(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.
(after entering the meridian gate and standing in front of the five marble bridges on golden water river)
now we are inside the forbidden city.before we start our tour, i would like to briefly introduce you to the architectural patterns befour us .to complete this solemn, magnificent and palatial complex, a variety of buildings were arranged on a north-south axis, and 8-kilometer-long invisible line that has become an inseparable part of the city of beijing. the forbidden city covers roughly one –third of this central axis. most of the important building in the forbidden city weree arranged along this line. the design and arrangement of the palaces reflect the solemn dignity of the royal court and rigidly –stratified feudal system.
the forbidden city is divided into an outer and an inner count.we are now standing on the southernmost part of the outer count. in front of us lies the gate of supreme harmony .the gate is guarded by a pair of bronze lions ,symbolizing imperial power and dignity. the lions were the most exquisite and biggest of its kind. the one on the east playing with a ball is a male, and ball is said to represent state unity. the other one is a female. underneath one of its fore claws is a cub that is considered to be a symbol of perpetual imperial succession. the winding brook before us is the golden water river. it functions both as decoration and fire control .the five bridges spanning the river represent the five virtues preached by confucius :benevolence, righteousness, rites, intellence and fidelity. the river takes the shape of a bow and the north-south axis is its arrow. this was meant to show that the emperors ruled the country on behalf of god.
(in front of the gate of supreme harmony)
the forbidden city consists of an outer countyard and an inner enclosure. the out count yard covers a vast space lying between the meridian gate and the gate of heavenly purity. the “three big halls” of supreme harmony, complete harmony and preserving harmony constitute the center of this building group. flanking them in bilateral symmetry are two groups of palaces: wenhua (prominent scholars) and wuying (brave warriors) . the three great halls are built on a spacious “h”-shaped, 8-meter-high, triple marble terrace, each level of the triple terrace is taller than the on below and all are encircled by marble balustrades carved with dragon and phoenix designs. there are three carved stone staircases linking the three architectures .the hall of supreme harmony is also the tallest and most exquisite ancient wooden-structured mansion in all of china. from the palace of heavenly purith northward is what is known as the inner court, which is also built in bilaterally symmetrical patterns. in the center are the palace of heavenly purity, the hall of union and peace and palace of earthly tranquility, a place where the emperors lived with their families and attended to state affairs. flanking these structures are palaces and halls in which concubines and princes lived. there are also three botanical gardens within the inner count, namely, the imperial garden, caning garden and quailing garden. an inner golden water river flows eastwardly within the inner court. the brook winds through three minor halls or palaces and leads out of the forbidden city. it is spanned by the white jade bridge. the river is lined with winding, marble –carved balustrades. most of the structures within the forbidden city have yellow glazed tile roofs.
aside from giving prominence to the north-south axis, other architectural methods were applied to make every group of palatial structures unique in terms of terraces, roofs, mythical monsters perching on the roofs and colored, drawing patterns. with these, the grand contour and different hierarchic spectrum of the complex were strengthened. folklore has it that there are altogether 9,999 room-units in the forbidden city. since paradise only has 10,000 rooms, the son of heaven on earth cut the number by half a room. it is also rumoured that this half –room is located to the west of the wenyuange pavilion (imperial library). as a matter of fact, although the forbidden city has more than 9,000 room-units, this half-room is nonexistent .the wenyuange pavilion is a library where “si ku quan shu”- china `s first comprehensive anthology-was stored.
(after walking past the gate of supreme harmony)
ladies and gentlemen, the great hall we are approaching is the hall of supreme harmony, the biggest and tallest of its king in the forbidden city. this structure covers a total building space of 2,377 square meters, and is know for its upturned, multiple counterpart eaves . the hall of supreme harmony sits on a triple “h”-shaped marble terrace the is 8meters high and linked by staircases. the staircase on the ground floor has 21 steps while the middle and upper stairways each have 9.
the construction of the hall of supreme harmony began in 1406. it burned down three times and was severely damaged once during a mutiny. the existing architecture was built during the qing dynasty. on the corners of the eaves a line of animal-nails were usually fastened to the tiles. these animal-nails were later replace with mythical animals to ward off evil spirits. there are altogether 9 such fasteners on top of this hall. the number nine was regarded by the ancients to be the largest numeral accessible to man and to which only the emperors were entitled.
there was a total of 24 successive emperors during the ming and qing dynasties who were enthroned here. the ball was also used for ceremonies which marked other great occasions: the winter solstice, the chinese lunar new year, the emperor` s birthday, conferral of the title of empress, the announcement of new laws and policies, and dispatches of generals to war .on such occasions, the emperor would hold audience for his court officials and receive their tributes.
this area is called the hall of supreme harmony square, which covers a total of 30,000 square meters, without a single tree or plant growing here, this place inspires visitors to feel its solemnity and grandeur. in the middle of the square there is a carriageway that was reserved for the emperor. on both sides of the road the groud bricks were laid in a special way seven layers lengthwise and eight layers crosswise, making up fifteen layers in all. the purpose of this was to prevent anyone from tunneling his way into the palace. in the count yard there are iron vats for storing water to fight fires. in the whole complex there are altogher 308 water vats. in wintertime, charcoal was burned underneath the vats to keep the water from freezing .why so vast a square? it was designed to impress people with the hall` s grandeur and vastness. imagine the following scene. under the clear blue sky, the yellow glazed tiles shimmered as the cloud-like layers of terrace, coupled with the curling veil of burning incense, transformed the hall of supreme harmony into a fairyland. whenever major ceremonies were held, the glazed, crane-shaped candleholders inside the hall would be it, and incense and pine branches burnt in front of the hall. when the emperor appeared, drums were beaten and musical instrument played. civilian officials and generals would kneel know in submission.
the last qing emperor puyi assumed the throne in 1908, at the age of three, his father carried him to the throne. at the start of the coronation, the sudden drum-beating and loud music caught the young emperor unprepared .he was so scared that he kept crying and shouting,”i don’t want to stay here. i want to go home.” his father tried to soothe him, saying, ”it` all soon be finished .it` all soon be finished ”the ministers present at the event considered this incident inauspicious. coincidentally, the qing dynasty collapsed three years later and there with concluded china `s feudal system that had lasted for more than 2,000 years.
(on the stone terrace of the hall of supreme harmony)
this is a bronze incense burner. in it incense made of sandalwood would be burnt on important occasions. there are altogether 18 incense burners, representing all of the provinces under the rule of the sing monarchs. on either side of the hall, 4 bronze water-filled vats were placed in case of fire. next to the terrace on either side, there is a bronze crane and tortoise, symbols of longevity. this copper-cast grain measure is called ”jialiang.” it served as the national standard during the qing dynasty. it was meant to show that the imperial ruler were just and open to rectification. on the other side there is a stone sundial, an ancient timepiece. the jialiang and the sundial were probably meant to show what the emperor represented: that he was the only person who should possess the standards of both measure and time.
in the very forefront of the hall of supreme harmony , there are 12 scarlet , round pillars supporting the roof. the hall is 63 meters from east to west and 37 meters from north to south, it is 35 meters in height. in front of this architechture, there stands a triple terrace with five staircases leading up to the main entrance .it has 40 gold doors and 16 gold-key windows with colored drawings on the pillars and beams. in the middle of the hall, a throune carved with 9 dragons sits on a 2-meter-high platform. behind the throne there is a golden screen and in front of it, there is a imperial desk . the flanks are decorated with elephants, luduan(a legendary beast), cranes, and incense barrels. the elephant carries a vase on its back that holds five cereals(i. e. rice, two kinds of millet, wheat and beans),which was considered a symbol of prosperity. as ancient legend has it that luduan can travel 18,000 li (9,000 kilometers )in one day and knows all languages and dialects. only to a wise adjust monarch will this beast be a guardian.
the hall of supreme harmony is also popularly known as jinluan dian (gold bell hall or the throne hall). the floor of the hall is laid with bricks that turn it into a smooth, fine surface as if water has been sprinkled on it .the so-called golden brick, in fact, has nothing to do with gold. reserved exclusively for the construction of the royal court, it was made in a secretive, and complex way, and, when struck, sounds like the clink of a gold bar. each brick was worth the market price of one dan (or one hectoliter ) of rice.
the hall is supported by a total of 72 thick pillars .of these, 6 are carved in dragon patterns and painted with gold and surround the throne. above the very center of this hall there is a zaojing, or covered ceiling, which is one of the specialities of china `s ancient architure. in the middle of the ceiling is a design of a dragon playing with a ball inlaid with peals. this copper ball, hollow inside and covered with mercury, is known as the xuanyuan mirror and is thought to be made xuanyuan, a legendary monarch dating back to remote antiquity. the placing of the caisson above the throne is meant to suggest that all of china` s successive emperors are zuanyuan` s descendants and hereditary heirs. now you might have noticed that the xuanyuan mirror is not directly above the throne. why? it is rumored that yuan shikai, a self-acclaimed warlord-turned emperor moved the throne further back because he was afraid that the mirror might fall on him .in 1916 when yuan shikai became emperor, he removed the original throne with a western-style, high-back chair. after the foundation of the people` s republic of china in 1949 the throne was found in a shabby furniture warehouse. it repaired and returned to the hall.
(leading the tourist to the bronze vats either on the east or the west)
the water vats in front of the palaces or house were called “menhai,” or sea before the door by the ancient chinese. they believed that with a sea by the door, fire could not wreak havoc. the vats served both as a decoration and as a fire extinguisher. they were kept full of water all year round.
during the qing dynasty, they were altogether 308 vats in the palace enclosure. they were made of gilt bronze or iron. of couse, the gilt bronze vats were of the best quality. when the allied forces (britain, germany, france, russia, the united states, italy, japan and austria) invaded beijing in 1900 under the pretext of suppressing the boxer rebellion, the invaders ransacked the imperial compound and scraped and gold off the vats with their bayonets. during the japanese occupation of beijing, many vats were trucked away by the japanese to be made into bullets .
(in front of the hall of complete harmony)
the square architecture before us is called the hall of complete harmony. it served as an antechamber. the emperor came here to meet with his countiers and add his final touches to the prayers which would be read at the ancestral temple. the seeds, snowers and prayer intended for spring sowing were also examined here. the two qing sedan chairs here on display were used for traveling within the palace during the reign of emperor qianlong.
(in front of the hall f preserving harmony)
this is the hall of preserving harmony. during the qing dynasty, banquets were held here on new year` s eve in honour of mongolian and northwestern china` s xingjiang princes and ranking officials. the emperor also dinned here with his new son-in-law on the wedding day. imperial examinations were also held here once every three years. during the ming and qing dynasties, there were three levels of exams: the county and prefectural level, the provincial level and national level. the national exam was presided over by the emperor. the civil service exam in ancient china started during the han dynasty. it served the purpose of recruiting confucian scholars to the ministers and high officials. during the tang and qing dynasties reinstituted and ancient system. once every three years, three hundred scholars from all over the country came to beijing and took exams for three day and night. this system was abolished in 1905.
(behind the hall of preserving harmony)
this is the largest stone carving in the palace . it is 16.73 meters long, 3.07 meters wide and 1.7 meters thick .it weighs about 200 tons. the block was quarried in fangshan county, roughly 70 kilometers away. to transport such a huge block to beijing, laborers dug wells along the roadside half a kilometer apart, and used the groundwater to make a road of ice in the winter. rolling blocks were used in the summer. in 1760, emperor qianlong of the qing dynasty ordered the carving of the existing cloud and dragon design in place of the old one which dated back to the ming dynasty.
note : from here, the tour can be conducted via three different routes: a western route(route a), a central route (route b) or an eastern route (route c) .the commentary for each follows.
ladies and gentlemen:
you have seen the three main halls of the forbidden city. now i ` d like to show you around the hall of mental cultivation and the imperial garden . the hall of mental cultivation is situated is in the western part of the innermost enclosure and is symmetrical to fengxian (enshrinement of forebears) hall in the east. this hall was built during the ming dynasty. it is a h-shaped structure consisting of an antechamber and a main building .the hall is surrounded by corridors. in front of the hall is the office of privy council.
before emperor kangxi of qing the dynasty came to power the hall of heavenly purity served as the living quarter of the emperors. emperor yongzheng chose to live in this hall and attended to every day state affairs from here .for the sake of protecting cultural relics, this hall is not open to the public .you can have a look at the inside from the door. the central hall was the audience chamber where the emperor read memorials, granted audience to officials and summoned his minsters for consultation. the western chamber of the hall was where the emperor read reports and discussed military and political affairs. the hall consists of many inner rooms and is decorated with images of buddha and miniature pagodas. on the screen wall there hangs a picture of two emperors in the han costume. in a southern room there three rare calligraphic scrolls, hence the name of the room “sanxitang” (room of three rare treasures) . the room on the eastern side is of historical interst because it was here that empress dowager cixi usurped power and made decisions on behalf of the young emperor . a bamboo curtain was used to separate them .
empress dowage cixi was born in 1835 in lu` an prefecture of shanxi province. she` s of manchurian nationality and her father was a provincial governor from south china. when she was 17 years old ,she was selected to become a concubine of emperor xianfeng and moved into the forbidden city. she gave birth to a son when she was 21years old and was made a concubine the following year. when the emperor passed away in the summer of 1861, her son ascended the throne and title of cixi, meaning “holy mother” was conferred upon her and she became the empress dowager. in that same year empress dowager cixi carried out a count coup d` etat and ruled behind the scenes with another empress dowager, ci` an, for 48 years. she passed away in 1908 at the age of 73. it was in reference to this situation that the term “attending to state affairs behind a bamboo curtain” developed .in 1912 , empress dowager longyu declared the abdication of the last qing emperor puyi. they were allowed to remain in the forbidden city for the next 13 years .the royal family was forced to move out permanently in 1924.
behind the central hall were the living accommodation of 8 successive qing emperors .three of them actually passed away here. the side rooms flanking the hall were reserved for empresses and concubines. now let` s continue with our tour. it will take us to the hall of heavenly purity , the hall of union and peace ,the palace of earthly tranquility, and the imperial garden.
(inside the hall of heavenly purity)
ladies and gentlemen:
we are now entering the inner court. from the gate of heavenly purity northward lies the inner court where the emperors and empresses once lived .the hall of heavenly purity is the central hall of the inner court ,and was completed during the reign of emperor yongle of the ming dynasty. there are 10 pillars supporting the entire structure and the hall is 20 meters in height .in the center of the hall there a throne. above it hangs a plaque with an inscription that reads “be open and above-board,” written by shenzhi,the first emperor of the qing dynasty. beginning with qianlong` s reign, the name of the successor to the throne was not publicly announced .instead, it was written on two pieces of paper, one to be kept on the emperor` s person throughout his reign, and the other placed in a small strongbox that was stored behind his plaque. the box was opened only after the emperor passed away. altogether there where 4 emperors who ascended the throne in this way, namely qianlong, jiaqing, daohuang and xian feng.
the hall of heavenly purity was where the emperors lived during the ming and qing dynasties. according to tradition ,extravagant annual banquets were held here on new year` s eve in honour of royal family members. foreign ambassadors were received here during the late-qing period. two important “one thousand old men` s feasts” of the qing dynasty were also held here. all the invitees had to be at least 65 years of age.
this hall was also used for mourning services.
(inside the palace of union and peace)
this hall sits between the hall of heavenly purity and the palace of earthly tranquility, symbolizing the union of heaven and earth ,as well as national peace .it was first built in 1420 and reconstructed in 1798. the hall is square in shape ,and is smaller than the hall of complete harmony .you will see a plaque here inscribed with two chinese characters, wu wei, which were handwritten by emperor qianglong. a throne sits in the middle of the hall with a screen behind it .above the throne there hangs a caisson ,or covered ceiling. the emperor held birthday celebrations and other major events here.
in 1748 during emperor qianlong` s reign, 25 jade seals representing imperial authority were kept in this hall .no seals were allowed out of the room without the prior consent of the emperor. on each flack there is a water clock and a chiming clock.
(inside the palace of earthly tranquility)
this used to be the central hall where successive ming empresses lived. during the qing dynasty, it was converted into a place where sacrifices and wedding ceremonies were held .the room on the western side was used for sacrifices and the room on the east was the seeding chamber.
ladies and gentlemen:
you have seen the three main halls of the forbidden city. now i` d like to show you around scenes of interest along the eastern route. the first is the treasure hall. this mansion is called the hall of imperial zenith. this is where sing emperor quailing lived after abdication. nearly 1,000 artifacts and treasures are on display here, among which the golden hair tower is one of the most famous. this tower is 1.53meters in height and its base is 0.53 meters in circumference .it was built under the order of emperor quailing to be used to collect fallen hair in commemoration of his mother. there is also a “day harnessing water jade hill ” on display here. yu was a legendary monarch of the remote ixia dynasty. under his leadership, the people learned how to harness the yellow river. this jade assemblage, 224 centimeters in height and 5 tons in weight, is the largest jade artwork in china. this mat was woven with peeled ivory. these artifacts are among china` s rarest treasures.
(in front of the nine-dragon screen)
this is the nine-dragon relief screen .erected in 1773,it is 3.5 meters in height and 29.4 meters in width. underneath is a foundation made of marble .the surface of the screen is laid with a total of 270 colored, glazed tiles in the design of 9 dragons ,some rocky mountains ,clouds and the sea. it was meant to ward off evil spirits the ancient chinese regarded 9 dragons, some rocky mountains, clouds and the sea. it was meant to ward off evil spirits .the ancient chinese regarded 9 as the largest numeral and the dragon as a auspicious beast .the 9 dragons are different in color and posture and all are made of glazed tiles. interestingly a piece of the third dragon from the left is made of wood. it is believe that when the nine-dragon screen was almost finished ,a piece of glazed tile was damaged .emperor qianlong was scheduled to inspect the work the following day .using quick wits, the craftsman in question molded the missing piece with clay and sailed through the imperial inspection. later ,he asked a carpenter to carve a wooden one to replace the one made of clay.
(approaching the imperial garden)
behind the palace of earthly tranquility and trading the north-south axis is the imperial garden. there are old trees, rare flowers and exotic rock formation in this garden .it cover a space of 11,700 square meters, or roughly 1.7 percent of the forbidden city. most of the structures in the garden are symmetrically arranged . however, each is different in terms of parrern and decoration. woods clumps of bamboo screen off the garden and strengthens its deep and serene atmosphere.
there main structure of the imperial garden is the qin` an hall. positioned in the central-northern part of the garden ,this hall is flanked by other halls and pavilions on the east and west. the hall sits on a marble pedestal. the taoist deity of zhenwu is enshrined here and emperor would pay homage here a quarterly basis. taoist rites were held during the reign of emperor jiajing of the ming dynasty. in front of the hall there is a cypress that is 400 years old .in all there are a dozen such rare trees in the garden, and most of them are cypresses or pines. to the northwest of the hall , there is the yanhui(sustaining sunshine) pavilion and to the northeast there lies the duixiu (accumulated refinement )hill. this hill was built over the foundation of the long- pershed guanhua (admiring flowers) hall of the ming dynasty. it is 14 meters in height and made of al kinds of rocks quarried in jiang su province. at its base stand two nstone lions, each carrying a dragon shooting water 10 meters up into the air from its mouth. there are meandering paths leading to the hilltop. at the top of duixiu hill sits the yujing (imperial viewing)pavilion. traditionally, on the day of the double ninth festival (the ninth day of the ninth lunar month ), the emperor ,his consort, and his concubines would climb up to yujing pavilion to enjoy the scenery.
at the southeastern corner of the garden is jiangxue(crimson snowy) verandah. nearby to the southwest lies yangxing study (study of the cultivation of nature) .the yangxing study was used as a royal library during the reign of emperor qianlong of the qing dynasty. the last emperor of the qing dynasty, puyi once studied english there. in front of the jiangxue verandah some chinese flowering crabapples grow. the structure got its name from the crabapples who blossoms trun from crimson to snowy white. in front of the verandah, there grows a rare flower that was brought from henna province under the order of empress dowager cixi. in the northest is chizao tang (hall of using flowery language), once used as a library where rare books were stored.
there are also specific pavilions symbolizing the four seasons .the halls of wanchun and qianqiu ,representing spring and autumn respectively ,are square in shape and are coupled with multiple eaves and bell-shape and are coupled with multiple eaves and bell-shaped ridges. the halls of chengrui and fubi,dedecated to winter and summer, are characterized by two verandahs and bridges at their bases .paths were paved with colorful pebbles and arranged in 900 different designs.
the imperial garden can be accessed through the qiong yuan (jade garden )west gate or the qiong yuan east gate. a third gate, the shunzhen(obedience and fidelity)gate, opens to the north. its doors are laid in glazed tiles and it was only used by the empress or concubines.
as our tour of the forbidden city draws to a close, i hope that i have helped you understand why the palace is a treasure of china and one of the cultural relics of the world. it is under the strict protection of the chinese government. since 1949 when the people` s rupublic of china was founded, nearly one trillion rmb was spent on its restoration and refurbishment. the forbidden city has undergone four major facelifts to date. each year, the government earmarks a large sum to gather, sort and study cultural relics. the palace now contains a total of 930,000cultural relics. well, so much for today .let` s go to reboard the coach. thank you !