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Ancient China Forbidden City Tour

Forbidden Palace - Wumen

Wumen, or Meridian Gate is the main south entrance of the Forbidden city, and wumen is also the largest gate leading into Forbidden Palace. Meridian Gate is 35.6m high and has five openings.

Then central arch opening was for exclusive use of the emperor, the east smaller arch was used by the officials and ministers, and the west arch was used by the imperial family. The outermost arches to the sides are used by the low ranked officials.

Forbidden City Tour - Three Great Halls

After entering Wumen, you enter a rather large court yard, and beyond the court yard (going north), sits the Three Great Halls:

  1. Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian)
  2. Hall of Complete Harmony (Zhonghedian)
  3. Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohedian)

Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian)

Hall of Supreme Harmony stood in the center of the front palace. Along with the other two Harmony Halls, the Three Great Halls stood on 7 meter high terraces made of 3 layers of white marble. The pillar of the halls are decorated at the top with carved dragons, phoenix, and cloud patterns. At the base of the pillar is a dragon's head with a hole in its mouth used for water drainage.

Only the most important ceremonies were held in the Hall of Supreme Harmony - it's also know as the Hall of Golden Throne in the Forbidden City. Only very special events took place here such as:

  • Enthronement of a new emperor
  • The Spring Festival
  • Celebration of Chinese New Year
  • Winter Solstice
  • Announcing the top candidates of imperial examinations

forbidden city taihedian
Photo of the steps leading up to the Three Great Halls

forbidden palace emperor throne
The throne of the Emperor in the Hall of Supreme Harmony

Hall of Complete Harmony (Zhonghedian)

Continuing the tour just a bit north, you will see the Hall of Complete Harmony. Its a much smaller building compared to the Hall of Supreme Harmony (smallest of the three halls). Here, the emperor met with officials, and rehearsals for ceremonies were also held here. Inside houses a throne, and incense burners.

Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohedian)

Behind Zhonghedian, continuing north, is the 3rd Hall of Preserving Harmony. It is the 2nd largest building in the Forbidden City, only smaller than the Hall of Supreme Harmony. It is in this hall, where imperial banquets were held. Each Lunar New Year's eve, the emperor had banquets in this hall to honor the achievements of his officials, and generals. The final stages of the imperial examination are also held in this hall.

Stone Dragon Marble Carving

The stairs north of the Hall of Preserving Harmony is the most spectacular in all of Forbidden City. In the center of the stairway, lies a huge marble carving of nine dragons playing with pearls, and the marble panel is framed with a border of swirling flowers. The dragon is a symbol of the emperor, and the number 9 is the imperial number. These carvings are considered to be among the finest in China.

This marble carving is 16.57 meters long, 3.07 meters wide, 1.7 meters thick, and weighs  more than 200 tons. It is also the largest marble carving within the Forbidden Palace. It took 20,000 workers 28 days to move this slab of marble from Dashiwo, Fangshan into the Forbidden City.

forbidden city nine dragon carving

Nine Dragon Wall Screen

Directly east of the Three Great Halls, is the most famous nine dragon wall. It was built from 1771 to 1776, and measures 6 meters high, and 29.4 meters long. The carving has 9 dragons, each a different color, playing in the sea.

nine dragon screen

It is said that when the nine dragon screen was completed, a piece of glazed tile fell and broke. There was not enough time before the deadline to make another tile. It would mean death, if the inspector had seen this, so the artisans asked the carpenters to make a wooden piece to replace it, and this "defect" was never discovered.

Hope we haven't lost anyone on the tour. Due to the massive size of the Forbidden City, without a tour guide tourist do often get lost. It's hard to imagine the spectacular sights in the Forbidden City without being there yourself. Once you visit the palace, you will find that the Forbidden City is every bit amazing as it sounds, and much more.

Let's continue the tour with the northern region (inner palace) of the Forbidden City.

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