We are now going to pay a visit to a place of special interest. This scenic spot is located at the center of Beijing and is characterized by thousands of palatial architectures and purple walls as well as yellow glazed tile roofs- it is simply a sea of palaces. This is the world – famous wonder – the Palace Museum.
The Palace Museum has served as the royal residence during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It was here that a total of 24 monarchs ascended the throne and wielded power for some 500 years. The Palace Museum, as the most beautiful spot of interest throughout Beijing, is unique for its location: to the northwest is Beihai(North Sea) Park, famous for its white pagoda and rippling lake; to the west is the Zhongnahai (central and south sea); to the east lies the the Wangfujing Shopping Street; and to the north id Jinshan Park. Standing in the Wanchun (Everlasting Spring) Pavilion at the top of Jingshan(Charcoal Hill) Park, you overlook the skyline of the palace Museum. At the southern end of the palace is Tian` anmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) and the famous square named after it . This is the symbol of the People` s Republic of China.
A world-famous historical site, the Palace Museum is on the World Heritage List of UNESCO and is an embodiment of oriental civilization.
The Palace Museum is rectangular in shape, 960 meters long from north to south and 750 meters wide from east to west, covering a space of 720,000 square meters of which 150,000 is building area . It has 9000-strong rooms in it . According to legend there are 9999.5 room-units in all .The whole compound is enclosed by a 10-meter-hign wall and is accessed through four entrances, namely, the meridian Gate in the south ,the Gate of Military Prowess in the north, Donghua(Eastern Flowery ) Gate in the north, Donghua ( Eastern Flowery) Gate in the east and Xihua(Western Flowery ) Gate in the west. On each corner there is a turret consisted of 9 roof beams, 18 pillars and 72 ridge . Encircling the compound there is a 3,800-meter-long and 52 meter-wide moat, making the Palace Museum a self-defensive city-within-a city.
The Palace Museum was made a center of rule during the Ming Dynasty by Zhun Di, The fourth son of the founding emperor Zhuyuanzhang. The whole complex straddles on an 8-kilometers-long central axis that stretches from Yongding (Forever Stable) Gate in the south to Gulou (Drum Tower) in the north. Prominence was given to the royal power by putting the “three main front halls” and “three back halls ”on the axis while arrange other subsidiary structure around them .The construction of the Palace Museum involved manpower and resources across China. For example, the bricks laid in the halls ,known as “gold brick, ” underwent complex, two –dozen processes. As the final touch ,the fired bricks were dipped in Chinese wood oil. Involving complicated processes and high cost, these brick are called “golden bricks.” The Palace Museum serves as a living embodiment of good tradition and styles unique to China` s ancient architecture. It reflects to the full the ingenuity and creativity of the Chinese working people. A carefully preserved and complete group of royal residences, the Palace Museum is a prominent historical and tourist site.
What we are now approaching is the main entrance to the Palace Museum-the Meridian Gate, which is characterized by red walls, yellow glazed –tile roofs and upturned eaves. On top of this walls, yellow glazed-tile roofs and upturned eaves. On top of this magnificent building ,there stand five lofty halls with a main hall in the center. The main hall is roofed by multiple eaves and covers a space of 9 room-units. It is flanked by two wings on each side .The wings are square in shape ,complete with multiple and four edged eaves and pinnacles. All of these structures are connected by a colonnade. Because these halls resemble a soaring bird, it was also know as wufenglou (Five-phoenix Tower) . Inside the main hall there is a throne. Drums and bells were stored in the wings. Whenever the emperor presided over grand ceremonies or observed rites in the Hall of Upreme Harmony, drums, bells and gongs would be struck to mark the occasion.
As the legend goes, the Meridian Gate used to be a place where condemned ranking officials would be executed. This not true. However, flogging was carried out here by the Ming emperors ,If a courtier falls afoul of the emperor, he would be stripped of his court dress and flogging with a stick .At one point the punishment became so harsh that a total of 11 people died from fatal wound on a single occasion .On the other hand, this building was also used to observe important occasions like the traditional Chinese Lantern Festival (15th day of the first lunar month). On these occasions, Chinese lanterns would be hanged and sumptuous banquets would be given in honour of the whole court of ministers and other ranking officials.
Upon entering the Meridian Gate we began our tour of the Palace Museum. The river foowing in front of us is known as Jin Shui He (Golden Water River) and the five marbles bridges spanning it are known as the Inner Golden Water Bridges. The on in the middle was used exclusive by the emperor and its banisters were carved with dragon and phoenix designs. The bridges flanking the imperial one were reserved for princes and other royal members. The rest were used by palatines. Aside from decoration, the golden Water River was also dug as precaution against fire. Most of the structures within the palace Museum are made of wood. What is more ,according to ancient Chinese cosmology, the South is the abode of fire, so this brook was dug on the southern tip of the Palace. In this way, the Palace Museum reflects traditional Chinese culture.
This building is called the Gate of Supreme Harmony .In the foreground stand two bronze lions. Can anybody tell which is male and which is female? The one on the east playing with a ball is male, symbolizing power and universal unity. The other on the west with a cub cuddling underneath its claw is female? The one on the east playing with a ball is male, symbolizing power and universal unity. The other on the west with a cub cuddling underneath its claw is female, representing prosperity the endless succession. A layout of the Palace Museum is posted by the entrance . From it ,you can see that the Palace Museum has two main parts: the forecourt and the inner court. The three main halls constitute the mainstay of the forecourt, and it was here that the emperor announced decisions and observed rites. Behind the forecourt there is the inner court, consisting of major halls and the Imperial Garden .It was where the emperor attended state affairs, lived and enjoyed his luxurious life. The exhibition system of the Palace Museum involves historical court relics and articles of ancient art and culture. The Palace Museum houses nearly one million articles of rare treasure, or one sixth of the total number in all of China `s museums. There are the three main halls of the Palace museum, built on a triple marble terrace . Since most of China `s architecture is made of wood, the buildings cannot be too tall. To gain the height of the architecture, ingenious ancient artisans built the hall on a gigantic stone terrace .It is also to this end that not a single plant was grown in the square. On stairways of triple marble terrace there are 18 bronze tripods .The verandah is flanked by bronze tortoises and cranes, which served as symbols of longevity .On the east is a sundial, an ancient timepiece. On the west there is a grain measure suggesting that the emperor was just and equitable.
In the front and on each flank ,there is a pair of gilt bronze vats (caldrons ) molded during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty .Each of these weights 2 tons and is filled with water as a precaution in the event of a fire .The structure in the very middle is the Hall of Supreme Harmony ,also known as the throne hall. It is 64 meters in width and is 38 meters from entrance to rear. With terrace exclusive ,the hall is 26.92 meters in height and is 35.03 meters in all .Covering and areaof 2,377 square meters, the Hall of Supreme Harmony is China` s largest exiting wooden structure. The hall is supported by 6 thick ,round pillars carved in a design of coiling dragons. As the holiest place in the hall, the ceiling and colored patterns were made of the finest material available at that time. The throne was placed on a terrace and is flanked by statues of elephants, Luduan (a unicorn which could travel 18,000 kilometers a day and understand all languages), cranes and incense barrels .Over the throne there is the caisson ,or covered ceiling ,which consists of a coiling dragon playing with a ball in its mouth .This ball is known as Xuanyuan Mirror ,and was supposedly made by a Chinese emperor of remote times to serve as a reminder that thee rulers to follow were his hereditary heirs. The throne is made of nanmu and painted in gold .Magnificently built and luxuriously decorated ,this hall did not serve as a place in which the emperor attended to daily affairs. He used his hall for major events such as his birthday, conferral of title of empress or dispatch of generals to war.
Behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony ,there sits the Hall of Complete Harmony. This structure is square in shape .Each side is 24.15 meters. This was the place where the emperor relaxed and greeted his courtiers before proceeding to the hall of supreme Harmony to observe rites. This was also the place where the emperor prepared prayers or examined seeds and sowers before he attended ancestral sacrifices or participated in snowing ceremonies. A grand ceremony was also held here once every 10 years for the emperor to genealogize the royal blood. There are two sedan chairs on display in the hall. Behind the Hall of Complete Harmony ,you will see the Hall of Preserving Harmony, which was used as a place where imperial examinations were held. The imperial examination was the hignest level of competing for meritorious appointment under the feudal system dating back to the Sui Dynasty. China` s last imperial examination was held in 1904 during the reign of Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty. To the rear of hall there is a marble ramp carved with cloud and dragon designs, the largest of its kind in the whole country . It is 16.57 meters in length, 3.07 meters in width, 1.7 meters thick and weighs 250 tons. It was quarried in Fangshan County in suburban Beijing. To bring this giant piece of stone to Beijing people poured water onto the road and applied rolling blocks during the process.
We are now standing before the square of the Hall of Heaven Purity. It served as a divide separating the forecourt from the inner court .This building is known as the Gate of Heavenly Purity. Emperor Qianlong held court here. Proceeding further north ,you can find three main rear halls ,i.e. the hall of heavenly purity. the Hall of union and peace and palace of earthly tranquility. The hall of heavenly purity if flanked on either side by two gates named after the sun and moon .Inside the enclosure there are 12 palaces and halls symbolizing constellations. All of the other buildings are centered around the Palace of Heavenly Purity , which was meant to suggest that the monarch` s power was endowed by Heaven. The empress and concubines lived in the inner court.
The hall of heavenly purity was where the emperor lived and attended to daily affairs. Later the emperor moved to live in the Palace of Mental cultivation. Looking up you can see a plaque bearing the Chinese inscription “be open and above-board,” a manifesto to court struggle .Behind the plaque a strongbox was stored containing a will bearing the name of the would –be royal successor. This approach of secretly selecting the next emperor was adopted by Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty. Two copies of the will were prepared .One was stashed by the emperor in person ,the other was placed inside the strong box behind the plaque. After the death of the emperor, the two copies would be compared and successor would be announced. It was in this way that Emperor Qianglong and others have ascended the throne.
Behind the Hall of heavenly purity you will see the hall of union and peace , which is indentical to the hall of complete harmony. It was there that the emperor received congratulations and tributes from imperial officials on major calender occasions , A total of 25 imperial seals are stored there. In the hall, you will see a plaque with the handwritten inscription of “we wei,” exhorting Taoist doctrines.
Further northward is the Palace of Earthly Tranquillity, which once served as the living room of the empresses` . The hall was later converted into a sacrificial place .Through the windowpanes on the eastern wall you can see the royal bed decorated with dragon and phoenix designs. This hall has also served as the bridal chamber of monarchs.
The Gate of Earthly Tranquilliity leads to the Imperial garden (known to westerners as Qianlong` s Garden ),which was used by the emperor ,the empress, and the concubines. A magnificent structure stands in the middle. It is called the Qin `s an (Imperial Peace) Hall. It is the only building in the Palace Museum that was built in Taoist style. It served as a shrine to the Taoist deity. The garden covers a space of 12,000 square meters ,and is 130 meters from east to the west and some 90 meters from north to the south. There are a dozen halls, verandahs, pavilions and waterside houses in the garden . On each of the fur corner there is a pavilion dedicated to the four seasons which is different in construction style and shape. The garden also features an imperial landscape. With rare trees and exotic rockery, the Imperial Garden served as a model for China` s imperial parks .In all ,a total of 10-strong building styles were applied.
The tall building we are now passing is the gate of military prowess, the back door of the Palace Museum. Our visit is now drawing to a conclusion but the architectures of the Palace are not . On the other side of the road is the 43-meter-hign Charcoal Hill , providing natural protection for the Forbidden City. This was also an embodiment of China` s construction style-putting a pool in the front and a hill in the rear. Now let` s climb up to Wanchun (Everlasting Springs ) Pavillion where we` ll have a great view of the Palace Museum.