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The Forbidden City
This area covers 250 acres and is surrounded by a wide moat and walls, which are 35 feet high. Twenty-four Emperors of the last dynasties ruled from the Forbidden City. Each was considered to be the "Son of Heaven" and controlled China with absolute rule for almost five centuries. The area has now been turned into a museum and it will become a highlight of your visit to China. A recommendation: groups generally have 1 1/2 to 2 hours here. Most of this time is utilized by your guide telling you more history than you need to know or will remember. This leaves precious little time to explore this exciting place. Unless you really want the detailed history, tell your guide that you'll "do it on your own" and take off. You can't get lost. One simply enters at one end, and while keeping a straight-line through the center of the city in mind, continues to the opposite gate or exit where your tour bus will be waiting. You will see so much more alone than with the group.

The First Courtyards are reached by entering Meridian Gate and Gate of Supreme Harmony. The Meridian Gate is the largest and was built in 1420. The five pavilions surmounting the gate are known as the "Five Phoenixes." Cross one of the bridges and ahead stands the Gate of Supreme Harmony, which is a two-roofed structure. Three sets of stairs lead to the terrace... the central one was used only by the Emperor. Notice details all around you... fantastic bronze lions... incense burners... the tile on the roofs. You are now about to enter The Forbidden City. Pass through the gate and you'll find a larger courtyard.

Three Ceremonial Palaces: In front of you will be the Hall of Supreme Harmony resting on a three-tiered terrace. Again three sets of stairs lead to the palace. Notice the exquisitely carved central portion of the stairs... used for the emperor. Again, there are many bronze incense burners on either side of the stairs... and note the two enormous bronze cauldrons. Inside this palace stands the emperor's throne on a raised platform. Behind this palace is the Hall of Perfect Harmony a small square-shaped pavilion with a single roof. Inside is another raised throne. The next palace is the Hall of Preservation of Harmony It is a two-roofed pavilion, and also houses a large throne. Continue your direction, descend the steps into another courtyard and walk toward the Gate of Heavenly Purity. It has three sets of stairs. This gate leads to:

Three Private Palaces: In front of you is the Palace of Heavenly Purity. Note the four large bronze incense burners. This palace has a two-tiered roof with very interesting figure details on the corners. Continue your walk and come to the Hall of Union, a single-roofed pavilion. Inside is a small throne surrounded by pedestals holding the Imperial Seals. To the rear of this palace is the Palace of Earthly Tranquility, which was used as a residence for the empress. Descend the stairs of this palace... pass through Kun Ning Man Gate, and make a slight turn right and enter:

Imperial Garden and Outer Gates: The garden is a quiet place where you can sit and rest from your long walk. Notice the fine old trees. Continue to the Sun Zhen Gate and then walk towards the outer Gate of Divine Pride. Your tour bus will be waiting here.
About the Author
Author of this article is Gene Gill. For more information visit his website: Gene Gill Miniatures.
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