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Forbidden City: Dynasty and Destiny

Forbidden City: Dynasty and Destiny

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Item Number:
50 min.
Closed Caption:
A & E Entertainment
For hundreds of years the Forbidden City was a place of mystery, its doors closed to the outside world. The Ming Emperor began construction in 1403, but it took 1,000,000 men over sixteen years to complete. Lying at the heart of what is now Beijing, China, this labyrinth of over 8,000 rooms contains grand palaces and halls, temples, libraries, theatres, and living quarters for thousands of residents. Its buildings and gardens spread over 250 acres which are surrounded by an enormous moat. Twenty-four Ming and Qing (note, also spelled Ch'ing) emperors ruled from the Forbidden City, from the fifteenth century until 1911, when the Republican Revolution began.

The palace complex was built according to the rules of "fengshui" or "wind-water", an ancient doctrine designed to place the buildings in harmony with the earth's energy forces. All major buildings face south to align them with the sun's path, thus making them holy. "Jingshan" ("Scenic Mountain"), more commonly known as Coal Hill, was the location of the imperial pleasure ground. This artificial mountain was created from dirt and rocks collected in the digging of the palace moat and the dredging of lakes on the west end of the city. It was from this spot in 1644 that the last of the Ming emperors killed his family and hanged himself as Manchu warriors attacked the city walls.

The last emperor of China, Pu Yi, was four years old when he was forced by leaders of the Chinese Revolution to abdicate his throne in 1911. Although Pu Yi was allowed to remain in the Imperial Palace until 1924, the Forbidden City began its demise at the end of his rule.

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