Forbidden City marks the 600th birthday

As the most important activity in a series of commemorative events, an exhibition titled “Everlasting Splendor: Six Centuries at the Forbidden City” is being held at the Palace Museum in Beijing. With more than 450 cultural relics and historical photos on show, the exhibition brings history to life, and allows visitors to better appreciate the cultural charm of the 600-year-old palace.

The Forbidden City was China’s imperial palace during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. It was completed in 1420 and a total of 24 emperors lived and worked in the compound.

In many people’s eyes, the Forbidden City is both beautiful and mysterious. Its beauty lies in the palace complex being an extremely precious and magnificent artwork. Boasting more than 70 palaces of various sizes and over 9,000 rooms, the Forbidden City is one of the largest and most complete existing wooden structures anywhere in the world. A masterpiece of ancient architecture, the compound features a symmetrical layout, various glazed roof tiles, exquisite corner towers as well as bright and airy courtyards.

The Forbidden City is mysterious, because ancient Chinese philosophies were integrated into its design and construction, including harmony between humans and nature, the Five Elements, Yin and Yang, as well as the Eight Trigrams. Previously off-grounds to all but the imperial family, the palace has an air of dignity that has deepened the mystery surrounding it.

However, the sense of mystery has gradually faded since the Forbidden City was transformed into the Palace Museum in 1925, 13 years after the last emperor abdicated.

The Palace Museum is now a world-renowned museum that houses more than 1.8 million artifacts. It is also the world’s most visited museum, receiving over 19.3 million visitors in 2019. In recent years, it has opened a coffee shop named the Corner Tower Cafe, attracting visitors to enjoy drinks named and packaged with “imperial” elements. Creative products inspired by aspects of the museum, such as cosmetics and folding fans, have gone on sale via e-commerce platforms. Court robes in the museum’s collection have appeared in mobile games. “Snowy scenes at the Palace Museum,” “Cats living in the Palace Museum,” and the names of TV shows featuring the museum are all popular search terms online. The Palace Museum has become a real “online celebrity” on the Chinese internet.

Many foreigners still refer to the Chinese palace as “the Forbidden City.” In fact, that name is used less and less in China.

The Forbidden City is now known as the Palace Museum, or “Gugong” in Chinese. “Gu” means “old” or “in the past.” Bearing witness to China’s history, the Palace Museum has to some extent shaped the mental world of the Chinese people. But nowadays, it has become a brand-new cultural symbol. Open and vigorous, the palace inspires more people to understand the Chinese nation from a new perspective and cherish the common treasures of mankind.

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