Why is Yellow
The predominant color of the Forbidden City is yellow. Nearly all the houses are roofed with yellow-glazed-tiles. For the ancient Chinese, the universe was made up of five elements: gold, wood, water, fire. earth, and earth was the most basic of them all. These elements were metaphors in the very ancient philosophies of Yin Yang and the Five Agencies and had deeper significance than these associations in nature seem at first to suggest. Yellow, the color of earth, was extensively used for emperors, since they were regarded as the world’s supreme rulers and were to imitate and approach heaven as far as reverently possible. The only building in the Forbidden City with a roof of black tiles is Wenyuange, the royal library. This is because black represents water among the “five elements, ”and water can overcome fire. Obviously fire was a constant danger for the book collection housed under the Library’s roof, so the black tiles were a kind of “fire insurance.”
Writing of the ancient Zhou city, the Zhou-li Book of Rites says: “The architects who laid out a capital made it a square nine li (about three miles) on a side, each side having three gateways. Within the capital there were nine lengthwise and nine crosswise avenues, each nine chariot tracks wide. On the left was the ancestral temple, on the right the Altar of the Soil; in front lay the Court State, at the rear the market place. The palace buildings were first constructed during the Zhou Dynasty (1600-1046 BC)more than 3,000 years ago, due to dynastic changes, all the palace buildings have been destroyed except the Forbidden City in Beijing and the Palace Buildings In Shenyang, Liaoning Province.
In the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Forbidden City served as three functions, such as the nation’s ruling centre, the symbol of imperial power (or authority), and living quarters for the emperor, empress, imperial concubines, princes and emperors grandsons.
Why is the Purple Forbidden City
The Palace Museum known as the Purple Forbidden City is located in the center of Beijing. Legend relates that emperor was regarded as Son of the God of Heaven, meaning Son of Heaven. The palace inhabited by the Son of Heaven was regarded as Purple Palace. The second tale continues that purple was the symbolic color of the North Star, the center of the cosmos. Common people were not allowed to be accessible to the Forbidden City; therefore, the imperial palace was named Forbidden City. The Forbidden City encompasses 72 hectares (720,000 square meters) with more than 90 courtyards, big and small, embracing 980 buildings of various sizes with 8, 707 room-units (on-the-spot practical survey statistics in 1973).
It is rectangular in shape, 961 meters long from north to south and 753 meters wide from east to west. There is a 3,428-meter- long and 10-metre-high wall, encircled by a 3,800-meter-long and 52-meter wide moat. In the Ming Dynasty, the timber needed for building the palace was brought mostly from Sichuan, Hunan and Guizhou provinces, while in the Qing Dynasty, it was cut from northeast China. Most of the stones were quarried from the suburban district of Fangshan and other districts. Construction of the Forbidden City brought tremendous hardship to the laboring people at that time. As a popular saying goes: “1,000 people entered the mountain, only 500 returned.” This was a true portrayal of the death situation of the lumbering workers at that time.
From the Ming emperor Yongle to the Qing emperor Qianlong (1736-95), construction of the Forbidden City continued for more than 300 years.
Beijing used to be a magnified siheyuan (a compound with houses around a square courtyard; quadrangle); The Forbidden City and Imperial City were all standardized siheyuan. Siheyuan is a cultural wonder in the history of Chinese architecture. It has become an optional must-see item on the itinerary for the overseas tourist. The palace is the largest piece of ancient Chinese architecture still standing. Some of the buildings were damaged by lightning and rebuilt in the Ming and Qing dynasties. The palace had been expanded several times, but the original layout was preserved. There are more than one million cultural relics in the Forbidden City, and a fraction (A total of 2, 972 wooden trunks, accounting for about one-fourth of more than 13,000 trunks transporting to South China due to Japanese invasion;during the moving for 5 years, not a single cultural relic was damaged or lost) of the cultural relics were shipped to Taiwan by the Kuomintang in 1948. Since the founding of the new China in 1949, the garbage collected from the Forbidden City amounted to 250,000 cubic meters. This amount of garbage used to build a wall would have been enough to build a wall two-meter high and two-meter thick stretching from Beijing to Tianjin.
The Renovations of the Palace Museum
Since 1949, a very large sum of money of State investment has been fed into the renovations of the Palace Museum. In 1961 the State Council placed the Forbidden City on the list of cultural sites to be accorded special protection. These ancient buildings have stood the test of time. A survey made by the Forbidden City in 2004 showed the vast scale of the collections: 1.5 million cultural relics, of which 350,000 being pieces of porcelain, over 10,000 calligraphy and paintings, more than 30,000 jade wares( the oldest one being over 7,000 years) and over 7,000 cloisonné articles.
The United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inscribed the Forbidden City on the World Heritage List in 1987. The Forbidden City has increased the number of telephones for visitors, and transparent material has been used for telephone booths, which are installed in the corners, so that they can stand in harmony with the ancient style of the Forbidden City. From the website, publications, tapes and volunteers, visitors can be well informed in the Forbidden City. Overseas visitors will meet few language barriers, as brochures have been printed in multi-languages. All public conveniences (rest rooms) have been rebuilt to meet three-star grade that has facilities to wash hands, tissues, hand-dryers and washrooms specially designed for disabled and elderly people.
As a world-class museum, the Forbidden City attracts an average of 25,000 tourists every day. Some visitors may, unavoidably, fall ill during their tour. To solve this problem, the museum has two medical teams of five to six full-time doctors to provide medical services. The museum will temporarily invite doctors from other hospitals in the holiday seasons. Therefore, the museum will guarantee a healthier visit to tourists, even if as many as 80,000 people (the largest number of visitors the museum can accommodate) visit the museum in one single day. For the sake of the security of the historical and cultural treasures. And also for visitors to see the treasures, the museum has to control the number of visitors. Also the use of cameras and video cameras is strictly prohibited in all the exhibition rooms of the Forbidden City.
A total of 2 billion yuan(US$247 million)of state investment will be fed into the revamping of the Forbidden City. It started the most massive renovation project in 2003 and will continue its massive restoration project that will run until 2020. During the massive renovation of the Forbidden City, 1.2 million yuan(US$15 million) will be used each year. It is the most extensive renovation for the Forbidden City since the Qing Dynasty was overthrown in 1911. During the entire renovation, 2,700 cubic meters of pine trees were used. These pine trees were cut from Daxing’anling in Heilongjiang Province a total of 10 million goldleaves (gold foils) were used for redecoration.
The face-lift will repair old buildings, dilapidated floors and fading color paintings as well as artistic antiques and articles of historical interest that need protection. It was built on a cosmological mandated north-south axis. More than 80 per cent of the palace will be open in the future instead of the current one-third of the Palace’s total area. The vast palace was called “forbidden” because commoners, except courtiers, were not allowed to enter the complex without special permission during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It served as the dwelling for emperors until 1924.
As part of the protection plan, the museum administration will spend seven years on clearing up the collections of cultural and art relics in the palace, and sorting out all relics from the Ming and Qing dynasties that have not been written into the inventory.
About seven or eight million tourists from home and abroad visit the Forbidden City every year, but they visit only one-third of the total complex. The other two-thirds have been locked down and covered by thick layer of dust. The goal of the most extensive renovation is to rehabilitate the glory of the palace when it was at its peak time in the imperial era. Around 70 per cent of the palace will be open to the public after the renovations are finished in 2020 to mark the 600th anniversary of the completion of the Forbidden City.
The Forbidden City was the symbol of the feudal dynasty, and the stage of emperors, princes, generals and ministers. It bears the weight of history and creates the future as well.