Favorable of the Forbidden City

Table of Content

The Forbidden City, the largest remaining palace in China, was first built by the Han dynasty. After the decline of the Han dynasty, the first emperor of the Ming dynasty moved the capital to Nanjing but later relocated it back to Beijing. The construction of this palace resumed in 1406 A.C. It served as a Chinese imperial city during both the Ming and Qing dynasties and housed twenty-four emperors. This complex comprises nine hundred buildings and nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine rooms.

The palace served multiple roles, functioning as a hub for politics, culture, arts, poetry, history, and science. Additionally, it held significant importance as the official dwelling of the emperor in China during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Chinese people referred to the emperor as the “son of heaven.” This article will primarily discuss traditional Chinese architecture in these dynasties while providing context. It will also explore the distinctive architectural features found within the Forbidden City and how they convey beliefs and symbolism prevalent in Chinese architecture.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

The Forbidden City, renowned globally as an architectural masterpiece, exemplifies 7000 years of Chinese traditional architecture. Despite geographical and climatic variations, different regions have showcased diverse architectural styles. Traditional Chinese architecture is considered the world’s oldest system and is distinctively developed independently. Remarkably, China’s history dates back to the Neolithic Age and encompasses over 15 dynasties.

Both the Ming and Qing Dynasties experienced significant changes in both characteristics and developments in traditional Chinese architecture. These characteristics can be categorized into various aspects including built environment, planning, construction, bracketing system, roof form, roof section, roof decorations, color scheme, walls, columns, tiles, windows, doors and openings, as well as podiums and balustrades. The advancements in traditional Chinese architecture during these dynasties can be divided into different stages based on technical standards and stylistic progress.

The technical standard gave rise to a distinct system with a wooden framework that evolved over centuries of innovation and synthesis. This system, which is still used today, has had a profound impact on Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia. It represents a lasting and consistent characteristic that has spread across a wide region. Additionally, the structure of wooden frame buildings supports the weight of both the roof and upper stories. Chinese traditional architecture encompasses three significant forms.

First, there is the ‘Tailiang’ method, which is a column-beam-and-strut system for building. In this method, major beams are laid across the front and back columns, and then smaller beams are laid over them. These beams are supported by struts that rise in between to create a roof line that slopes to the side of the building. Purlins are added over these beams, and then rafters are laid on top of the purlins. The space between two purlins and two columns serves as the basic unit of space in a wooden framed house.

Secondly, there is the ‘Chuadon’ framework, which is a column-and-tie system for building.

This framework is different from the previous ones because the purlin is not supported by a beam. Instead, the column rises higher and higher, forming the roofline and directly supporting the purlins. The third form is called ‘Miliang pingding’, which has a flat roof supported by purlins and rafters. In this form, columns are used to support the purlins, which act as the main beams. Out of these three forms, the column-beam-and-strut style is widely used in central, northern, northwestern, and northeastern parts of China. As a result, the use of wooden framework has created a distinct architectural characteristic in various ways.

The building’s exterior is divided into three distinct parts: the platform, the building itself, and the roof. The roof design features a concave surface and curved-up corner, promoting water shedding and allowing natural light to enter the interior. Furthermore, it allows for various styles such as the ‘Zuanjian’ pyramid-shaped roof, the ‘Wudian’ hipped roof, and the ‘Xieshan’ combination hip-gable roof.

These three types of roof have two adjacent slopes that meet above each of four corners at forty-five-degree angles. Another prominent feature of Chinese tradition is the stylistic element known as ‘Dougong’, which is a combination of blocks and supporting arms. Dougong has been used since the Han Dynasty, from the fifth century B. C. to the third century A. D., and reached its peak during the Tang and Song dynasties, from the seventh to thirteenth centuries. Importantly, it maintains the structural integrity of the wooden framework and serves a similar function as the collar beam in modern architecture.

Dougong underwent a transformation during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, gradually decreasing in size and losing its structural significance to become a stylized decorative element. Its use initially showcased technical standards, reaching its peak, before eventually being reduced to a mere stylistic element. The development of architectural style during this period also includes the evolution of landscape garden design, which has undergone a lengthy historical progression.

The garden has two types: royal gardens and private gardens. Private gardens were used by residents for relaxation, enjoyment, and living. The royal gardens differed in size and organization. The garden plan style had been developing since the Zhou dynasty (1066-225 BC) and reached its most sophisticated form during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Moving on to the Forbidden City’s architecture, it strictly adhered to centrality, symmetry, and severity along the cardinal axis. The palace was called the purple forbidden city because it had the purple luminous constellation with Polaris, the north star, at its center. This represented the heavenly equivalent of the home of the supreme ruler on earth. In ancient China, people believed that their emperors were heavenly men, the Sons of God, who came to protect and guide them. The central position of the palace reflected this belief, with buildings aligned along the North and South axes and all major buildings facing southwards towards the sun. The arrangement of buildings within the Forbidden City was symmetrical.

The outer palace consists of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, while the inner palace includes the Hall of Heavenly Purity, the Hall of Union and the Hall of Earthly Tranquility, all arranged in a north-south axis. Additionally, the capital city’s symmetry reflects a sociopolitical vision of balance, stability, hierarchy, and harmony. The architecture of the palace is designed to connect space and form with symbolism and status. The overall buildings in the palace complex demonstrate the significance of space and form.

The size of halls differs depending on their usage. The three great halls that are directly related to the emperor exemplify how space and form are connected to symbolism and rank. Moreover, architecture is used to express belief and symbolism. In Chinese cosmology, heaven was depicted as round and the earth as a stable cube. Space was conceptualized as a series of squares, with the empire’s capital city situated at the center and strictly aligned with the cardinal directions.

And at the heart of the city stood the palace, which occupied the central position along the main north-south axis. It faced southward, just like all other significant structures, in alignment with the Red phoenix, symbolizing summer and fire. To the east lay the area associated with the blue Dragon, representing spring, growth, and an upright tree. In this part of the capital stood the Temple of the Ancestors. The west, embodied by the white Tiger, symbolized autumn, harvests, wars, the loss of lives, memories, and remorse. The Altar of the Earth was located in the urban arrangement as a representation of these concepts.

The arrival of cold winter and destructive hordes from the north, symbolized by the color black, presented a threat. The emperor turned away from this threat, while in the northern sector of the city, questionable activities such as commerce and markets would take place, confined behind the palace. The quote suggests that the Chinese expressed their beliefs through their palace architecture. They positioned the palace at the center of their capital city and aligned all seven major halls in the center of the complex.

In the very center of the complex, Emperor’s hall is located. Ancient beliefs considered emperors to be divine figures who protected and centered the people. This belief is reflected in the balanced layout of the Palace City, where open spaces and buildings harmoniously coexist. The hall is adorned with gardens, terraces, and majestic stairways. The decoration includes auspicious colors such as gold, red, and green. In my discussion, I use the terms monumentality and monument to signify two interconnected levels. Both terms stem from the Latin word ‘monumentum’, which signifies remembrance and admonishment. Monumentality refers to a monumental state and quality, as defined in Webster’s New International Dictionary. A physical monument can endure even when its commemorative and instructive meaning has faded away.

The relationship between monumentality and monuments is similar to that of content and form. A monument must possess a definite monumentality in order to serve its intended purpose. Monumentality is associated with memory, continuity, and political, ethical, or religious obligations to tradition. This primary meaning emphasizes the multi-faceted social, political, and ideological importance of monuments. Scholars have consistently acknowledged that monuments, regardless of their shape or material, serve to preserve memory, shape history, immortalize individuals or events, unite communities or the public, establish a center for political gatherings or ritual communications, bridge the gap between the living and the dead, and connect the present with the future. The Forbidden City palace is an example of monumentality as it was once used for social and political purposes and it still remains relevant today, despite losing some of its commemorative and instructive significance.

Moreover, the palace can also be described as a monument, as its powerful influence remains in people’s memory for a long period. Another example of symbolism is represented by the horizontality. The horizontal structure is used to express sedateness and harmony. The large horizontal roof represents the sky and the Son of Heaven. Additionally, the five arched bridges symbolize the virtues of benevolence, righteousness, rite, wisdom, and honesty. Their alignment and centralized position strongly highlight the main axis of the entire complex and enhance the significance of the three great halls.

The palace architecture in China signifies the significance it holds and represents the country’s symbolic and belief systems. As one of the oldest nations, China has a long-standing architectural heritage that flourished particularly during the Ming and Qing dynasties. These periods showcased exceptional technical and stylistic excellence in traditional Chinese architecture. By examining the Forbidden City’s architecture, we can discern its strict adherence to principles of centrality and symmetry in both structure and orientation. Additionally, spiritual beliefs greatly influenced the expression of this architectural marvel.

Cite this page

Favorable of the Forbidden City. (2017, Feb 22). Retrieved from


Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront