The Forbidden City located in the center of Beijing, China is currently the home of the Palace Museum; however, it was once the Chinese Imperial Palace during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The property served as the political center of the Chinese government, as well as the home of emperors for nearly 500 years. It served as the Imperial Palace for 24 emperors throughout its history. The Forbidden City is now one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions, and in 1987, was listed as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Emperor Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty oversaw the building of the palace in the center of the city called the Gu Gong. It was built over a span of 14 years.
The palace was dubbed the Purple Palace in honor of Polaris, the Purple Star. Ancient astronomers in China believed that Polaris was the center of heaven and that the Heavenly Emperor lived in a Purple Palace. Therefore, the Palace on earth was dubbed the Purple City, the home of the Heavenly Emperor. Entry into the Purple City was only given by special permission of the emperor. The city was named “the Purple Forbidden City.”
Today the Forbidden City is known as the Palace Museum. It is built on a 74 acre complex, making it the largest palace complex in the world. The palace is surrounded by a 52 meter wide moat, a 10 meter tall wall, and a wall gate on each side. The actual palace building contains more than 8,700 rooms. On each of the 4 corners of the curtain wall are some distinctive structured towers that provide great views over the palace and the city outside the palace.
The palace complex is divided into two parts. The northern section of the court includes the Inner Court, where the emperors lived with his royal family. The inner court was home to 14 Ming Dynasty emperors and 10 Qing Dynasty emperors, before finally housing its last emperor in 1924. The inner court served as primary residence for Chinese emperors for nearly 5 centuries. The southern section of the court includes the Outer Court, which was where the emperors exercised his power over the nation.
The actual construction of the palace complex began in 1407, during the fifth year of reign of Emperor Chenzu, Zhu Di of the Ming Dynasty. It was completed 14 years later in 1420. The capital city was moved from Nanjing to Beijing, just one year after completing the project. It is suggested that more than 1 million workers were used in the making of the palace complex. This number includes as many as 100 thousand artisans who were forced into labor for this project. Much of the wood, stone and other materials had to be transported from the other far off provinces.