• Mags Rafael-Salvador

Squares and more in Forbidden City

Updated: Apr 29

Part 2. The city is so huge it does not do justice to have it all in one writing, hence the experience continues below.

While on the bridges, we saw a grand edifice called Gate of Supreme Harmony, which is the most impressive gate with two bronze lions guarding the front. In the middle of the square or between the Gate of Supreme Harmony and Meridian Gate, imperial honor guards parade during grand ceremonies. There are a number of halls (Hall of Supreme Harmony, Central Harmony and Preserved Harmony) within the Meridian Gate. If you ask me about the difference in each hall, I would not remember them all. Because it all looks the same for me, same materials were used like the marble terraces and marble balustrades. A stone ramp carved with dragons and clouds is located between the pavement leading up to each hall. I would have to say that the ramp of Hall of Preserved Harmony is the largest.

Moving forward, there is the Hall of Supreme Harmony which comes first and is the grandest. It is the place where important events were celebrated and where the emperor ascended his throne .There were other Halls in the area where portraits of emperors of dynasties are kept. It would really be helpful to have an English Tour Guide to explain each, or else you may need to read each carved bronze before entering the hall to understand what the hall is all about.

Next is the Hall of Central Harmony which is a much smaller square building. This was supposed to be the resting place for emperors before going to ceremonies in the Hall of Supreme Harmony . This was also where the rehearsals for ceremonies were held.

The Hall of Preserved Harmony, the second largest architecture in the palace, is at the end hall of the Outer Court. Imperial banquets to entertain high officials were done in this hall. Examinations were also held at the Hall of Preserved Harmony while the Emperor presided the final stage to select officials from intellectuals all over the country. I would appreciate it if there were re-enactment or maybe a lights and sound show to help the tourist to be brought back to the history of each dynasty. After hours of walking it looks as though there’ more to see down the outer part of the Hall. The Forbidden City proves to be a long walk to discover ancient Chinese dynasty.

Good thing, the weather is cooperating and it feels not so warm during the Spring time. Then, visitors will see the Gate of Heavenly Purity, which is the boundary of the Outer Court and the Inner Court. Inside the gate is the residence of the royal family. In the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Kangxi often heard reports from high officials and issued his orders under the gate. The Inner Court is divided into three parts. The three halls on the center axis are the main structures and they are smaller in size than the three halls in the Outer Court, although they look the same in style. I was taking notes, photos and learning hoping I can actually put into writing all the things I see and experience.

The first hall inside the gate is Palace of Heavenly Purity, which was originally the bedroom and office of emperors. They also gave banquets here. Behind it is a smaller hall named Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union, where empresses received greetings from other concubines. It was used to store the emperor and empress's imperial seals. The third hall on the central axis is the Palace of Earthly Tranquility, which was the empress' bedroom.

North of the Inner Court is Imperial Garden. Though small in size, it is exquisitely laid out with towers, pavilions, artificial hills, springs, rocks, old trees, flowers and lawns - a replica of the gardens of southern China.

Just behind the garden is Gate of Divine Prowess, the rear (North) gate. On the gate there was a drum and a bell. The bell used to toll 108 times to announce a new day while the drum roared at the time of the night.

We were impressed by the grandness and magnificence of the world's largest palace structure, now what? Well, this time which was way past 4 in the afternoon, we needed to walk back to where we started (meaning the whole stretch of the Forbidden City onto the Meridian Gate and walk to the nearest MTR station which is Tiananmen West Station) to go back in our hotel.

All in all the day was well spent, learning about other culture, imagining how it looks like during the era when dynasties still reign. Would definitely love to go back and experience more of what Forbidden City and Tiananment Square has to offer.

* This article was originally published at


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