After passing through Meridian gate, you enter a huge Palace courtyard. Hereafter, the complex is divided into two sections: the Inner Court or the living quarters, and the working area also known as the Outer Court. The Palace courtyard itself contains the "stream of golden water" and five bridges, all decorated with carved torches, traditional symbols of masculinity. The Outer court is guarded by a row of lions protecting the Gate of Supreme Harmony.
The Outer Court starts at the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the greatest and largest of all the halls in the complex. This was the most important building for the emperor and the place where all official business was done. Ceremonies such as the enthronement of the Crown Prince, the Emperor's birthday, imperial marriage ceremonies, and the initiation of military expeditions all took place here. The Emperor would arrive at the Hall of Supreme Harmony amidst ceremonial music, drum-beating and firecrackers. See the Forbidden City Photos Gallaries Here
He would them take his place on the throne and listen to a reading of congratulatory messages from his palace courtiers. Civil and military officials would all kneel before him proclaiming, "Long Live Your Majesty." The building itself is decorated with thousands of dragons, the traditional symbol of the Emperor's power.The Midway Hall of Harmony is a smaller hall where the emperor would prepare for the ceremonies to be held in the Hall of Supreme Harmony. The Midway hall was also used by the Emperor to examine agricultural instruments
and discuss techniques. This was an important duty as the responsibility for a poor harvest fell largely on his shoulders.
The Inner Court begins at the Hall of Celestial Purity. The inner court was where the emperor, his concubines and Eunuchs lived. Approximately half of the six thousand people at the Imperial court were Eunuchs. Eunuchs were seen to improve the emperors position and ensured that his children were just that, HIS own! There were similar numbers of Concubines in the Palace. In this way, any aspiring courtiers or women who fancied they may rise up the social ladder a little were taken care of! The Emperor was definitely THE BOSS.
The Gate of Celestial Purity was where the emperor attended to state affairs. The Emperors Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong attended to business here on a daily basis. After these three emperors died, standards fell and by the time the Qing dynasty came to power in 1644, corruption was rife.
During the Ming Dynasty and the early Qing Dynasty, the emperors lived in the Hall of Celestial Purity while the Empresses inhabited the Hall of Earthly Peace. The Hall of Union and Peace was the area where the emperor and empress could live together. In later periods, the Emperor and Empress moved to the Six West Palaces. The Emperor's choice of a son to succeed him is said to be kept in a secret box in the Hall of Celestial purity. See the Forbidden City Photos Gallaries Here
To learn far more about life in the Forbidden City, take the audio tour read by Roger Moore.
Even though the Nationalist Government took 3,000crates of treasures to Taiwan, the Forbidden City still has one of the largest collections of Chinese art in the world-so big that displays ,housed in various halls ,change regularly so the museum can ¡®sir¡¯ its collection. Certain exhibits like the Hall of Clocks and Hall of Jewelry require an additional RMB10.Demonstrations involving some of the baroque, garish wing ¨Cup timepieces given to Emperor Qianlong are held at 11am and 2pm daily in the Hall of Clocks. Don¡¯t try to see everything in one day!