Ladies and gentlemen:
The Palace Museum is located in the center of Beijing. It is also known as the Forbidden City in the old days. Actually it was the imperial palace for the emperors and served as both living quarters and the venue of the state administration in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Its name, on the one hand, comes from ancient Chinese astronomers' belief that God's abode or the Purple Palace, the pivot of the celestial world, is located in the Pole Star, at the center of the heavens . Hence, as the Son of God, the emperor should live in the Purple City. On the other hand, except for palace maids, eunuchs and guards, ordinary the Forbidden City and the Purple City.
It took 14 years to complete the magnificent palace. Construction began in 1406 and finished in 1420. The following year, in 1421 the capital of the Ming Dynasty was moved from Nanjing to Beijing. Starting from the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty Zhu Di to the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty Pu Yi, altogether 24 emperors lived here for a total of 491 years. 14 of then were Ming emperors and 10 were Qing emperors.
The Forbidden City covers an area of 72 hectares with a total floor space of about 163,000 square meters. It is rectangular in shape, 960 meters long from north to south and 750 meters wide from east to west with a10-meter high city wall surrounded and encircled by a 52 meter-wide moat. At each corner of the surrounding wall, there is a magnificent watchtower which was heavily guarded in the old days.
The Forbidden City now consists of more than 90 palaces and courtyards, 980 buildings with rooms of 8,704. Most of the structures in the Forbidden City were made of wood with white marble, stone or brick foundations. The building materials were from parts of our country. The timber came from Sichuan, Guizhou, Guandxi, Hunan and Yunnan provinces in southwest China. But in the Qing Dynasty, the timbers were transported from northeast China. Other construction materials, including brick, stone and lime, were used by both Dynasties. The golden bricks that paved the halls were manufactured in Suzhou, refined bricks used to build the foundation of halls were made in Linqing, and lime came from Yizhou. White marble was provided regularly by Fangshan County and glazed tiles by Sanjiadian.
The Forbidden City can be divided into two parts: the Outer Court and the Inner Palace. The Outer Court consists of three main buildings where the emperors attended the grand of rear three main buildings and the six eastern palaces and six western palaces where the emperor used to handle daily affairs and the living quarters for the emperor, empress and imperial concubines to live in.
The Forbidden City is the best-preserved imperial palace in China and the largest ancient palatial structure in the world. In 1987 it was listed as the world cultural heritage by UNESCO.
The Meridian Gate is the main entrance to the Forbidden City. It is called Meridian Gate because the emperor believed that the meridian line went right through the Forbidden City and his imperial residence was the center of the whole universe. It is 35.6meters high with five towers on the top, so it is also nicknames as the “Five-Phoenix Tower.”
The Meridian Gate was the place to announce the new lunar year calendar on the first day of 10th lunar month every year. Lanterns would also be hung up on the Meridian Gate on the 15th day of the first lunar month during the Ming Dynasty, when all the officials would have a feast in the Forbidden City and ordinary citizens, when all the officials would have a fast in the Forbidden City and ordinary citizens would go to the Meridian Gate to look at the beautiful lanterns. When a general returned from battle, the ceremony of “Accepting Captives of War” was held here. The “Court Beating” also took place here.
The gate has five openings. The central passageway was for the emperor exclusively. But apart from the emperor, the empress could use the central passageway on the day of the imperial wedding ceremony. However, after the palace examination, the first top three outstanding scholars were allowed to go through the central gate. The high-ranking civil and military officials went in through the side gate on the east. The two smaller ones on both sides at the corner were for the lowranking officials. During the Palace Examination all the candidates went in from these two side-gates according to the odd number or even number.
Entering the Meridian Gate, there are five marble bridges on the Inner Golden Water River, shaped like a bow. The five marble bridges just look like five arrows reporting symbolically to heaven. The five bridges were supposed to represent the five virtues preached by Confucius-benevolence, righteousness, rite, intelligence and fidelity.
Across the Inner Golden Water Bridge, we get to the Gate of Supreme Harmony. During the Ming and early Qing dynasties, here was the place where the emperor gave his audience, accepted documents from his ministers and made decisions here. There are two bronze lions guarding in front of the Gate of Supreme Harmony. The male lion was usually put on the left, playing with an embroidered design ball, which is said to show the emperor's supreme power. The other one on the right is the female lion, playing with a lion cub with its left paw symbolizing prosperity of the royal family's offsprings.
Across the Gate of Supreme Harmony , we come to the Hall of Supreme Harmony. Here the emperor held grand ceremonies such as the emperor's enthronement ceremony, the wedding ceremony, dispatched generals to the battles, and the emperor received the successful candidates of the imperial examination etc. Also, the emperor held grand feasts each year on New Year's Day, Winter solstice and his own birthday.
The Hall of Supreme Harmony is 35.5 meters high with double layered roof that represents the highest construction rank of all. Now, let's ascend the stairs and move on to look at articles in display on two sides of the hall. On the top layer of the terrace stands a sundial on the east an imperial grain measure on the west. The sundial is an ancient time measure or a time-measuring apparatus used in the old days. The sundial tells the time by seeing the shadow of the metal pin on the sundial, which has an inclination angle of 50 degrees with the graduation on it. The grain measure was used as the national standard measure in agriculture in the old days. Both the grain measure and the sundial were symbols of the emperor's justice and rectitude.
There are two pairs of incense burners in the shape of bronze dragon-headed tortoises and bronze cranes placed on each side. They are both symbols of longevity.
When you look up the building in the Forbidden City, you can see mythical animal statues on the eaves of each building. Originally, there used to be big wooden nails on the roof to prevent the tiles from sliding down. Later they were replaced by glazed tiles, which were shaped into mythical animal statues for better beautification. They are symbols of auspiciousness and peace, and people believed that they are capable of subduing fire and warding off evil spirits.
Inside of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, you can see the gilded caisson ceiling high above the throne with a magnificent sculpture of a curling dragon playing with a huge pear was called “Xuanyuan Jing”， representing orthodox succession.
This hall is supported by 72 giant columns inside. In the old days, the traditional way of the Chinese to calculate a “room” is that: a square enclosed by four pillars was treated as one “room”， so the hall can be said to have 55 “rooms” in total. The six columns inside are gilded and painted with coiled dragon amidst clouds, and the rest are painted red.
The emperor's throne is placed on the dais in the center, and carved in cloud and dragon patterns and gilded. On both sides of the throne are a pair of elephant-shaped incense burners symbolize universal peace and two incense burners shaped as a mythical animal 9,000 kilometers per day and speaking all the languages of nearby kingdoms. Around the throne stand a pair of bronze cranes and in front of the dais is four cloisonné incense burners. The floor on the ground is paved with “Gold Bricks”， specially made in Suzhou.
The Hall of Middle Harmony is a square-shaped hall with a single pyramidic roof standing behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony. This was the place where the emperor would take a short rest before he went to the Hall of Supreme Harmony for grand ceremonies. Every year before the emperor went to the Altars and Temples, the emperor would receive and read the sacrificial address here.
Before the emperor went to the Altar of Agriculture for offering the sacrifice, the seeds intended for spring sowing and the ploughs were examined here, just to show the concern of the emperor for agriculture.
According to the rule, the imperial genealogy should be revised every ten years. The ceremony of presenting the genealogy to the emperor for revision and approval would also be held here.
Now, we come to the Hall of Preserving Harmony, the last of the three front halls.
In the Ming and Qing dynasties, on each New Year's Eve and the 15th day of the lunar moth, banquets would be held to entertain the civil and military officials and the princes and envoys of the Mongolian nobles and other nationalities. To celebrate the princess's marriage, the emperor would incite the bridegroom and his father as well as their relatives who served for the imperial government to a banquet.
The Imperial Palace Exam was held here once every three years in the Qing dynasty.
Just behind the Hall of Preserving Harmony, there is a big Marble Rampcarved with mountain cliffs, sea waves, clouds and nine dragons. It is 16.57 meters long, 3.07 meters wide and 1.7 meters thick, and weighs about 250 tons.
The Gate of Heavenly Purity, where emperors from Kangxi to Xianfeng in Qing Dynasty sat on the throne hearing reports and making decisions, is the main gate of the Inner Court.
In front of the Palace of Heavenly there is a small miniature gilded pavilion standing on the east is called Jiangshan Pavilion, representing the integrity of the country; the one on the west is called Sheji Pavilion , the God of Land and Grain, a symbol of bumper harvest in agriculture.
The first of the three back palaces, the Palace of Heavenly Purity was where the 14 emperors of the Ming and the first two emperors of the Qing Dynasties lived and handle the daily affairs. It was used as an audience chamber for receiving envoys from vassal states who presented their tributes to the emperor. Here was also the place for holding the mourning service for the deceased emperor. The famous “banquet of thousand aged people” was held twice here in the Qing Dynasty. The three famous events took place here. They are “the red pill” event, the “palace coup in 1542” and the event of “moving from this palace.”
The plaque inscribed by the first Qing Emperor Shunzhi, hangs over the throne in the palace and reads, “Be Open and Aboveboard.” It enumerates with modesty, the qualities an ideal Son of Heaven should possess. Beginning in the Qianlong's reign, for reasons of security the name of the successor to the throne was not announced publicly, as it had been preciously, but was written instead on two pieces of paper, one kept on the emperor's person throughout his reign, and the other placed in a small box that was stored behind this plaque. The box was opened only when the emperor passed away.
The Palace of Union and Peace was the place where the empress held the important ceremonies and her birthday celebration. The empress usually received greetings from the concubines, concubines, princes and princesses on her birthday celebration.
In the Qing Dynasty, the ceremony for examining the tools of picking mulberry was held here one day before the empress went out to offer the sacrifices on the altar for silkworm in spring.
In 1748, Emperor Qianlong kept twenty-five imperial seals in this hall, symbolizing the imperial power of the emperor. Twenty-five was regarded as a heavenly number for the reason of that: if we plus the total odd numbers of one, three, five, seven and nine together, that is twenty-five which means the imperial authority from the heaven and also indicates the Qing dynasty could rule the country for at least twenty-five generations.
The Water Clock is placed on the west side of this building. It is a time-measure, made by the manufacturing office of the Qing Dynasty based on the Western mechanic theory. On the west of this building, there is a 5.6-meter-high large western chiming clock.
There is a plaque hung in the center of this hall, with two Chinese characters “Wu Wei” inscribed on it.
The palace of Earthly Tranquility was used as the residence for the empresses during the Ming and early Qing dynasties. During the Qing dynasty, the western chamber became the wedding chamber for the emperor.
The Imperial Garden is located on the north-south axis almost at the north-south axis almost at the northern end of the Forbidden City. It is rectangular in shape, 90 meters long from north to south and 130 meters wide from east to west, with an area of over 11, 700 square meters.
The Hall of Imperial Peace is the main building in the Imperial Garden and also the only religious building built along the central axis. It is a Taoist temple and inside the hall the statue of the King of Xuan Wu used to be enshrined.
There are four pavilions built on left and right of the Hall of Imperial peace, two on each side, representing the four seasons of the year. Near the north gate in the Imperial Garden, the Imperial View Pavilion stands on an artificial hill of rocks. The rockery is called “Collecting Elegance Hill”。 In the old days, the emperor would climb up the hills to celebrate the Double Ninth Festival every year in this way.
In the Outer Eastern Palaces there is a group of buildings called the Whole Palace of Tranquil Longevity. In the Qing Dynasty, they were the living quarters for Emperor Qianlong after his abdication. Emperor Qianlong was the 4th emperor of the Qing Dynasty. He was the only emperor who decided to abdicate after he ruled the country for 60 years. He offered the power to his son, who was 37 already. This place was originally built for the retired emperor Qianlong to live, but later Empress Dowager Cixi lived here before and after her 60th birthday.
This group of building in the Outer Eastern Palaces is independent of the other parts of the Forbidden City. But actually it is a miniature Imperial Palace. The general plan for the buildings here was exactly the same as the buildings on the central axis. The main buildings in The Whole Palaces of Tranquil Longevity, from south to north are the Hall of Imperial Supremacy(皇极殿)，the Palace of Tranquil Longevity(宁寿宫)，the Hall for Cultivating Character(养心殿)，the Hall of Joyful Longevity(乐寿堂) and the Pavilion of Sustained Harmony(颐和轩)。 Emperor Qianlong's Garden which served as the imperial Garden, is located on the east. Now these halls served as the Exhibition of Treasures.
The Exhibition of Treasures(珍宝阁)
The Exhibition of Treasures is located at the Outer Eastern Palaces of the Forbidden City. Although there were 2,972 boxes of treasures shipped to Taiwan before 1949, there are still countless and priceless treasures of the imperial family on display here. Most of the collections here are the cultural relics that used to be in the imperial court of the Qing Dynasty. The main treasures on display are: the imperial seals, ritual musical instruments, jewelry of the empress and imperial concubines, gold, peals, gems, ivory, coral, agate, textiles and embroideries, articles for everyday use. These treasures represent the high artistic skill of Chinese handicrafts as well as the luxurious life of the imperial family.
Now I would like to in traduce some treasures for you. First one is the Gold Pagoda. Gold Pagoda is a Tibetan style pagoda, which is 147 centimeter high and made of gold of more than 100 kilos in weigh. The whole pagoda was used to keep the remains of Qing Emperor Qianlong's mother's fallen combed hair. It was made by Emperor Qianlong who wanted to commemorate his deceased mother.
Second, the Jade Carving of Dayu Harnessing Floods(大禹治水玉山)
This big piece of jade carving is named “Dayu Harnessing Floods”。 Dayu was a great leader of the Xia Dynasty. On the surface of this piece of jade carving, there are figurines doing manual labor with tools. It is 2.24 meters high and weighs about 5tons. This huge piece of jade was quarried in Xinjing, northwest of china. It was first transported to Beijing and then shopped to Yangzhou, south of China, for carving. The whole process took 10 years altogether for mining, transporting and carving. It is the largest piece of jade carving in China today.
Third, Ivory Mat(象牙席)：
The ivory mat is really a rare treasure on display in the Exhibition of Treasures. It is 2.16meters long,1.39 meters wide, and woven with tiny piece of ivory filaments. After being softened in some kind of chemical agents, the tusk, was peeled into filaments of less than 3 milimeter thick, thus demonstrating the high artistic level of historic Chinese handicrafts. Five ivory mats were made during the Qing emperor Yongzheng's reign, but only three of them have remained till today.