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Revealed: The secret symbols Of China’s Forbidden City

Forbidden City

Published: 11 February 2015

The Forbidden City lies at the heart of China’s capital city and is one of the main Beijing attractions and is China’s largest and best-preserved collection of ancient buildings. For nearly 500 years, entry into this fascinating complex that was the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties, was extremely restricted, lending it its intimidating name. The largest palace complex in the world, it houses some of the best preserved ancient buildings in the country today and is a cornerstone of history and culture in the world of Beijing tourism.

Every detail from the structure of each building to the tiniest of design elements in this royal abode was crafted to reflect several religious and philosophical ideologies and the power of the Imperial Empire.

The Flexicover team look at some of these incredible details:

The colour of the roof:

Yellow represents the colour of the emperor, the central figure in China and also the land, root and origin of all earthly creatures. Yellow glazed tiles adorn all but two roofs in the Forbidden City, to symbolise his supreme dominion over them. The library roof at the Pavilion of Literary Profundity, however, has black tiles. The colour black is associated with water, so black tiles were fitted in the belief that it would guard the library against fire. Similarly, green tiles were fitted on the roof of the residential structures of the Crown Prince. Green, thought to denote wood, symbolised the continuous growth of the Prince.

The number of halls:

The Outer Courts and Inner Courts house main halls, which have all been constructed in groups of three to represent the Qian triagram, which symbolises Heaven. In contrast, all the residential structures in the Inner Court are constructed in groups of six to denote the Kun triagram which represents Earth. The Forbidden City, thus symbolised the harmony of Heaven and Earth. 

The layout:

The entire layout of the Forbidden City in China was planned according to the ancient customs found in the Classic of Rites. Storage areas were constructed in the front area of the palace complex, residences were constructed at the back and ancestral temples stood to the front of the palace.

The number of statuettes:

Each building in the Forbidden City has a line of statuettes on the sloping ridge of its roof, the first depicting a man flying a phoenix and the last an imperial dragon. The number of statuettes denoted the status of the building, with minor buildings having 3 to 5 while more important ones had between 5 to 9. The roof of the Palace of Hall of Supreme Harmony, however, sports as many as 10 statuettes, the only building in the entire country which was allowed that number. The additional statuette was called Hangshi or ‘ranked tenth’ and is the only one of its kind.

Delve into this fascinating world that has stood the test of time and discover its magical symbols for yourself on your holidays to Beijing in 2015.

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