Visiting the Forbidden City in winter

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The Forbidden City has now become recognized as one of the five most important palaces in the world. A distinction it shares with the Palace of Versailles in France, Buckingham Palace in London, the White House in the United States, and the Kremlin in Russia.

The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum.

The construction of the grand palace started in the fourth year of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty (1406), and ended in 1420.  For security the Forbidden City is enclosed by a 10-meter-high defensive wall, At each corner of the Forbidden City, there stands a magnificent watchtower, which was heavily guarded in the past. Around the city there is a moat as the first line of defense.  The Forbidden City covers an area of about 72 hectares with a total floor space of approximately 150,000 square meters. It consists of 90 palaces and courtyards, 980 buildings and 8,704 rooms. It is one of the world’s largest and most complete ancient wooden buildings.

Forbidden City_01

The Forbidden City is ideally situated in central Beijing and extremely convenient to reach. Line 1 is the best option for reaching the Forbidden City by subway. dropp off at Tiananmen West or Tiananmen East Station, walk north through the Tiananmen Tower, and then you’ll find the Meridian Gate (south gate) to Forbidden City.

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Meridian Gate_01

The Forbidden city is open 8:30am–5pm throughout April–October, and 8:30am–4:30pm throughout November–March. The last entry is 1 hour prior to closing. The site is closed on Mondays.

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Meridian Gate_03

Beijing Forbidden City has four doors, the main entrance is called the Meridian Gate. East Gate is named Gate of Glory East, west gate is named West Prosperity Gate, and the north gate is called Spiritual Valor Gate.

As the largest and most imposing gate to the Forbidden City, the Meridian Gate has a height of 37.95 meters (124.5 feet). It has a concave layout with five towers appearing like a flying phoenix, which also gives it another name ‘Five-Phoenix Tower’ (Wufenglou). The central tower, with double roofs made of colored glazed tiles, is 60.05 meters (198 feet) in length and 25 meters (82 feet) in width. It is on a 12 meters’ (39 feet) high red abutment, whose frontispiece has three doorways. On the east and west of the central abutment, two corridor-like buildings extend southward, separately connecting two towers with double spires on their ends. There are two smaller doors at the corners of the flanking buildings.

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Standing on Meridian Gate, looking north, we can see five exquisite white marble arch bridges leading to the Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihemen).

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Looking at the distance, we can see Jingshan Park’s Wanchun Pavilion situated at the central axis, Jifang Pavilion and Guanmiao Pavilion on both sides of Wanchun Pavilion.

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Jifang Pavilion and Guanmiao Pavilion_02

Along the walls, on the way to the southeast Corner Tower. Looking to the south, we can see the Goose Wing Buildings (Yan Chi Lou) at both sides of the Meridian Gate (Wu Men).

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The unopened area under the wall

The unopened area under the wall

This is the side of Meridian Gate.

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The unopened area outside the eastern wall is on the maintenance.

The unopened area outside the eastern wall

The gold-tiled roofs of the Forbidden City decorates dragon kiss, brass tile covered.

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Corner Tower (Jiao Lou in Chinese), or the Turret of The Forbidden City is famous for its unique shape and its beautiful style. The Corner Towers are located in the four corners of the Forbidden City.  Corner Tower is part of the palace’s defence facilities, along with the City Walls, the Gate Tower and the Moat. Each corner tower has 9 girders, 18 columns and 72 ridges. The corner tower is L-shaped with two cross stacked, and is surrounded by marble pillars as base. The design of the Corner Tower is in harmony along with the other buildings in the Forbidden City; fully shows the ancient Chinese working class people’s wisdom and talents.

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Seeing from the top of the southeast Corner Tower, we can see the side of Meridian Gate.

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Looking to the north from the top of the southeast Corner Tower, we can see Gate of Glory East

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I look through the door of Corner Tower to see Gate of Glory East.

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I look through the door of Corner Tower to see the side of Meridian Gate.

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From the top of Corner Tower, I see Meridian Gate and the unopened area that is being maintained.

Meridian Gate and the unopened area that is being maintained

Go north from Corner Tower, close to Gate of Glory East.

Gate of Glory East and West Prosperity Gate have same shape and structure. The gate tower is built with yellow glazed tile, double eaves and hip roof.

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We can close the appreciation of building components and colored drawing in Gate of Glory East.

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I watch Meridian Gate from Gate of Glory East.

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I watch the southeast Corner Tower from Gate of Glory East.

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Gate of Glory East (Donghua men) is holding Shan Shiyuan Series-Exhibition of Forbidden City ancient architecture guardians, this is the first thematic exhibition of “Forbidden City Ancient Architecture Guardian Series”.

Mr. Shan Shiyuan is a famous expert in the history of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, archeologist and ancient architecture expert.

Mr. Yuan Shiyuan worked for Forbidden City for 74 years. He is a patriotic and rigorous scholar. The research office, ancient buildings department and the repair crew were founded under Yuan Shiyuan’s leadership and still play an important role in Forbidden City ancient architecture protection to this day.

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Forbidden City Ancient Architecture Guardian Series_02

This exhibition displays some of the finest drawings and mock-ups of ancient building components.

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Forbidden City Ancient Architecture Guardian

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After this exhibition, we are given a commemorative passport.

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There are only five beasts on the curved eaves here, and ten beasts on the eaves of the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

five beasts on the curved eaves

The Forbidden City occupies a large area and has numerous palaces. Usually, we often divide the Forbidden City into the middle area, the east area and the west area.

The middle area are mainly the three big halls(the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Complete Harmony, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony), the latter three palaces(Palace of Heavenly Purity, Hall of Union, and Palace of Earthly Tranquility), and imperial garden.

The east area are mainly Archery pavilion, Hall of Clocks and Watches, Treasure Gallery, The six eastern palaces(Palace of great benevolence, Palace of accumulated purity, Palace of Heavenly Grace, Palace of great brilliance,Palace of Eternal Harmony, Palace of prolonged happiness).

The west area are mainly Palace of Benevolent Peace, The six western palaces(Palace of eternal longevity, Palace of earthly honor, Palace of accumulated purity, Hall of the supreme principle, Palace of universal happiness, Palace of Eternal Spring).

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Archery pavilion is located in a piece of open area outside Gate of good fortune and south of Gate of ancestral worship. It was the place where the emperor and his descendants practiced horseback riding and archery in the Qing Dynasty. There are five large copper cows on the square in front of Archery pavilion. This is not an ordinary cow. They are from Chinese ancient famous painting Penta-Bull map by the Tang Dynasty great painter Han Huang. Zhu Bingren, a master of Chinese arts and crafts, and the inheritor of the intangible cultural heritage of the nation, took over a year to complete the painting of Five Oxen, and famous painting Penta-Bull map is presented three-dimensionally.

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The restaurant in Forbidden City is next to Gate of good fortune. There are options for tourists, fast food, Steamed Rice with Red-Cooked Pork, Rice with Beef, dumplings, etc. These foods can fill our tummy and the price is acceptable. The average person spends 40 yuan.

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The restaurant in Forbidden City_02

The Hall of Clocks and Watches in The Forbidden City is located in Hall for Ancestry Worship, to the east of the imperial palaces in the Forbidden City. The exhibition hall displays about 200 clocks and watches from the imperial collection. These clocks and watches were mostly made in Switzerland, England, France, and Japan, with some Chinese made timepieces on display as well.

The Hall of Clocks and Watches

Treasure Gallery(Pinyin: Zhenbaoguan), is a series of exhibition spaces in the northeast part of the Forbidden City in an area of the Museum known as the Palace of Tranquil Longevity Sector. It consists of six gallery rooms displaying pieces from the imperial collection and extant accoutrements for palace life. All of these exquisite items are made of precious materials, such as jade, jadeite, gold, silver, pearls, and other precious and semi-precious stones. The superb craftsmanship and inestimable value of each piece is aptly summarized in the title of the gallery. Occupying a large area in the northeast of the Forbidden City, the Palace of Tranquil Longevity Sector contains expansive halls, intimate residential chambers, a grand theatre (now the Gallery of Qing Imperial Opera), a scenic garden, and solemn Buddhist shrines. The overall layout of this rectangular sector is modeled after the Forbidden City. This relatively secluded and independent area creates the perfect environment for displaying the treasures of dynastic glory. An additional ticket (10 yuan/person) is required for admission to this area, which houses both the opera gallery and Treasure Gallery.

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Treasure Gallery_02

Imperial Palace’s construction rests on its layout and the function divides into “the Outer Palace” and “the Inner Court” two major parts.

The center of the Outer Palace is the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Complete Harmony, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, which are collectively called the three big halls. It is the place where the ceremonies were held.

The center of the Inner Court is Palace of Heavenly Purity, Hall of Union, and Palace of Earthly Tranquility. They are collectively known as the latter three palace. They are the palaces where the emperor and the empress lived.

Gate of good fortune and Gate of Thriving Imperial Clan are important gateways to the square in front of Gate of Heavenly purity, and then lead to the middle part of the Outer Court and Inner Court. Therefore, they are also called the “forbidden gate”. From below the prince, the high-ranking officials and their entourage are allowed to stand about 20 paces from the step outside the door, unauthorized entry is strictly prohibited.

From Gate of good fortune, look south and you will see the Hall of Preserving Harmony in the outer palace. Look north and you will see the Gate of Heavenly purity in the Inner Court.

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The Hall of Supreme Harmony was used for grand ceremonies (ie, the Emperor’s enthronement ceremony, the Emperor’s wedding, the ceremony for conferring the Empress, etc.).

The Hall of Central Harmony was served as the rest place for the emperor before he took part in grand celebrations in the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

The Hall of Preserving Harmony was used for imperial banquets and later for imperial examinations.

These three, known as the Three Great Halls of the Outer Palace, are on the central axis of the Forbidden City. Similar in style but somewhat smaller than the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Preserving Harmony is larger than the Hall of Central Harmony.

While during the Qing dynasty, the Hall of Preserving Harmony was usual for imperial banquets to be held here. Each year, on the eve of the New Year’s Eve, banquets would be held to feast and honour provincial governors, Mongol princes, civil and military officials. In 1789, the midpoint of the Qing dynasty, Emperor Qianlong decided the final stage of the Palace Examination should be transferred from the Hall of Supreme Harmony to the Hall of Preserving Harmony. This was the highest level of the nation-wide imperial examination.

The Hall of Preserving Harmony_01

The Hall of Preserving Harmony_02

The inscription on the plaque of the Hall of Preserving Harmony is in the handwriting of Emperor QianLong. The aim is to highlight emperor is supreme.

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There is a chargeable spot for tourists to take their own pictures next to the Hall of Preserving Harmony. The tourists dress like the Emperor and Empress, multiple sets of costumes and multiple scenarios.

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a chargeable spot for tourists to take their own pictures_02

The Hall of Central Harmony is the smallest of the Three Great Halls of the Outside Courtyard. It is a square hall with a yellow glazed tiles on the roof coming to a single point in the middle topped by a golden ball.

The Hall of Central Harmony was served as the rest place for the emperor before he took part in grand celebrations in the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

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The Hall of Central Harmony_02

The inscription on the plaque of the Hall of Central Harmony still written by Emperor Qianlong. Emperor Qianlong was of high attainment in calligraphy, we can see Emperor Qianlong’s epigraphs everywhere in the Forbidden City.

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The Hall of Supreme Harmony commonly referred as “Throne room” is the place where the emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties executed power and held celebrations. The Hall of Supreme Harmony is the tallest building in the Forbidden City and is regarded as its most magnificent building.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony was a place where various royal ceremonies were held. The actual usage count of The Hall of Supreme Harmony was also very less. Throughout the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the places where the emperors gave audience and handled state affairs were mainly in: Gate of Supreme Harmony, Gate of Celestial Purity (Holding Court Personally), and Palace of Heavenly Purity (When something big happened, the place in which the emperor summoned his officials for consultation), there was also the most famous Hall of Mental Cultivation (holding court from behind a screen, late Qing Dynasty).

The Hall of Supreme Harmony_01

The Hall of Supreme Harmony has the highest level of the roof with ten mythical animals at each of its roof corners, which shows the superiority. These mythical animals are characteristics in Chinese architecture, which has special purpose. The animals on the ridge of the ancient buildings include Chiwen, the kissing dragon, the phoenix, the lion, the heavenly horse and the sea horse, Suanni – the lion-like dragon, Yayu – the fish dragon, Haetae, Douniu – the bull-like fighting dragon and Xingshi, the flying monkey.

All these animals on the ridge come from the evolution of the nails or something heavy for the stability of the eaves when stuck by wind. This is their practical role in the ancient Chinese architecture. They, on the one hand, also create the mythical atmosphere for the building apart from their decoration functions. Besides, the number of the animals indicates the rank of the building and its owner. The Hall of Supreme Harmony has the highest level of the building and was used by the emperor, so it has ten mythical animals on the ridge.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony_02

The interior of the hall is dominated by six huge gilded columns that have dragons coiled around them. Altogether 72 huge columns support the building. The floor is paved with special bricks which were fired long and then polished by being soaked in tungoil. As a symbol of imperial power, the sandalwood throne, standing on a two-meter high platform, is located in the center. Dragons are carved all over the golden throne. Around the throne stand two bronze cranes, an elephant-shaped incense burner and tripods in the shape of mythical beasts. It is heavily decorated with dragons, giving an aura of solemnity and mystery. During the Ming and Qing dynasties 24 emperors were enthroned here.

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The inscription on the plaque of the Hall of Supreme Harmony still written by Emperor QianLong. The plaque hung in the Hall of Supreme Harmony showed the royal family’s ideals to rule the nation.

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The three main halls of the Outer Palace are built on a magnificent four tiered dais made of white marble and covered with dragon waterspouts and dragon and phoenix balustrades. The hundreds of dragon heads on the dais are designed to be more than just decorations. They are waterspouts which are ingeniously designed to spit water during heavy rainstorms. Behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony is the Hall of Central Harmony, The last hall is the Hall of Preserving Harmony.

Alongside the flights of steps which ascend the three tiers of the terrace, there are eighteen bronze Dings, a kind of ancient Chinese vessel, representing the eighteen national provinces of those times. On the luxuriously balustraded terrace, stand a bronze crane and a bronze tortoise, symbols of everlasting rule and longevity.

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The broad platform in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, known as Danbi platform. There are sundial, grain measure, bronze turtles, copper cranes, and copper tripods on the platform. The sundial is an ancient time-meter, grain measure is an ancient standard measurer, both are also symbols of imperial power.

sundial

grain measure

In China cranes and turtles symbolize longevity.

bronze turtles

copper cranes

copper tripods

The Belvedere of Embodying Benevolence (Tiren ge) was at first named “Civil Pavilion” (Wen lou). The Kangxi Emperor (1662-1722) held poetry contests here to select learned man from the candidates recommended by ministers. Since the Qianlong reign, the Belvedere has been used as a storehouse for textiles of the Imperial Household Department.

The Belvedere of Embodying Benevolence

The Pavilion of Spreading Righteousness (Hongyi ge) and The Belvedere of Embodying Benevolence (Tiren ge) look exactly alike. The Pavilion of Spreading Righteousness (Hongyi ge) was initially named “Martial Pavilion” (Wu lou) by the Yongle Emperor (1403-1424). During the Jiajing reign it was changed to Pavilion of Martial Success. Its current name was given by the Qing (1644-1911) rulers.

During the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), the Pavilion of Spreading Righteousness was used for storing gold and silver ritual implements.

Further south, the Gate of Supreme Harmony is the gate to the Outer Palace.

Gate of Supreme Harmony

There are five marble bridges on the Inner Golden Water River, shaped like a bow. The inner river is 2,100 meters long and runs from the moat outside the Forbidden City on the northwest, to the moat outside the Forbidden City on the southeast. The function of the Inner Golden Water River was for draining the rain water away; fire prevention. Take an up-close look at the Meridian Gate.

the Inner Golden Water River_02

the Inner Golden Water River_03

There are 308 urns in the Forbidden City and the main function was to store water and prevent fires. A closer look at the brass adornment of a ceremonial ceramic urn outside of a Forbidden City building, these urns would have displayed small water gardens.

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Bronze incense burner

Bronze incense burner

The exquisite Copper Pavilion

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The west area of Forbidden City is mainly Six Western Palaces (Palace of the eternal longevity, Palace of the erthly honor, Palace of gathered elegance, Hall of the Supreme Principle, Palace of Eternal Spring, Palace of universal happiness) are the residences of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Five Western dwellings (the Studio of Cleansing Fragrance, the Palace of Many Splendors, etc.) are the residences of the imperial princes. The Cining Palace, which was later opened, was the place where the Empress lived.

The Military Prowess Pavilion is the main pavilion of the Western Outbuildings. Nowadays it contains the Gallery of Chinese paintings and calligraphy. The side rooms are reserved for depositing books and storing archives. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), this pavilion was the place where emperors received ministers. It is also one of the studios for painters. During Kangxi’s reign (1662-1722), the Military Prowess Pavilion became an Imperial Cultural Center – a workshop for the modification, compilation and printing of books with carved wooden blocks. The books printed here have been marked with the official edition status “Hall Edition”.

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The Broken Rainbow Bridge and the Eighteen Ancient Pagoda Trees in the west of the palace compound open to the public for the first time.

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The Hall of Embodied Treasures (Baoyun Building) is the only building in the style of the Republic of China (1912-1949) within the Forbidden City (Palace Museum) in Beijing.

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This palace was where the deposed Crown Prince Yinreng lived during the reign of Qing Emperor Kangxi (1661-1722); the children of imperial family studied during the reign of Qing Emperor Yongzheng (1722-1735); and empress dowagers lived during the reign of Qianlong (1735-1795). However, a large fire destroyed the magnificent palace at the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), sparing only the Gate of Universal Safety. In 1915, the Hall of Embodied Treasures was constructed on the existing foundation of the palace and served as a storehouse of cultural relics.

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Many kinds of rare treasures and curiosities from previous dynasties could be found in the Hall of Embodied Treasures, including porcelains, pictures, books, jewels, screens, antiques, calligraphy and paintings. All the rare treasures amounted to more than 230,000, among which calligraphy and paintings added up to 475.

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The Palace of Compassion and Tranquility was a place where the Empress Dowager, Queen Dowager could live out their lives.

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Now the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility has been labeled as a sculpture museum and a great variety of elaborate works are shown there.

The most precious painted clay sculpture is the seated figure of the Qianlong emperor, it is said that it is the only known surviving Qing dynasty emperor statue.

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The Palace of Longevity and Good Health is the place where empress Dowager Chongqing lived and spent their last years. Empress Dowager Chongqing was Emperor Qianlong’s mother. Even after her death, Emperor Qianlong still came to the palace to pray to show his deep reverence for her.

Palace of Longevity and Good Health

Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxindian) was not important until Emperor Yongzheng (the third emperor) in the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) lived in it. From that time to the end of the Qing Dynasty, eight emperors lived there. The emperor dealt with national affairs and met with secretary of the emperor here.

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The throne of emperor is located in the center of hall. There are the bookshelves behinds the throne on the both sides for preserving books themed with country governing experiences and lessons, and these books used to be read by the new emperor when he was in handling the national affairs. The plaque above the throne was inscribed four Chinese Characters”中正仁和”, which means justness and benevolence. The characters were created by Emperor Yongzheng.

Hall of Mental Cultivation_02

The Gate of Heavenly Purity is the main gate of the Inner Court of the Forbidden City, Gate of Heavenly Purity in the front, there squats a pair of glided bronze lions guarding the Gate of Heavenly Purity. As is known, the Forbidden City holds numerous bronze lions, but the ones in front of this gate are somehow different. Sharp eyes will spot that the ears of these two lions are flipperty-flopperty while other lion statues inside the Forbidden City with their ears perked up. the imperial family deterred the courtiers’ entrance into the inner court and vice versa (prohibiting women’s interference into state affairs. These two lions with flipperty-flopperty ears alarm the Inner Court concubines and court ladies that they’d better care about the government affairs in the Outer Court as little as possible.

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The Hall of Heavenly Purity was the palace, where the emperors received foreign envoys and handle daily affairs. The Palace of Heavenly Purity was built in 1420 and rebuilt in 1798 as a consequence of fire damage.

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Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union was a place for the empress to receive greetings on major festivals and her birthday.

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There is a phoenix pattern on the door of Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union.

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Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union_04

The Palace of Earthly Tranquility served as the nuptial chamber of the emperor and empress and the altar for worshipping the deities of Shamanism.

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The Imperial Garden was a private retreat for the imperial family.

The Imperial Garden_01

The Imperial Garden_02

At each of the four corners of the garden there is a pavilion. These symbolise the four seasons. The Pavilion of Myriad Springs (Wanchunting) is the most famous and occupies the eastern corner. Built in 1535 and restored during the Qing dynasty, as its name implies, it is this pavilion that symbolizes spring.

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The Palace Museum bookstore is located in the northeastern corner of The Imperial Garden.

The Palace Museum bookstore

Copper elephant in The Imperial Garden symbolizes wealth and good fortune.

Copper elephant

This is The Imperial Garden Northeast Entrance.

The Imperial Garden Northeast Entrance

This is Palace Museum turret, located in north-eastern corner of the Forbidden City. It opens up to every one now, the tourists can go up stairs and overlook Forbidden City and Jingshan Park beyond.

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Spiritual Valor Gate is the northern gate of the imperial palace and the only exit after visiting. Now this gate is the main entrance, directly opposite Jingshan Park. The tower on top formerly housed a drum and a bell, which were used to announce the time.

Spiritual Valor Gate

 

yu ning

yu ning

Welcome to my blog.

I'm Yuning - I'm a back-packer. I'm passionate at Food, Travel, Photography. This blog is a place where I want to share my traveling experiences.

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