Impressive Forbidden City – A Walk Through Its History

Forbidden City

The Forbidden City known in China as Zijin Cheng is situated in the heart of Beijing and was built in 1406. The actual complex where the Forbidden City is situated consists of a total of 980 buildings and covers over 7.8 million square feet of land. The buildings were based upon traditional Chinese palatial architecture and are said to have been the influence for the design of several other cultural and architectural developments in East Asia. In 1987, the Forbidden City was granted the status of being a World Heritage Site, and it is also listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

The Forbidden City was primarily used as the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It was used for nearly 500 years and housed emperors and their households as well as being the ceremonial and political centre for the Chinese government. However, in 1925, the Forbidden City became the home of the Palace Museum with a collection of artifacts and artwork from different eras in Chinese history including artifacts from the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

Before the construction of the Forbidden City, the capital of China was the northern city of Nanjing. It was during the Ming Dynasty that the capital city was changed, and it was not until Zhu Di became the Yongle Emperor in the early 14th century that Beijing was the capital of China once again. The construction of the Forbidden City eventually started in 1406 with it taking 14 years to be built with the help of more than a million workers. The material used for the project all came from China with large blocks of marble being brought in from nearby quarries just outside of Beijing and whole logs transported from the jungle which are situated in south western China.

Eventually, in 1420 The Forbidden City was finished and was used as the seat of the Ming Dynasty. However, in April 1644, it was captured by rebel forces led by Li Zicheng who called himself the emperor of the Shun Dynasty. Before long the Forbidden City was being attacked by the armies of a former Ming general Wu Sangui and Manchu forces with some parts of it being set alight. This led to Li Zicheng fleeing, and 6 months later the Manchu forces had achieved supremacy in Northern China. A ceremony was then held at the Forbidden City symbolizing the start of the Shunzhi emperor under the Qing Dynasty. Under the Qing Dynasty, some of the names of buildings were changed in order to emphasis harmony rather than supremacy.

In 1860, Anglo – French forces took control of the Forbidden City during what was called the Second Opium War. The Forbidden City was occupied by these forces until the end of that war. In 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion, Empress Dowager Cixi fled the Forbidden City which left the City to be occupied by forces until 1901. In 1912, after housing 24 emperors, 14 from the Ming Dynasty and 10 from the Qing Dynasty, the Forbidden City stopped being the centre of Chinese Politics with the abdication of Puvi who was the last emperor of China.

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