(In front of the meridian gate)
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am pleased to serve as your guide today.
This is the palace museum; also know as the Purple Forbidden City. It is the largest and most well reserved imperial residence in China today. Under Ming Emperor Yongle, construction began in 1406. It took 14years to build the Forbidden City. The first ruler who actually lived here was Ming Emperor Zhudi. For five centuries thereafter, it continued to be the residence of23 successive emperors until 1911 when Qing Emperor Puyi was forced to abdicate the throne .In 1987, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization recognized the Forbidden City was a world cultural legacy.
It is believed that the Palace Museum, or Zi Jin Cheng (Purple Forbidden City), got its name from astronomy folklore, The ancient astronomers divided the constellations into groups and centered them around the Ziwei Yuan(North Star). The constellation containing the North Star was called the Constellation of Heavenly God and star itself was called the purple palace. Because the emperor was supposedly the son of the heavenly gods, his central and dominant position would be further highlighted the use of the word purple in the name of his residence. In folklore, the term ”an eastern purple cloud is drifting” became a metaphor for auspicious events after a purple cloud was seen drifting eastward immediately before the arrival of an ancient philosopher, LaoZi, to the Hanghu Pass. Here, purple is associated with auspicious developments. The word jin (forbidden) is self-explanatory as the imperial palace was heavily guarded and off-explanatory as the imperial palace was heavily guarded and off-limits to ordinary people.
The red and yellow used on the palace walls and roofs are also symbolic. Red represents happiness, good fortune and wealth. Yellow is the color of the earth on the Loess Plateau, the original home of the Chinese people. Yellow became an imperial color during the Tang dynasty, when only members of the royal family were allowed to wear it and use it in their architecture.
The Forbidden City is rectangular in shape. It is 960 meters long from north to south and 750 meter wide from east west. It has 9,900 rooms under a total roof area 150,000 square meters .A 52-meter-wide-moat encircles a 9.9-meter—high wall which encloses the complex. Octagon —shaped turrets rest on the four corners of the wall. There are four entrances into the city: the Meridian Gate to the south, the Shenwu Gate(Gate of Military Prowess) to the north, and the Xihua Gate(Gate of military Prowess) to the north, and the Xihua Gate(Western Flowery Gate )to the west ,the Donghua (Eastern Flowery Gate) to the east.
Manpower and materials throughout the country were used to build the Forbidden City. A total of 230,000 artisans and one million laborers were employed. Marble was quarried from fangshan Country Mount Pan in Jixian County in Hebei Province. Granite was quarried in Quyang County in Hebei Province. Paving blocks were fired in kilns in Suzhou in southern China. Bricks and scarlet pigmentation used on the palatial walls came from linqing in Shandong Province .Timber was cut ,processed and hauled from the northwestern and southern regions.
The structure in front of us is the Meridian Gate. It is the main entrance to the forbidden City. It is also knows as Wufenglou(Five-Phoenix Tower). Ming emperors held lavish banquets here on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar year in hornor of their counties .They also used this place for punishing officals by flogging them with sticks.
Qing emperors used this building to announce the beginning of the new year. Qing Emperor Qianglong changed the original name of this announcement ceremony from ban li(announcement of calendar)to ban shou(announcement of new moon )to avoid coincidental association with another Emperor` s name, Hongli, which was considered a taboo at that time. Qing Dynasty emperors also used this place to hold audience and for other important ceremonies. For example,when the imperial army returned victoriously from the battlefield ,it was here that the Emperor presided over the ceremony to accept prisoners of war.