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    China Chronology

    Construction of the Forbidden City Begins

    1421

    ;

    In the city of Beijing, China, the most important place in the entire city was hidden (or "forbidden") from public view. It was called "The Forbidden City" because the emperor lived there with his family and his Imperial court. He was believed to be the "Son of Heaven." Therefore, he and his family required a special, or sacred, place to live in - away from "ordinary eyes."

    How did he go about making his city so forbidden from the commoner's eye? Simple. He had a wall built around his 183 acres of land, literally isolating it from the rest of the city! The wall was 32 feet high, extending 2,500 feet from east to west and 3,150 feet from north to south (all of which was painted red to symbolize joy). Within these walls was not only the emperor's home (which was painted purple to represent the "Zi," meaning the center of the universe), but also the "Zijincheng," which was the inner city. Indeed, the emperor and his family possessed their own private city.

    Back to "Ming Dynasty" Chronology

    Aside from the reason of keeping the emperor's city secluded from the rest of the city, it was initially built to reflect the glory of the emperor, Yang Chang. Before his reign, the Chinese were under the oppression of the Mongols. They ruthlessly exploited the Chinese, which resulted in immense destruction, enslavement, and countless deaths. This oppression ended when Yang Chang helped his people to overcome their rivals and established the Ming Dynasty. Under his leadership, a new city was founded (as his capital) and the construction of The Forbidden City was begun.

    The construction of the city started in 1406, and it took 14 years and an estimated 200,000 men to build it. The structure contains 75 buildings and 9,999 rooms (which are still standing today), the largest building being the Taihedian, translated as the Hall of Supreme Harmony. This hall stands in the center of the city. Moreover, it remains the tallest and largest structure in the city--it was forbidden to build anything taller. The various rooms of the "palace" were used by the extensive entourage of the Imperial family and as the main offices of the bureaucracy.

    Sadly, the city was destroyed in 1644 after being conquered by an army from Manchuria. It was partially damaged by a fire during the battle between the opposing forces and the Beijing Li troops. In our present day, the city is open as a museum and it was the filming location of the movie "The Last Emperor."

    The Forbidden City was a beautiful place. However, rest assured that today it still stands as a reminder for the Chinese people of Yang Chang (their "savior") and their redemption from the Mongols.

    Sources:

    International Dictionary of Historic Places. Vol. 5. Asia and Ocean. Fitzroy Dearborm Publishers. 1996.

    The Cambridge Encyclopedia Of China. New Edition (2nd). Cambridge University Press. 1991.

    The Cambridge History of China. Vol. 7. The Ming Dynasty 1368-1644 Part 1. Cambridge Press 1988.


    Edited by: Lisette Sierra,
    Researched by: Loribel D Ominga,
    Written by: Paul H. Vieux,
    September 23, 1997

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