Forbidden City in Beijing
Nestled in the heart of Beijing lies what was once China's best-kept secret. 'Zjnchéng', meaning Forbidden City, is actually just a massive palace. It's so big that it creates an entire city all on its own, an astounding monument to China's dynastic heritage.
The creation of this huge complex of stunning buildings started in 1406. And it was all for one man, a large than life emperor. The people of China believed the Ming Emperor Zhu Di to be the son of the heavens, and that his father had 10,000 rooms in his palace.
Of course, not wanting to outdo his father, the emperor opted for a much more modest 9,999 rooms in his palace. You'll be awestruck by the size of it. The complex covers 74 hectares and is the largest palace in the world.
Its name comes from the fact only the emperor and his courtiers were allowed to enter the palace grounds. Any trespassers who were caught were dealt with swiftly.
Fast forward to modern day Beijing, and there's now a friendlier tolerance to visiting guests. On your holiday to Beijing, visiting the Forbidden City should be high on your must-see list, where you can lose yourself in the sea of terracotta-coloured roofs. The Forbidden City is as big as 100 football fields, so bring comfortable walking shoes. You'll need them as you wander the grounds and explore this exceptionally designed fortress.
The Forbidden Palace has been the home and power base of 24 emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties, right up until 1924. They added to it over the years and restored parts. The palace is surrounded by a 52m-wide moat and a 10m-high wall, with four gates, one at each compass point, allowing access.
Each corner has a delicately-structured tower with great views. Take in the rich Chinese culture as you saunter from one lavish courtyard to the next, meandering through beautifully decorated halls, each more dazzling and magnificent than the last. Immerse yourself in the palace's rich history and expert craftsmanship.
Notice how the symbolic reds, greens, crisp whites and vibrant golden shades are woven together and topped off with ornately decorated ceilings and delicately handcrafted statues.
You'll notice a lot of yellow in the Forbidden City as that's the colour of the royal family. Decorations are painted yellow, and the roofs have yellow glazed tiles, apart from the royal library. That has a black roof as it was believed black represented water and could put out any fires.
Some 100,000 skilled craftsmen were utilised to hand-carve the elaborate detail around the city. The building of the palace was ingenious, too. Bricks for the red city wall, built so it's impossible to climb, were made from white lime and rice. They transported large blocks of stone from quarries by digging wells along the way, then pouring water on the road. It froze over in the winter and the stones were then dragged along the ice.
Be sure to make your way to Forbidden City and explore the palace on your trip to Beijing. You'll be blown away by the quality of the incredible architecture, even today - six centuries later.
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