my main worry was always getting back to my hostel again!!! but..I shouldn't have worried at all as I always made sure that I had cards..The day I chose to visit the Forbidden City was a sunny day and reasonably clear skies. so, a taxi was the order of the day took me exactly where I wanted to go to..The Forbidden City itself is a somewhat foreboding place..the public were forbiddento access this city for over five centuries and to do so was at the cost of your life.This is the largest amount of such well preserved ancient buildings in one situation anywhere in China...and one is more than mesmerised by its enormity ...The local groups of Chinese all have the same coloured baseball caps and follow a leader holding the group or company flag high blowing his whistle keeping the flock togeather...amazing..but I imagine this has to be done due to the huge crowds here visiting the city.
To be a westerner here on your own here is an attention magnet as I found so many Chinese girls asking if they could have their photo taken with this strange traveller.!!! To walk around here is also to be aware that you are walking in some very violent peoples footsteps..I was glad that I allowed myself so much time here which was most of the day as I beleive it was needed although enthusiasts will need many days here....
One of the major attractions is the Forbidden City.
Our group of five took three hours just to go though the centre of the City.We didn't venture to the sides.
It was stunning to see. Our guide Li was a book of information and by the end you couldn't remember it all.
It seemed it went on on on.starting at the entrance you go though three courtyards bfore you even get to the palace.
If you go with a guide make sure your not rushed through. We had our guide go at our pace.
We walked outside east of the Forbidden City. It was a long walk, but It has fantastic views of the walls and the gates.
Main streets that you can walk around to enjoy those views:
Jingshan Front St (North)
Beichizi St (East)
Beichang St (West)
Donghuamen Road (South)
There are four gates around the wall:
Gate of Divine Might (North) - 神武门 (Shen Wu Men)
East Glorious Gate (East) - 东华门 (Dong Hua Men)
Wast Glorious gate (West) - 西华门 (Xi Hua Men)
Maridian Gate (South) -午门 (We Men)
There are four pavilions at each corners. It called "Jiaolou" 角楼 means corner pavilion.
Riding a bike would be a great fun to see outside Forbidden City.
North Gate of Forbidden City is the main entrance. Walk through Tianamen Square and head towards Chairman Mao's portrait - you cannot cross the road and have to use the underground walkway.
Entrance fee 60rmbs (8.30am – 4pm) – allow 3 hours to visit.
The queues to buy the tickets are huge as there are hundreds of people all lining up to do the same thing you're here to do!! You may get approached by ticket scalpers who walk up and down the queues offering to sell you entry tickets - at approx 10 rmb more than the entry fee -we were hesitant in doing this as felt it may be illegal and were concerned the tickets might have been counterfeit.
The Forbidden City was a humongous site - you have to see it to believe it. I was disappointed not to be able to enter any of the buildings - you can look through doorways but not allowed to enter. The highlight of this visit had to be the Imperial Gardens, they were amazing and our first sighting of the Cherry blossoms was awesome. I didn't feel a great connection with this place - it felt very concrete-e and obviously extremely crowded - it was one of our must see location but all three of us were slightly disappointed. The souvenir shops were very reasonably priced.