The Forbidden City was an Imperial Palace used from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty. Located in Beijing, China, it is now a museum under the charge of the Palace Museum, whose extensive collection of artwork and artifacts were built upon the imperial collections of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Shaped as an immense rectangle in the middle of the capital, legend has it that it contained 9,999 rooms. This number, as well as the various names of the structures of the City, were part of the sacred and symbolic aspect of the locations.
Four gigantic towers are located on the corners of the walls, while four gates allow access to the inner city. From Tian'anmen square, the main gate of the City is called the Meridian Gate, and leads the way through the City, across multiple areas and gates.
After crossing a first court, another interior wall leads to the most famous area, through the Gate of Supreme Harmony. Farther inside the city, the Gate of Heavenly Purity leads to the inner court which was even more protected. Symbolism has a great part in the architecture of the city, influencing colors, shapes, names and decorations.
The Forbidden City was built at the beginning of the 15th century, and was made of 980 buildings of typical Chinese architecture. Emperors used to live there with their families, concubines and government. It was at the same time a fortress, designed to protect the Emperor and his own, and the shelter for countless concubines guarded by eunuchs, so they could only bear the child of the Emperor.
During the early 16th century, in the Ming Dynasty, the Forbidden Palace was the birthplace of the Empress of the Jiajing Emperor, Zhang, and the Mentor of the Chinese Assassins, Shao Jun, under the rule of the Zhengde Emperor.
However, after Zhengde's death in April 1521, Shao Jun saw a chance for freedom in the Assassins and decided to contact the Assassin Order through Wang Yangming. Shao Jun, along with several other concubines, were rescued after the Assassins broke into the Forbidden City.
Years after her rescue, Jun, now an Assassin, and her Mentor returned to the Forbidden City to save the remaining concubines whom she had grown up with. Before leaving, Shao Jun took the incredible risk of infiltrating the Forbidden City to free her friend, Zhang. Jun found Zhang and was astonished to hear that she wanted to stay, being happy as the Imperial Concubine and asked her old friend to leave in peace. With that, Jun then left the Forbidden City.
In 1530, Zhang Yong and Qiu Ju used Zhang to set a trap for Shao Jun in the Forbidden City. As Shao Jun dueled Qiu while Zhang Yong fled, lanterns dropped during the fight and spread fire across the city. Shao Jun escaped after killing Qiu by jumping into the nearby river.
Eventually, by the 20th century, the Forbidden City became a UNESCO protected site.
- The common English name, "the Forbidden City", is a translation of the Chinese name Zijin Cheng (Chinese: 紫禁城; pinyin: Zǐjinchéng; literally: "Purple Forbidden City").
- The name "Zijin Cheng" is a name with significance on many levels. Zi, or "Purple", refers to the North Star, which in ancient China was called the Ziwei Star, and in traditional Chinese astrology was the heavenly abode of the Celestial Emperor. The surrounding celestial region, the Ziwei Enclosure, was the realm of the Celestial Emperor and his family. The Forbidden City, as the residence of the terrestrial emperor, was its earthly counterpart. Jin, or "Forbidden", referred to the fact that no one could enter or leave the palace without the emperor's permission. Cheng means "a city".