Beginning with the Ming Dynasty, and lasting through the Qing Dynasty, the Forbidden City Walls and Gates encompass what was once the Chinese Imperial Palace. It rests squarely in the center of Beijing, China. Emperors resided there and it also housed the core of all Chinese government. There are 980 buildings located within these walls and gates, covering almost 8 million square feet. The architecture is that of Chinese Palatial. The term palatial refers to the luxurious and grand scheme which is presented. This complex is now home to the Palace Museum.
The Forbidden City Walls stand 26 feet high and are surrounded by a 171 foot wide moat which is 20 feet deep. The walls consist of earth, chalk, gravel and lime. This type of construction was prevalent in ancient times and is most commonly referred to as the “rammed earth” technique. The walls were surfaced with baked bricks and mortar. Physically these walls are both strong and durable. They are also non-combustible. On each corner of the wall stands a tower, presumably to provide lookout capabilities when the structure was originally built. These four ramparts served the purpose of retention walls as well as a defense mechanism against invading troops.
Four gates exist on the Forbidden Wall to provide access to the facility. They were installed at each compass point of north, south, east and west. The main gate is “The Meridian Gate” on the south end. It is the largest of the four gates and features five arches. The center of these arches were reserved for use by the Emperor only. The only other people that were allowed to go through the center arch were the Empress on the day when she wed the Emperor and the top three scholars who attained the highest scores of the Imperial Examination. The “Gate of Divine Might” adorns the north entry way to the Forbidden City. This gate faces Jingshan Park which was formed by the soil excavated to create the moats. A tablet was built above this gate which reads ” The Palace Museum” in Chinese. The final two gates in the complex are the “East Glorious Gate” and the “West Glorious Gate.”