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Palace Museum - Forbidden City in Beijing

The Palace Museum is situated in the center of Beijing, the capital city of China. It was established on October 10, 1925, and is China's largest museum.

The Three Great Halls in the Forbidden City

The museum is also known as the 'Purple' Forbidden City in Chinese, or the Forbidden City as it is commonly known in English. It covers 720,000 square meters and was the imperial palace for a succession of twenty-four emperors and their dynasties during the Ming and Qing periods of Chinese history. The museum is also China's largest and most complete architectural grouping of ancient halls. Construction was begun in 1420, the eighteenth year of Yongle, so that the site hasexisted for the past 580 years.

The recessed ceiling of the Taihe Hall in The Forbidden City

More than 70 halls of various sizes, containing more than 9,000 rooms, comprise the Forbidden City. These halls are aligned along a north-south axis, and extend out on either side in an east-west symmetry. The central axis not only passes through the Purple Forbidden City, but extends south to Yongding Gate and north to the Bell and Drum Towers, for a length of some eight kilometers. This passage through the entire city of Beijing symbolizes the centrality of the imperial power: the imperial seat is at the very center of this line. The architectural design lines up the buildings in neat array and with imposing scale. In a concentrated form, this assemblage expresses China's artistic traditions in the setting of China's unique architectural style.

A panorama picture of the Palace Museum taken by satellite.

Entering the Forbidden City from Tian'an an Men, one first moves straight through the Duan Gate to arrive at Wu Men, or the great Wu Gate. The popular name for Wu Men is the Five Phoenix Tower; this is the front entrance to the Purple Forbidden City. Going through Wu Men, spread out before one is a broad courtyard with the twisting course of the Jinshui Creek (Gold Water Creek) passing from west to east like a jade belt. Five marble bridges have been constructed over this waterway. Passing through the Taihe Gate to the north of the bridgesone reaches the core of the Purple Forbidden City, the famous three great halls called Taihe Hall, Zhonghe Hall, and Baohe Hall.

The marble royal ramp of the Baohe Hall in the Forbidden City

Taihe Hall is 28 meters high and occupies a space of around 2,380 square meters. It is the largest hall in the Palace. A red-lacquered dais around two meters high sits in its center, on which is placed a golden lacquered and carved dragon throne. Behind the throne is a screen carved with dragons and on either side of the dais are six great golden pillars with vigorous golden dragons coiling up them. In the recessed ceiling well above the throne is an extremely large coiled golden dragon, with a silvery pearl suspended from its mouth. The Taihe Hall was the location of the Emperor's most important ceremonies, such as his own inauguration, his birthday, New Years, the arrival of winter, and so on.

Behind the Taihe Hall lies the Zhonghe Hall. This is a square hall with four ridge poles along the roofline that unite at the top in a large, round, gilded topknot called a baoding. The profile of the building is extremely beautiful. When the Emperor was about to officiate at important ceremonies, he would first rest in this building and receive visits of his various Ministers.

Behind the Zhonghe Hall is the Baohe Hall. In the Qing dynasty, every New Year's Eve, the Emperor would hold a great banquet in this hall. This also was where the highest exam of the Ke-ju exam system was held.

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