Category of site: Cultural site
The Forbidden City, located in the center of Beijing, used to be the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Its construction started in 1406, and was completed in 1420. The rectangular palace covers an area of some 720,000 sq km – 961 meters in length and 760 meters in width. It has a total of 9,999.5 room spaces (an area enclosed by four poles). In 1924, the imperial family of the Qing Dynasty was removed from the Forbidden City, and in 1925 the Palace Museum was established here.
The Forbidden City has four entrance gates: the main Meridian Gate (Wumen) to the south, the Eastern Flower Gate (Donghuamen), the Western Flower Gate (Xihuamen), and the Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwumen) to the South. The palace grounds are divided into two parts: the Front Palace (Qianchao) to the south and the Inner Palace (Neiting) to the north. The Front Palace consists chiefly of three magnificent and solemn halls – the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian), the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian), and the Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohedian). The Inner Palace includes the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqinggong), the Hall of Prosperity (Jiaotaidian) and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunninggong).
Built in 1624, Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is 380 years old, is one of the few historic Chinese sites that epitomize an ethnic minority culture.
The Imperial Palace of the Qing Dynasty in Shenyang follows the traditions of palace construction in China and maintains typical characteristics of traditional folk residences of the Manchu people, and has integrated the architectural arts of Han, Manchu and Mongolian ethnic cultures. The building’s layout was based on the “eight-banner” system, a distinct social organization system in Manchu society, an arrangement unique among palace buildings.
The Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang were added to the World Heritage List in 1987 and 2004.
The imperial palaces show masterpieces in the development of imperial palace architecture in China.
The architecture of the palace complexes, particularly in Shenyang, reflects an important interchange of influences of traditional architecture and Chinese palace architecture particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The palaces demonstrate Chinese civilization at the time of the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is the true reserves of landscapes, architecture, furnishings and objects of art, and provides exceptional evidence of the living traditions and the customs of Shamanism practiced by the Manchu people for centuries.
The palaces offer excellent examples of the greatest palatial architectural ensembles in China. They illustrate the grandeur of the imperial institution from the Qing Dynasty to the earlier Ming and Yuan dynasties, and Manchu traditions, and provide evidence on the evolution of this architecture in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The Forbidden City is encompassed by a wall 10 meters high, and surrounded by a moat 5.2 meters wide. The palace has four entrance gates: the main Meridian Gate (Wumen) to the south, the Eastern Flower Gate (Donghuamen), the Western Flower Gate (Xihuamen), and the Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwumen) to the South. One has to pass through seven gates to arrive at the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqinggong), the emperors’ living quarters. These seven gates, starting from the southern gate of the imperial city, are: Zhengyangmen, Damingmen, Tiananmen, Duanmen, Wumen, Taihemen and Qianqingmen, which symbolize the celestial plough. The palace grounds are divided into two parts: the Front Palace (Qianchao) to the south and the Inner Palace (Neiting) to the north. The Front Palace consists chiefly of three halls – the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian), the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian) and the Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohedian). Here, important ceremonies, such as the accession of a new emperor to the throne and the emperor’s birthday and wedding, were held. There are two groups of buildings on each side of the three great halls: the Hall of Literary Glory (Wenhuadian) and the Imperial Library (Wenyuange) on the east and the Hall of Military Prowess (Wuyingdian) on the west.
The Inner Palace mainly includes the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqinggong), the Hall of Prosperity (Jiaotaidian) and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunninggong), where emperors and empresses lived. Behind them is the Imperial Garden. On each side of the inner three great halls are six eastern palaces and six western palaces, respectively, which were used as residences for concubines. The six eastern palaces are Jingrengong, Yanxigong, Chengqiangong, Yonghegong, Zhongcuigong and Jingyanggong. The six western palaces are Yongshougong, Taijidian, Yunkungong, Changchungong, Chuxiugong and Chengfugong.
There are some Buddhist sanctuaries to the east of the six eastern palaces and to the west of the six western palaces. Besides the inner and outer courts, there are also two major building compounds: the Outer Eastern Road (Waidonglu) and the Outer Western Road (Waixilu). To the south of the Outer Eastern Road are the Southern Three Halls (Nansansuo), residences for princes. To the north are the Hall of Supreme Royalty (Huangjidian) and the Hall of Peaceful Longevity (Ningshougong). Further northward are the Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxidian), the Hall of Happiness and Longevity (Leshoutang), the Hall of Harmony (Yihexuan) and the Garden of the Hall of Peaceful Longevity. To the south of the Outer Western Road is the Hall of Peaceful Benignity (Cininggong), and to its north are some Buddhist sanctuaries.
Shenyang Imperial Palace covers 70,000 square meters with some 300 rooms in 70 buildings. Though smaller than Beijing’s Forbidden City, it still has unique features and special historical, artistic and scientific value.
The Dazheng (Grand Politics) Hall, found by Nuerhachi, has a group of 10 Banner Pavilions in the front that were administrative offices for tribal chieftains. The buildings are in typical Manchu style and display the “eight-banner system” that originated in the Manchu tribes’ hunting process.
The Palace Museum is China’s largest museum. It has in its collection about one million valuable art works, most of which were in the possession of the imperial families of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
These art treasures include paintings, pottery, bronze wares, gold and silver wares, embroidery, sculptures, inscribed wares, jade wares, lacquer wares and lacquer enamel wares. In addition, there are also court articles, including jewels, accessories, clocks, medicines, furniture and furnishings. It is a unique, superb building complex, integrating the outstanding achievements of ancient Chinese architecture. In 1961, the Forbidden City was included in the List of Key Historical Monuments under State Protection.