A truly magnificent sight to be held, the Imperial Palace was the center of power during the Ming and Qing dynasties from 1421 to 1924. The complex is comprised of over 9,000 rooms built by the labor of over one million men and twelve million bricks. The grandiose and majestic palace with its lustrous rooftops, red wooden columns, and vast beauty seem to be the definition of imperial.
Certainly the middle of Middle Kingdom, this stunning labyrinth of 800 buildings often suffered destructive fires. In 1644 the Manchus, in an effort to overthrow the Qing dynasty, set the place on fire. Other times lantern festivals and fireworks displays set the wooden structures in flames. Every once in a while, the Imperial Palace experienced deliberate arson by court eunuchs and officials eager to collect money from repair bills.
The palace has also endured various lootings by the Japanese and the Guomingdang. In the latter raid, the Taiwanese took countless historical artifacts which are now on display in Taipei’s National Palace Museum.
The palace is best entered from the South where the face of Mao looks down from its stately place on the red wall of the Gate of Heavenly Peace. The white characters to the left of the monumental portrait read “Long Live the People’s Republic of China.” The gate and Mao’s picture hold a significant place in history as Mao proclaimed the founding of the PRC in 1949 here.
As you continue to venture into the Imperial Palace, you will be charmed by the grace of the Meridian Gate, the Gate of Supreme Harmony, and the Hall of Literary Glory. The architecture is full of symbols-the dragon is representative of the emperor and the phoenix of the empress. Images of a dragon chasing a pearl signifies the pursuit of purity and the yellow color used in the imperial roofs and porcelain denote the emperor.