As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Architecture is frozen music.” It cannot be read like a book or the label of a picture in the gallery, but its existence makes history concrete and appreciable. In the course of time, it is not only a shelter for humans but also plays an important role. Though in a silent and low-key manner, the strength of buildings is not to be sniffed at either, leaving an immediate, visceral impact on every generation.
Today, let’s explore the beauty of the Forbidden City, the eastern ancient buildings.
With a long history, China’s Forbidden City, also called “Gu Gong” in Chinese, is the center of Chinese civilization and political power in history, grandiose, mysterious, graceful, and beautiful. It has experienced several calamities but still been standing beautiful and proud until today, giving both locals and foreigners a reason to love China more.
The Forbidden City covers an area of about 72 hectares (180 acres) with a total floor space of approximately 150,000 square meters (1,600,000 square feet). It consists of more than 90 palaces and courtyards, 980 buildings and over 8,728 rooms. (A common myth states that there are 9,999.5 rooms, but it is not supported by survey evidence.)
The Forbidden City is outstanding not only because of its magnitude but also for its unique architectural design. To represent the supreme power of the emperor, given from Heaven, and the place where he is the center of the world, all the important gates, and halls of the Forbidden City were arranged symmetrically on the north-south central axis of old Beijing.
Commissioned in 1406, the Forbidden City was completed in 1420, serving as the imperial palace of two consecutive dynasties – the Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty. From the establishment to 1912 when the last Qing emperor abdicated, it saw 25 emperors between five centuries. Now, it has been the Palace Museum since1925. And this year 2020 marks the 6th centennial of the construction of the Forbidden City and the 95th anniversary of the establishment of the Palace Museum.
In addition, it’s the largest and most complete complex of ancient wooden structures in the world. The main frames of all buildings were built with high-quality wooden beams and columns, including whole trunks of precious wood from the jungles of southwest China.
Covering an area of 72 hectares, it houses more than 1.8 million cultural relics and is one of the world’s great crowd-puller. It is the largest and most preserved ancient palace complex in the world today. And it’s ranked with Palace of Versailles, Buckingham Palace, the White House and the Kremlin as the five largest palaces in the world. In 1987, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for the priceless witness to dynastic art and history.
It represents the zenith of Chinese ancient architecture. There are so many craftsmen devoted themselves to every single brick and tile, every tree and bush in this majestic palace.
No matter how fast time flies, its charm will not fade. The excellence of traditional Chinese culture will shine more brightly in the changes of four seasons.
The Palace Museum holds more than a million rare and valuable works of art, a sixth of the total number of cultural relics in China. Today, the Forbidden City is still changing. As a modern museum and an historical site, the museum strikes a balance by maintaining the structures and restoring the interiors of the palace compounds, and in certain instances transforming minor palace buildings and hallways into exhibition galleries for the exquisite artwork of the imperial collections. For many, the Forbidden City is a time capsule for China’s past and an educational institute for the public to learn and appreciate the history and beauty of this ancient culture.
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