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Beijing Forbidden City

During the Qing Dynasty, they were altogether 308 vats in the palace enclosure. They were made of gilt bronze or iron. Of course, 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.

Route A

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 interest 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.

Route B

(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 is 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, Daoguang 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 Qianlong. 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.

Route C

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)

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