In the time of the emperors only the elite could enter the Forbidden City and only in the afternoon. At night, only the emperor himself, his concubines and eunuchs could be inside. The reason for this rule is simple: you had to be sure that the children of the emperor are the children of the emperor. Any man caught in the palace at night was given death.
Now the Forbidden City is no longer as forbidden as before. It is open to tourists, and can compete for the first place in the list of the most popular attractions of Beijing .
However, for Russian tourists the main goal in Beijing is the Great Wall of China . Forbidden city we know badly, and we will try to fix this state of affairs. We will tell about it all the most interesting - history, figures and facts, we will describe the most popular tourist routes and interesting buildings. Let's start with the title.
In Chinese Forbidden City is called "Zi Zhin Chen."
The first word "Z" translates as "purple", which, of course, has nothing to do with color. This reference to the "Purple Star", which we are accustomed to call the "Polar Star." In ancient Chinese astrology it was believed that this star is the residence of the Emperor of Heaven. The Emperor of China is the son of Heaven, and the Polar Star protects him. In this context, the word "Zi" can be translated as "Imperial".
The second word "Zhin" is translated as "forbid" or "forbidden". The third word "Chen" is translated as "a city surrounded by a wall".
The second name sounds like "Gugun", which translates as "The former palace". This name appeared in the early XX century, when the imperial power in China was deposed.
Forbidden City "in numbers"
The length of the Forbidden City is 961 meters, width - 753 meters. The total area is 72 hectares. On many pages on the Internet it is said that the Forbidden City is the largest palace complex in the world.
It is difficult to say from which figures this conclusion was drawn. If we consider the total area of the premises, then it is only 150,000 square meters. For example, in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, the area of the premises is 240,000 square meters. For this indicator, the Forbidden City is only in 8th place.
If we estimate the total area of the territory, then the Forbidden City is even further in the list of leaders. For example, the area of only the "lower park" of the Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg is 102 hectares, which is more than the entire Forbidden City.
Who and how has put the Forbidden City on the first place of a rating? Now no longer found, but there is a suspicion that this was done for advertising purposes.
The palace is surrounded by a fortress wall 10 meters high and 8.5 meters wide. Behind the wall is a moat width of 52 meters, its total length is 3800 meters. This moat is called "Golden Waters". In the corners of the Forbidden City there are 4 watchtowers (a wall, a moat and a tower look in the small photo gallery on the right). As you noticed, the Chinese emperors took literally the phrase "my house is my fortress".
However, in the history of the Forbidden City there was no situation when it had to be protected on the walls with weapons in hand. The captures of the Forbidden City were only three. The first time it took the rebels in 1644, then the Manchus in 1644, and for the last time in 1860 this included Anglo-French troops during the Second Opium War. All three times the Forbidden City surrendered without a fight, it's just that no one defended it.
Inside there are 980 buildings of different sizes. According to legend, the builder of the Forbidden City, Emperor Yongle ordered to organize 10,000 rooms. But in a dream, the Emperor of Heaven himself appeared to him and stated that there were 10,000 rooms in his palace, and the earthly ruler can not be equal to the ruler of Heaven. Yunle ordered to make less than 10 thousand rooms, and the builders made the ceiling of one of the rooms very low. It turned out that in the Forbidden City 9,999.5 rooms.
In fact, the rooms here are from 8 to 9 thousand. The exact figure depends on the methodology of counting. The official version of Chinese scientists is 8 704 rooms. The official version of the European encyclopedia - 8 886 rooms.
According to the official version, construction lasted 14 years - from 1406 to 1420. However, in the ancient chronicle there is such a record: "Construction began on the 15th year of the Yongle era," that is, the construction began in 1417, and the whole process took 3.5 years. All the rest of the time was spent on the extraction and transportation of building materials.
Many historians argue with this, arguing that it was impossible to build such a large complex of buildings in 3.5 years. We hope that in the future some new sources will be available to us, and we will learn the truth.
Bloody history of the Forbidden City
Until the middle of the 14th century, on the site of modern Beijing was the city of Khanbalyk, which was the capital of China under the Yuan dynasty. The emperors of the Yuan dynasty were Mongols, and Khan Khubilai, the grandson of Genghis Khan, founded it.
The city of Khanbalyk was built by the best architects of China and Central Asia. His luxurious imperial palaces became famous far beyond China, but did not last long. The Yuan Dynasty rules less than 100 years.
The emperors of Yuan too much took a great interest in Chinese culture, and the steppe tribes ceased to recognize their "own" in them. On the other hand, the Chinese themselves continued to regard them as enslavers. Having lost support, the Yuan dynasty fell as a result of a major liberation uprising of the Red Bandages. The rebels took the city of Khanbalyk in 1368.
The leader of the rebels Zhu Yuanzhang became the first emperor of the new Ming dynasty. On the left you see a shot from the series "The Emperor", which narrates about these terrible events for China. The series was shown on Chinese television in 2008.
Zhu Yuanzhang almost completely wiped Khanbalyk from the face of the earth. Imperial palaces were looted and destroyed. It is on their grounds that the Forbidden City will subsequently be built. The city of Khanbalyk was renamed to Beypin, which translates as "the pacified north" or "calm north", and the capital was moved south to the city of Nanjing.
Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang had 26 sons. We will not talk about all of them now, only two of us are interested. The first son of the Empress Zhu Biao was heir to the throne, he lived at the court in Nanjing.
Younger sons, by tradition, were appointed to lead small provincial provinces to "not get underfoot". The fourth son of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang and Empress Ma was called Zhu Di, he became the ruler of the northern region of Yan with his capital in Beypin.
Arriving in Beypin, Zhu Dee found the city in a deplorable state - raging hunger and epidemics, and the whole region suffered from raids by the Mongols and other nomads.
Zhu Di showed himself to be an active administrator and general. He defeated the Mongols, strengthened the Great Wall of China, established the lives of people. In all this he was helped by his father-in-law Xu Yes, Zhu Di himself was very young then. On the right, you see a photo of the bronze statue of Emperor Zhu Di near his tomb near Beijing.
Most importantly, Zhu Di gained deep respect and support from the people of Yan province, and these lands became his reliable stronghold in the future.
Meanwhile, in 1392 an unpleasant event happened in the capital - the first son of the emperor and the heir Zhu Biao died, while the emperor Zhu Yuanzhang himself was still alive. The elder son of Zhu Biao and grandson of Zhu Yuanzhang, Prince Zhu Yunwen, were appointed heir. He became heir at the age of 10.
In 1398, the Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang himself died and the 16-year-old Zhu Yunwen ascended the throne. Zhu Di went from Beypin to Nanjing to mourn his father and participate in the funeral. Zhu Di went with a large detachment of soldiers, but the way he blocked the imperial troops. Zhu Di did not become involved in the fight, because his three sons were in the capital as hostages. Zhu Di stepped back, but only for a while.
The new emperor Zhu Yunwen did not make independent decisions, he was ruled by other people. Immediately after the accession, repression began. The persecution of the sons of the former emperor, Uncle Zhu Yunwen, began. Some were demoted to commoners, some were forced to commit suicide, some were sent into exile.
Zhu Di cheated - pretended to be sick, and then portrayed insanity. Under the pretext of having to say goodbye to his father, his sons were sent to him from the capital. Hostages were at large, and Zhu Di did not have any obstacles on his way to power.
In 1399, Zhu Dee states to the whole country that the Emperor Zhu Yunwen acts under the pressure of evil advisers and demands the resignation of all ministers. Naturally, Zhu Yunwen's advisers did not go for it, and a full-fledged civil war began, which went down in history as a "Jinan military company."
No one wanted to fight for Emperor Zhu Yunwen, and already in 1402 Zhu Di troops approached Nanking. They did not have to take the city by storm, the locals opened the gates to them. The Imperial Palace burned down completely, and the Emperor Zhu Yunwen died on fire with his wife and newborn son. Who knows, if there was not this fire, then the Forbidden City might not have been built.
Since the emperor died, Zhu Di declared himself a new emperor, he declared a new era of "Yongle", which translates as "Eternal happiness." Every emperor of China declared his epoch, and we know many Chinese emperors precisely by the name of the epoch, and not by the real name. In particular, our hero is more often called "Emperor Yongle".
Now many readers have concluded that Zhu Di was a noble ruler, overthrew a tyrant and freed the country from repression. Nothing like this! He launched a new wave of terror.
Zhu Dee did not inherit the throne, but usurped power. Many did not recognize him as a legitimate emperor. He immediately executed all those who doubted and all who could somehow prevent him. We said that the previous young emperor died in a fire with his wife and second son, but he also had the first son, whose name had not been preserved by the story. This son was imprisoned and lived in prison for 55 years of his life.
The local intelligentsia, the Confucian scholars, suffered most of all. One of them tried to kill Zhu Di, this was the chief censor named Jin Qin. At one of the sessions, he attacked Zhu Di with a knife, but was defused by the guards. After this attempt of repression, the character of this "hell" was accepted.
All scientists who did not recognize the legality of the power of Zhu Dee were killed with their families. Zhu Di did not regret women or children. In the history came the scientist Hang Xiaoru, who refused to write a laudatory ode to the new emperor. His family was executed before the 10th tribe. That is, his family, all cousins, cousins and so on. In total, 873 people were executed in his case! Such a terrible terror the history of China did not know before Zhu Dee, and after this did not happen again.
The second group that suffered was the eunuchs of the previous emperors, almost all of them were killed. Only some eunuchs managed to escape in time. The victims of Zhu Dee's repressions are not exactly calculated now, but the bill goes to hundreds of thousands of people.
By 1403, Zhu Di realized that his efforts were in vain. No matter how many people he executed, he is not recognized as a legitimate emperor in Nanjing. He feels a danger here, but to leave the capital means to admit defeat. He decides to move the capital to Beypin, where he is loved by the population, and he is ready to recognize the emperor. Beypin becomes the capital and is renamed Bejin, which translates as "the northern capital". Officially, the decision to move the capital was made on the 13th day of the 1st lunar month in 1403.
In the new Beijing there is no imperial palace, and Zhu Di starts the most ambitious construction in his life - the Forbidden City. By the way, nails were not used in China at that time. Just like in Russia, special junctions were used here (in the photo on the left).
Already at the beginning of construction, the fate of the Forbidden City and Zhu Di himself was "hanging by a thread". Tamerlane himself moved to China, he led the world's strongest army, and his goal was northern China and Beijing. Fortunately for the Chinese, Tamerlane died at the very beginning of the campaign, and the war did not take place.
Construction began with the procurement of building materials. The Forbidden City began to build on the site of the old palaces of the Emperors Yuan, and some of the materials were taken from the ruins of these structures. Of course, this was not enough.
The palace was built of the best and most expensive materials. For wooden buildings, a tree nanma was chosen - the most valuable species of wood. By that time, this tree could only be found in pristine forests in the western provinces of the country. Most of such timber was mined in Sichuan.
In these forests lived leopards and other predators, in abundance were poisonous snakes and insects. Many workers died from injuries and illnesses. Chronicles describe the extraction of wood nananu so: "the mountains took 1000 people, and returned only 500". Thousands of people died on these preparations.
Delivery of logs was carried out along rivers, interfering with fishing and forcing many Chinese people to starve.
Now you will not see these buildings from the tree nanmu. The Forbidden City burned many times, and it was rebuilt. In the course of reconstruction, less valuable timber was used.
The stone was a little easier. Marble was mined in the southwest of Beijing, the local quarries are still working. But for the Forbidden City, not only small stones, but also giant monoliths were required.
For example, in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony is a stone 16.5 meters long, 3 meters wide and 1.7 meters thick. Its weight is 250 tons. It strikes the imagination of tourists with its size and a stunning bas-relief with dragons (pictured right). Many guides say that it is still unknown how it could be delivered to the Forbidden City. In fact, the construction of the Forbidden City was well documented, and we know exactly how it was brought here.
From the quarry of Fangshan to the Forbidden City, a 70-kilometer long road ran. A well was dug along this road every 50 meters. In the autumn, before the cold weather all the way, water was poured from these wells. When frosts came, the road just froze and turned into a huge ice rink. On this rink a 250-ton piece of marble was taken to the Forbidden City. Transportation took 28 days.
Stone dragged 20 000 workers and 10 000 mules, which can be considered quite plausible figure. A total of 100,000 workers and 60,000 soldiers worked in the quarries. Notice, what an unusual ratio - 1 soldier per 2 workers. Probably, prisoners worked at the quarries.
In total about 1 000 000 workers of different specialties took part in the construction. If you take all loggers, rockets, loaders and riggers, masters of different specialties, then the figure looks quite plausible. For comparison, the pyramid of Cheops was built by 100,000 people, a figure given to us by the historian Herodotus. Modern reconstructions and models show that the builders of the Egyptian pyramids were no more than 30,000 people.
The Forbidden City became an architectural masterpiece of its time. Its base consists of fifteen layers of stone, which prevented the possibility of undermining. Under the base is a system of pipes for steam heating.
All sources of open fire were taken outside the Forbidden City for fire safety purposes. Only in the imperial kitchen (pictured left) was allowed to use fire. However, these measures did not save the palace from numerous fires.
While construction was underway, the emperor did not have to sit idle. The threat of the Mongols and other nomads persisted. Emperor Zhu Dee twice crossed the Great Wall of China with the army to end this problem.
During this period, another grandiose construction of Zhu Di began. In 1407 the Emperor's beloved wife, Empress Xu, died. Zhu Di thought about life after death and organized an expedition to the outskirts of Beijing in order to find the perfect place for the future tomb for himself and his wife. Thus appeared the valley of the Ming dynasty tombs , which we also recommend to tourists to visit. There is the tomb of the Emperor Zhu Di (Yongle), but it is still sealed. But another tomb of Emperor Wanli has been opened, it is accessible for visiting.
In 1421 the construction of the Forbidden City was completed. In honor of this event, a large amnesty was declared. All the prisoners who worked on the project were given freedom. Free workers were exempt from taxes.
One more interesting legend relates to the fate of the Forbidden City. The emperor summoned an official named Hu, who knew how to predict the future. Zhu Dee (Yongle) asked the official to predict the future of the Forbidden City. Hu replied that on the 8th day of the 4th month of the following year, a fire would occur in the Forbidden City. The Emperor was angry and ordered Hu to be imprisoned, promising that he would execute him if the fire did not happen.
In the academic community this legend is not believed, but the official Hu is considered a fictional character. But the fire itself in 1423 is a historical fact, lightnings struck the main pavilions of the Forbidden City.
For us - people of the 21st century there is nothing mystical about this, but for the ancient Chinese this meant a lot. We have already said that Zhu Di (Yongle) was a usurper of the throne. Lightnings were a punishment for Heaven - proof of his illegal power. For the emperor, it was a blow, he fell into a depression. Already in 1424, during the next campaign against the Mongols, Zhu Di (Yongle) died. The cause of death is called a heart attack.
The Forbidden City took thousands of lives, and its last victim was its builder - Emperor Zhu Di (Yongle).
Another 500 years before 1912, the Forbidden City was the main residence of the Chinese emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. There were intrigues, fires, buildings rebuilt and changed their functions. We will talk about all this later on in the course of this article.
How to get there
Read our article " Forbidden City: Where to Find and How to Get There "
The main entrance to the Forbidden City is on its southern side. You will enter inside from the Tiananmen Square . The trip to the Forbidden City is convenient to combine with visiting other attractions of Tiananmen Square.
The first thing we recommend is to go to the mausoleum of Mao Zedong , since it works in the morning from 8-00 to 12-00. You can also watch the National Museum of China or the Hall of the People . But we want to warn you that the National Museum is very large, and if you want to see it all, there will not be enough time to visit the Forbidden City. One day may be enough to inspect all these attractions, but only in the "gallop over Europe" mode.
How much does the ticket cost
From November to March: 40 yuan per visitor.
From April to October: 60 Chinese yuan per visitor.
For entrance to some buildings may be charged an additional fee of 10 yuan.
It is curious that for two visitors here are given not two tickets, but one double ticket. You can see it in the photo on the right. Why is this done? We do not understand.
From 8:30 am to 16:30 pm from November to March. From 8:30 am to 7:00 pm from April to October.
On Mondays, the Forbidden City is closed to visitors, except in the following cases:
Before visiting the Forbidden City
Inside it is forbidden to have matches or lighters, such are the requirements of fire safety. If you have an expensive lighter, then leave it in the hotel room. If you use cheap, then prepare to part with it forever.
Remember that you should not try to touch something with your hands and, especially, try to break off a piece of the Forbidden City for yourself to remember. Inside, you will not see policemen or guards, but that does not mean that they are not there. They just work in civilian clothes. If you look closely, they can be distinguished from ordinary tourists. See the photo on the right.
If you go to watch the Forbidden City in the summer, then stock up on the water, because there are no cafe, restaurants, or shops inside. If you go in autumn or winter, then dress warmly, to hide from the cold inside almost nowhere.
What is the time to plan for a visit?
It depends on what program you want to see The Forbidden City. There are several options:
1. Inspection of only the buildings of the central axis - 1-2 hours.
2. Inspection of the buildings of the central axis and some interesting adjoining buildings - 3-4 hours.
3. Visiting the entire Forbidden City - all day
We will not describe the visit of the entire Forbidden City, since it will be uninteresting for a long time and the overwhelming majority of tourists. We will focus only on the first two options.
On the left you see a map where we indicated the most interesting buildings by numbers. Objects on the central axis are numbered from 1 to 10. Additional interesting places from 11 to 14.
Inspection of buildings of the central axis
This is the most popular tourist program, so the Forbidden City is watched by 95% of tourists. Along the way you will see the 9 main buildings of the palace and the imperial garden.
The noon gate (or the gates of Woomen) (1)
In total in the Forbidden City there are four gates. Only one of them is used to enter the visitors - this is the southern gate. In all times of the Forbidden City's existence, they were used as the main entrance to the palace.
The gates have five doors - three in the center and two doors at the sides. The side doors were used by the maintenance staff, and now they are closed. Of the three central doors, the right was used by officials, the left members of the imperial family, and through the central large door only the emperor himself could pass, but there were two exceptions.
The first exception was made only for the Empress and only once - on the day of the wedding. The second exception was made once in several years for the winners of the imperial exam. Tourists we recommend to pass through the central door. Feel yourself emperor.
Tourists should pay attention to the rivets on the doors. In total, there are 9 rows of rivets and 9 columns (you can count yourself on the photo in the gallery on the right). 9 is the lucky number of the emperor, and in the Forbidden City you will meet him constantly.
The noonday gates shake with their size - they are 35 meters high, which is equivalent to an 11-storey house. At the top there are 5 towers, which are called "towers of the phoenix." The whole design really reminds this mythical bird.
On the edges of the central tower were installed the main bells and drums of Beijing. The bells rang every year, announcing the departure of the emperor to the Temple of Heaven , the drums were beaten when the emperor left for the Temple of the Ancestors. At the most important ceremonies, the bells and drums sounded simultaneously, informing about the coronation or the wedding of the emperor.
The noonday gates were the place of "communication" between power and the world. Here, new laws were officially declared, the emperor greeted the subjects on holidays, took parades and looked at the punishments of the guilty officials.
Gates of Supreme Harmony (Taihimen) (2)
After the noonday gates you will reach a large square - the Outside Court of the Forbidden City. There is a water channel "Inner Golden River", through which five bridges are directed. The rules of passage through these bridges were completely analogous to the rules of the doors at the Midday Gate.
This channel had several functions. The first is the source of water in case of a fire, the second is a natural barrier for attackers in the event of an attack on the Forbidden City. Tourists should pay attention to the balustrades of bridges, decorated with figures of dragons and phoenixes - symbols of the emperor.
Another interesting point in this square, which is worth paying attention to, is the bricks of the pavement. These bricks are made by special technology, they produce a pleasant ringing sound when you step on them. This property of covering the square has almost disappeared, but in some places this sound can still be heard.
The main attraction of the square is two giant bronze lions. The right lion holds a sphere under the paw, symbolizing the authority of the emperor, which extends to the whole world. The left lioness holds a lion cub under the paw, symbolizing the well-being and fertility of the imperial family. The Chinese believe that such lions guard the house from evil spirits and attract the good. Naturally, these lions are the largest in China.
Behind the lions are the Gates of Supreme Harmony themselves. The name "gate" is a convention, in reality, it is a real pavilion. It was used in all cases when someone did not want to be allowed to go further, but a meeting with the emperor was necessary. For example, the receptions of foreign ambassadors or the imperial court.
Hall of Supreme Harmony (Tayhidian) (3)
Passing through the Gates of Supreme Harmony, you will reach the largest square in the Forbidden City - 30,000 square meters. Behind it rises the Hall of Supreme Harmony - the main building of the Forbidden City.
This is the "heart" of the Forbidden City. It was here that the emperor received officials and generals, here all the most important ceremonies and celebrations were held. The hall is on a marble base in three tiers. Upward, two large staircases lead. In the center there is a marble slab weighing 250 tons, which we already told above, decorated with bas-reliefs with phoenixes and dragons.
The height of the building is 37.5 meters, and for a long time the Hall of Supreme Harmony was the tallest building in Beijing. The law was forbidden to build buildings above it. When you look at the Hall of Supreme Harmony, it does not even occur to the idea that this building is a tall one with a 12-storey house.
The traditional architecture of China has never sought to gigantism. The harmony of size, shape and content is the main goal of the ancient Chinese architects. And, to be honest, they did it perfectly.
Some sites on the Internet write that the Hall of Supreme Harmony is the largest wooden building in the world. Of course, this is not so. Stadium "Odate Zhukai House" in Japan has a height of 52 meters and an area of 25,000 square meters. In comparison with him, the Hall of Supreme Harmony is a baby.
Even before the Hall of Supreme Harmony, tourists will see many interesting things. Pay attention to the huge water tanks - another measure of fire safety. Still here are the main sundials in the Forbidden City. Also here you can see very interesting stone columns, similar to the lights, which served as a repository of measurement standards and weights.
The Hall of Supreme Harmony is 64 meters in width and 37.2 meters in depth, the area is 2381 square meters. The roof is held by 72 columns - 6 rows of 9 pieces. Notice, and here the number 9 is used - a symbol of the imperial power.
Inside is the main imperial throne. It is called the Throne of Supreme Harmony. Tourists find it difficult to look at it, because the interior is dark. In the Hall of Supreme Harmony, more than four doors are rarely opened, and there is not enough light. The central door is opened very rarely, and the throne has to be viewed at an angle. In addition, at this angle, the throne is blocked by columns. In the photo on the right you can see how sad it looks.
There are a lot of people who want to see the throne, and there is still a need to "break through" to the open doors. On weekdays, this is quite possible, but on a day off - it's an epic exploit. Hence the conclusion: do not go to the Forbidden City on weekends and holidays. At the weekend in Beijing, it is better to go to the Wangfujing or Malindao markets or walk through the shopping centers of the Sidan district. Cultural attractions these days are always crowded with visitors.
In addition to the throne, inside you can see six gilded columns decorated with bas-reliefs with dragons. These columns are seen a little better (see the photo on the right). On the roof directly above the throne is a large golden dragon playing with a pearl. There is a legend that if someone usurps the throne, then this pearl will fall on him and crush to death. This dragon is very difficult to see the tourists, and even more so to photograph.
Hall of Central Harmony (Jonheedian) (4)
This is a small building with a pyramid-shaped roof. This room served for the rest of the emperor and dressing before the ceremonies. Inside also there is a throne, but much more modest than the Throne of Supreme Harmony. The hall was often used as the place of conversations of the emperor with the approached ministers and generals.
Inscriptions near the throne read: "The path of Heaven is deep and mysterious, but the way of mankind is complicated. Only if you draw up an accurate and unified plan and follow it, then you can rule the country well. " These words here left the Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty. He knew what he was talking about, because he ruled the country for 60 years.
Hall of Preserved Harmony (Baohedian) (5)
This is the last building of the "outer palace" - the working part of the Forbidden City. After it you will get into the "inner palace" - the residence of the emperor and his family.
The Hall of Preserved Harmony had many functions. During the Qing Dynasty, he most often served as a banquet hall. In the Ming epoch, it served as a place for preparing the empress and princes for ceremonies.
In appearance, it is similar to the Hall of Supreme Harmony, but of a smaller size. Inside also there is an imperial throne, and also smaller.
All these three halls stand on a single basis of three tiers. If, during your visit to the Forbidden City, it rains, then do not be immediately upset. This is a good opportunity to look at the amazing drainage system. Tourists notice the stone heads of a dragon at the base, and it seems that this is just a decoration, but these are the outlets of pipes that bring water down. In total there are 1412 such dragon heads.
Gate of Heavenly Purity (Ciancinmen) (6)
These gates divide the inner and outer parts of the palace. They themselves do not cause much interest among tourists, since they represent a small copy of the Gate of Heavenly Harmony.
Interest is another pair of lions made of bronze, but already gilded. Their main distinguishing feature is their ears are omitted, and these are the only such lions in the Forbidden City. Why are they exactly like that? A mystery that historians have not found an explanation.
Many tourists recognize these lions as the most beautiful, and we agree with this opinion. Do not forget to take pictures with them.
Officials were not allowed into the inner palace, and this place turned out to be the nearest one, where one could get to know the emperor. Some emperors saved their time, meeting with ministers and commanders right here.
Palace of Heavenly Purity (Ciancingon) (7)
This building served as the main residence of the emperors, although some rulers preferred the nearby Mind Improvement Hall. There is also a throne, and the hall was sometimes used for ceremonial purposes.
The most interesting is above the throne. You see there are four hieroglyphs that read: "Open and Honest." This tablet played a very important role, and we'll talk about it in detail.
The principle of succession in China was quite simple - the next emperor was the eldest son of the present emperor from the empress. This system very often led to disastrous results, remember at least a story with the builder of the Forbidden City by Emperor Yongle. A weak heir is a threat to civil war. A weak heir is a disaster for the country.
Gradually in China, went to inheritance by will. This system failed, because the will could be faked. The fifth emperor of the Qing Dynasty, named Yongzheng, changed this practice. He ruled that from now on the heir is chosen by the emperor, and this may be his son from any concubine, not necessarily from the empress.
The emperor wrote two copies of the will. The first he always carried with him, and the second was placed directly under this sign. After the death of the ruler, both copies were opened, and if the names in them coincided, then the will was considered to be real.
Hall of Unity and Peace (Jiaotaidan) (8)
The Hall of Unity was intended for the process of "unification" of the emperor with the empress or concubines. By the way, a very good word and not at all vulgar. The phrase "Jiao Tai" is translated as "Union of Earth and Sky". The emperor is the son of Heaven. The empress symbolizes the Earth, because the earth is associated with fertility and the appearance of offspring.
However, this building had other functions. At different times, holidays were held here, imperial emblems were kept and ceremonies were carried out.
Earthly Calmness Hall (Kuningon) (9)
This building was conceived by the builders of the Forbidden City as the residence of the Empress. During the Ming Dynasty, it was so. Later the Qing emperors arranged a place here for "unity", it is unclear what they did not like the Hall of Unity. Marriage rooms can now be seen, but they are separated from tourists by glass.
Part of the hall of the emperors Qing adapted to sacrifice their gods. Probably, this phrase is not fully understood by the readers, therefore, let's give an explanation.
The emperors of the Qing dynasty were not Chinese, they were Manchus. The people of the Manchus lived in the north-east of China, in 1644 their army entered China and took the assault of Beijing, they founded a new dynasty. The people of the Manchus maintained their beliefs in their gods. Of course, Qing emperors did not want to advertise their religious preferences and tried to hide these ceremonies "away from prying eyes." The Hall of Terrestrial Tranquility proved to be a very convenient place for this.
Next to the Hall of Terrestrial Tranquility is the entrance to a large garden.
We also recommend reading our other article " Inside the Forbidden City ". There you will find even more information about the halls and gates of the palace.
The Imperial Garden (10)
Read our article "The Imperial Garden in the Forbidden City ".
Other interesting buildings in the Forbidden City
As we have already said, 95% of tourists see only the main axis buildings, but we would like to recommend some more interesting pavilions.
Room of Perfection of Reason (11)
Once you have entered the interior of the palace, just before the Palace of Heavenly Purity you need to turn left. Here is the Hall of Perfection of Mind, which served as a residence for some of the emperors of the Qing dynasty. Emperor Yongzheng moved here first.
For the active emperors of Qing this place was more convenient for work. The hall is divided into two parts. The southern part is for work, the northern part is for rest. In the reign of Emperor Kangxi, even a porcelain kiln was set up here. Emperor Kangxi was very fond of this craft, he made porcelain products in this room and was an innovator of the industry.
This is a unique opportunity for tourists to see the life of Chinese emperors, because visitors are not allowed into the Hall of Heavenly Cleanliness, and this hall is open for visiting. In the Hall of Perfection of Reason, the ruler had four beds, and he slept on them alternately to confuse potential killers.
In the south from here are the imperial cuisine, they are sometimes open to tourists, try to look, maybe you'll be lucky.
Six Western Palaces and six Eastern Palaces (12) (feminists better not read)
On either side of the three buildings of the inner part of the palace are 12 halls of 6 on each side. They served as the residence of the Emperor's concubines. These halls are arranged in the form of the Kun symbol, which is associated with the feminine principle. Once we talked about these halls, let's talk more about the personal life of the emperors of China.
Technically, the number of the Emperor's concubines was unlimited. The record holder for the number of concubines was the Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty. The number of concubines of Kangxi is not exactly established, and the figures vary from 60 to 80. Chinese historians adhere to the figure of 79. Even the twelve of these halls in his reign were not enough to accommodate everyone.
The imperial concubines had their ranks and table of ranks. The main was the Empress, the second concubine was the title of "the Emperor's precious wife", then the two ladies wore the title "precious concubine", four had the title of "imperial concubine" and six were "imperial concubines of the third rank."
And there were "worthy ladies", "ladies in the performance of duties" and "palace girls" - these are the three lowest status in the imperial harem. The number of these concubines was unlimited, if only all fit in the Forbidden City.
Concubines increased in rank for any merit, they had their own "career ladder". This gradation of 8 steps appeared in the Qing Dynasty, and during the Ming it was even more - 12 steps.
At the end of the dinner meal, the concubines were built before the emperor, and wooden tablets with names were laid out on the table. The emperor looked and chose the one with which he wants to spend the night. The choice was made with the help of a sign, not a voice. The chosen concubine was later informed about how lucky she was today, and in the evening she was escorted to the emperor. Naturally, the phrase "I'm tired today" or "my head hurts" was not accepted here. The process of conception and procreation was perceived not even as a family life, but as a public service.
These 12 palaces are small in size, the name "palaces" in this case conditional. Tourists can be like and see them, in some you can look. This place seems very calm and peaceful, although here there were intrigues, and serious passions boiled. Recall at least a story with the emperor Zhu Jiansheng.
Emperor Zhu Jianshen from the Ming Dynasty (pictured right) was not interested in public affairs, the eunuchs ruled his name. His main passion was women. He did not have so many concubines - about twenty, but he loved to go for loves of joy outside the Forbidden City.
At the age of 29, it turned out that he had no children. Agree, this is a paradoxical fact, given his hobby. The Emperor was very sad about this, and one of the eunuchs named Jianmin told him the truth. It turned out that the Emperor's favorite named Wanguifei had a big power in the harem and was very afraid of losing her. She forced all concubines to do abortions.
The eunuch also told that one of the emperor's mistresses outside the Forbidden City gave birth to his son 5 years ago. The Emperor rushed to find this child. The child was found, but the concubine Wangguifei managed to "survive from the light" his mother. Eunuch Jianmin was also soon found dead. Only the boy survived, and it was this boy who became the next emperor of China. Of course, after the removal of the concubine of Wanguifei, the child-bearing affairs were adjusted, the emperor had another 12 sons and 6 daughters.
For this story, you can shoot the series. However, it was already filmed and shown on the TVB channel in Hong Kong. We have not yet translated it into Russian, we are waiting.
Rain and Flower Pavilion (13)
This is the only religious building in the Forbidden City. This is a Tibetan Buddhist temple. It was built to improve relations with Tibet and Mongolia and strengthen the unity of the country. It is open to visit, to see interesting.
Palace of Peace and Longevity (14)
This place is associated with Emperor Canglong, the sixth ruler of the Qin Dynasty. At the coronation, he swore that if the Heaven grants him a long reign, he will not rule longer than his famous grandfather, Emperor Kangxi. Recall that Kangxi ruled 61 years.
The sky really gave Canglong a very long reign, and he fulfilled his promise. At the 60th year of the reign, he abdicated - a unique case. For him, specially prepared residence, where he could live the remaining years. It is the Palace of Peace and Longevity.
The Palace of Peace and Longevity was reconstructed. This update was spent a record amount of 1.3 million silver taels. This is 52 tons of silver!
The Palace of Peace and Longevity is a Forbidden City in miniature. The front building is for work and the back is for the rest of the aged emperor. In front of the entrance there are bronze gilt lions - mini copies of the main lions near the Gates of Supreme Harmony.
Emperor Canglong did not live here for a single day, he stayed to live in the Hall of Perfection of Reason. And the Palace of Peace and Longevity was left to stand empty, and very well preserved. We recommend to see what can be built for 52 tons of silver.
The rest of the places in the Forbidden City we will not describe. You can walk around and see a few parks, pavilions and even a stage for staging the performances of the Beijing Opera .
Have a nice tour of the Forbidden City, and read our other articles about China ( links below ).
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