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The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City, built by the Ming Dynasty's Emperor in 1420, served as China's political center for over 500 years. Housing 24 Emperors, this grand palace complex, now a museum, symbolizes China's glorious past. Its intricate design, from building location to color symbolism, reflects the order the Emperor bestowed on his empire. Created by Asian Art Museum.

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Video transcript

[Music] in 1420 in an effort to consolidate his control over the throne the Emperor of the Ming Dynasty moved China's capital to a site in the north now known as Beijing there he built a vast complex of palaces and administrative buildings now covering 178 acres because access was restricted to members of the imperial family and those serving or having business with them it came to be known as the Forbidden City from here 24 Emperor's of the Ming and Qing dynasties ruled their vast country for over 500 years the Emperor's new palace took 1 million workers almost 20 years to construct [Music] everything from the location of the main buildings on the north/south axis the colors of roofs and walls to the number of bosses on doors carries symbolic meaning the precise design of the palace reflected the order that the Emperor was meant to bestow on his empire a visitor to the Forbidden City would have passed through several gates before reaching the meridian gate the main entrance to the palace this visitor was then required to enter through one of the smaller side doors one crossed the river of golden water and passed through another gate before approaching the Hall of supreme harmony the largest building in the Forbidden City here military and civil officials lined up for an audience with the Emperor officials checked that everyone was in the right spot and correctly attired then music sounded and the Emperor was carried into the hall in his yellow palanquin the Emperor was traditionally associated with the dragon seated on his dragon throne wearing a dragon robe the Emperor represented the apex of the Empire but the daily business of the Empire was conducted in the inner court this was where the Emperor his Empress and concubines lived attended by numerous maid servants and eunuchs the inner court mirrors the layout of the outer court on a smaller scale but residences and gardens give it a more intimate feel still all the luxuries should not conceal the fact that for the women in the palace and even the Emperor the Forbidden City was a golden cage the inhabitants rarely got to leave once they entered throughout the Forbidden City all possible precautions were taken to guard against the greatest danger for its buildings fire animals and figures on the roofs guarded against fires and evil spirits but all the auspicious symbols and elaborate rituals could not prevent the end of China's empire in 1911 for it was then that six-year-old Puyi abdicated the throne for the first time in china's history ordinary people were soon able to enter the Forbidden City the once inaccessible palace is now a museum and a monument to China's glorious past [Music] you [Music]