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Forbidden City of  Taihedian

The atmosphere of the Taihemen Square is greatly relaxed. Beginning from Damingmen, after the atmosphere of the three palatial squares has become intensified layer by layer, it changes over to the transition between the Taihedian Square. The volume of the structure is not large, with the jinshui River meandering through it. Five stone bridges are erected over the river, creating a lively atmosphere.

Taihedian Square, in a square shape, encircled by corridors on four sides and covering about 40,000 square meters, is the heart of the entire palatial zone and even the entire city of Beijing. The big hall is located in the northern part of the square, standing above a three-layered white stone platform. The front side is 6O meters long, with an area of 2,380 square meters, and is about 37 meters high from the ground of the square to the ridge of the h3ll. It is the largest existing hall in China. In the middle of the southern courtyard is Taihemen, with two small doors on the left and right sides, ending with corner towers on the further left and right. The left and right corridors each have a garret, which is the horizontal axis of the square

Entering Taihemen, you will see Taihedian (Hall of Supreme Harmony) across the spacious square, which covers of 30,000 square meters. Standing on a three-tier marble terrace, this grandest timber framework ever in China is overwhelming.

The hall was erected in 1406 and has undergone many later repairs. As the heart of the Forbidden City, the so-called Golden Carriage Palace, used to be the place where emperors received high officials and exercised their rule over the nation. Grand ceremonies would be held here when a new emperor ascended the throne. Celebrations also marked emperors' birthdays, wedding ceremonies and other important occasions such as the Winter Solstice, the Chinese New Year and the dispatch of generals into fields of war.

Alongside the flights of steps which ascend the three tiers of the terrace, there are eighteen bronze Dings, a kind of ancient Chinese vessel, representing the eighteen national provinces of those times. On the luxuriously balustraded terrace, stand a bronze crane and a bronze tortoise, symbols of everlasting rule and longevity. The marble Rigui, an ancient sun dial on the eastern side and the Jialiang, an ancient measuring vessel on the western side demonstrate that the emperor was both just and fair. In front of the hall, there are a couple of gilded bronze vats, which were used to hold water in case of fire.

Since the Hall of Supreme Harmony was symbol of the imperial power, it was the highest structure in the empire during the Ming and Qin dynasties. No other building was permitted to be higher any where in the empire. The heavily glazed hall is 35.02 meters high (37.44 meters including the rooftop decoration). It is 63.96 meters in width and 37.2 meters in length respectively. There is a total of 72 pillars, in six rows, supporting the roof. The doors and windows are embossed with clouds and dragons.

Inside of the hall, the floor is paved with special bricks which were fired long and then polished by being soaked in tungoil. As a symbol of imperial power, the sandalwood throne, standing on a two-meter high platform, is located in the center of the hall and surrounded by six thick gold-lacquered pillars decorated with dragons. Dragons are carved all over the golden throne. Around the throne stand two bronze cranes, an elephant-shaped incense burner and tripods in the shape of mythical beasts. The hall is heavily decorated with dragons, giving an aura of solemnity and mystery. In the middle of the ceiling is the design of two dragons playing with pearls. They were made of glass and painted with mercury. The pearl was said to be able to detect a usurper of the imperial power. If anyone who was not the descendant of the Emperor Huang Di usurped the throne, the pearl would drop down and strike him dead.

This hall was used for great ceremonies, like the celebration of Winter Solstice, the publication of the list of successful candidates in the imperial examinations, the emperor's birthday and enthronement.

Just imagine the majestic and awesome scene in the past. When the emperor sat on the throne, the ministers and all their subordinates would kneel down, kowtow and chant aloud "Long Live Your Majesty", with incense burning and curling up in the hall, and the sound of bells ringing and drums beating in unison in the corridor.

Each of the 24 pillars supporting the hall was made from one piece of wood, about 18 metres high. What's more, it took 136 days to bake the floor tiles before they were immersed in tung oil for another 49 days to be polished.

To maintain the palace during the Qing Dynasty, 280,000 taels of silver were needed each year. They came from taxes and royal estate rents. During the Ming Dynasty, 9,000 ladies-in-waiting and 100,000 eunuchs served here. Some eunuchs like Wei Zhongxian in the Ming Dynasty and Li Lianying in the Qing Dynasty became even more powerful than the emperor.

 

How do you feel? Behind is Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian).