Having watched so many shows depicting the lifestyles of the Chinese Imperial family, I was thus anticipating for the opportunity to finally take a peep into the world’s largest surviving palace complex that stood against the test of time. Home to 24 emperors over a span of close to 500 years, the Forbidden City is a truly spectacular palace that is not only steeped in history but also magnificent in its highly elaborated architecture. I could only imagine how splendid the palace complex truly was back in its heyday! Yet, despite its vastness and sheer grandness, lies a highly complicated history and manipulative world … Court life was extremely routine and everyone living within the compound had to adhere to the strict laws, beliefs and practices. There was also intense struggle and competition amongst concubines, eunuchs and even the servants as all were vying for the much desired power and attention from the Emperor. Those who entered through the gates of the Imperial Palace had probably not had another chance to leave as no one could officially leave the city without the Emperor’s permission, hence giving rise to the name “Forbidden City”.
Reputed to have 9999.5 rooms (though later reports claim that there are only over 8700 rooms left. Nonetheless, that’s still a massive amount!), you can expect to reserve at least a couple of days to cover every inch of the palace. Unfortunately, due to the rush nature of our tour, we only managed to spend a pathetic 2-3 hrs covering the most significant parts of the Forbidden City – Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Preserving Harmony, Palace of Earthly Tranquility, Palace of Heavenly Purity and the Imperial Gardens. You might be wondering … Why 9999.5 rooms and what in the world is a 0.5 room? Out of curiosity, I conducted an online search and found out that the last 0.5 room is simply nothing more than a room containing a staircase that was built solely for aesthetic purposes. The number 10,000 signifies Infinity back in Ancient China and since Infinity was linked to Heaven, the largest number that could possibly be used by people then was 9999.5. As quoted from this site, “The approach to ten indicated by 9 reinforces the image of imperial straining to ward the perfection of heaven while maintaining a small margin of reverence for the Heavenly.” Very fascinating indeed.
The Palace is surrounded by a 3800m long, 52 m wide moat.
Covering an area of over 44 hectares, the Tiananmen Square is currently the world’s largest city square where thousands of people gather each day. It is also home to the Tiananmen Gate that connects to the Forbidden City, Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, Great Hall of the People and Monument to the People’s Heroes.