The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum. For almost 500 years, it served as the home of emperors and their households, as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government.
Built in 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 720,000 m2 (7,800,000 sq ft). The palace complex exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture, and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere
The design of the Forbidden City, from its overall layout to the smallest detail, was meticulously planned to reflect philosophical and religious principles, and above all to symbolise the majesty of Imperial power. Some noted examples of symbolic designs include:
Yellow is the color of the Emperor. Thus almost all roofs in the Forbidden City bear yellow glazed tiles. There are only two exceptions. The library at the Pavilion of Literary Profundity had black tiles because black was associated with water, and thus fire-prevention. Similarly, the Crown Prince's residences have green tiles because green was associated with wood, and thus growth.
The main halls of the Outer and Inner courts are all arranged in groups of three – the shape of the Qian triagram, representing Heaven. The residences of the Inner Court on the other hand are arranged in groups of six – the shape of the Kun triagram, representing the Earth.
The sloping ridges of building roofs are decorated with a line of statuettes led by a man riding a phoenix and followed by an imperial dragon. The number of statuettes represents the status of the building – a minor building might have 3 or 5. The Hall of Supreme Harmony has 10, the only building in the country to be permitted this in Imperial times. As a result, its 10th statuette, called a "Hangshi", or "ranked tenth" is also unique in the Forbidden City.
The layout of buildings follows ancient customs laid down in the Classic of Rites. Thus, ancestral temples are in front of the palace. Storage areas are placed in the front part of the palace complex, and residences in the back.