Ladies and gentlemen： Now we have stepped into the Forbidden City. Before the tour starts, please allow me to take a few seconds to introduce myself and today's trip. My name is Michael and I am your today’s tour guide. In the next 4 hours, I am going to take you to explore this greatest palace complex in the world. I hope my guide service will bring you a pleasant trip.
Our today’s trip is called “Discovery trip of the Forbidden City”, in order to give you a better understanding and experience of this great palace, we have carefully prepared a gift for everybody, this envelope contains 9 old pictures of the Forbidden City which was taken by foreign journalists 100 years ago, documenting some major historical events that have occurred in this complex. Today, I will take you back to the location where these old pictures were taken and tell you the stories that happened. When the tour is over, you can keep it and write something you’re feeling on its back, and I trust that will be your best souvenir as it records the footsteps of your meeting with the history of the Forbidden City!
Ok Everyone, before starting to explore this great palace, let's learn the basic knowledge of the Forbidden City together. What kind of place is this? The Forbidden City was the palace of the ancient Chinese emperors. It's a wooden wonder, with history ultimate mega-structure, it boasts a staggering 900 buildings. The Forbidden City is 10 times the size of Versailles of Paris, it not just the largest palace complex that survives, but the largest palace complex built at any time in history.
It was built in the 15th century. and the construction took almost 20 years, with over 100000 craftsmen and 1 million labors involved in this great project. With its establishment, Beijing became the capital of the Chinese Empire for the first time. 600 years ago, the founder of the Forbidden City and the third emperor of the Ming Empire, Zhu Di, walked into the Forbidden City from the central gate in the middle and became its first owner. Since then, The Forbidden City has experienced Ming and Qing two empire times, and a total of 24 emperors lived here. In 1924, Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing Empire was expelled from the Forbidden City before it was put under government management. In 1925, the Forbidden City was changed name as the Palace Museum and opened to the public.
Ok, Ladies and gentlemen, The gate in front of us is called the Meridian Gate, it’s the south gate and the main entrance of the Forbidden City. In ancient times, the middle gate could be preserved for the emperor only. And senior officials can only use the two doors beside. The next, I am going to take you to ascend this tallest building and you will appreciate the amazing panorama view of the Forbidden City！this way please!
Ladies and gentlemen,
From this position, we can see the entire view of the Forbidden City, I believe most of friends
discovered that there are many buildings in the Forbidden City. Can you guess how many rooms here? You are right! it is said that there are 9999 rooms in the Forbidden City. Why is such a strange number? I tell you the reason, totally different from ancient Europe, China has never been a religious country. Since the emperor Qin unified China about 2000 years ago, China has always been a secular country. Although ancient China had three major religious beliefs, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, but the power of the emperor have always been beyond the religion power, and ordinary people also have the freedom to believe the religion.
But there is a problem here. As we know the European king’s power was usually authorized by the church, but where did the power of the Chinese emperor come from? Of course, he is not elected by the common people. So, the ancient Chinese emperor will let ordinary people to believe that his power authorized by the King of the heaven, who is the super god in the Chinese legend, and the emperor was his son and was chosen by him to ruling the present world. It’s said that the king of heaven has 10,000 rooms in his palace. As his son, the emperor could not exceed this number, so there was only one less room. 9999 rooms. But is this number a real one? Here we have to understand a concept, the ancient Chinese believed that a space surrounded by four pillars was called a room. Based on this calculation method, the actual number of rooms in the Forbidden City is more than 8,000 after careful calculation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
By ascending this tower, you will get a beautiful scenery, but the emperor was rarely to come here, he came here only in some important ceremonies. For example, the emperor's enthronement, the emperor's wedding, etc. Among these ceremonies, one of the most famous one is called the "Prisoner Presentation Ceremony". When the empire breaks out armed rebellion somewhere or the border is attacked by a nomadic tribe. the emperor will assign his troops to suppress it. When the war is won and the enemy leaders are captured alive, these prisoners will be transported to Beijing and was sent to the Meridian Gate Square in front of us. The emperor will personally attend this event. Important ceremony to show the power of his empire. After the ceremony, the rival chiefs were usually executed. Here we can imagine a picture. Accompanied with the tsunami of cheers by thousands of standing soldiers, the emperor stands right here and look his defeated rival with contemptuous eyes, how proud he was in his heart!
Ladies and Gentlemen: While walking around the Forbidden City, I believe you may have discovered that all the buildings in the Forbidden City are composed of red walls and yellow roofs. Why did the ancient Chinese emperor perfer these two special colors to decorate his palace? This is closely related to Chinese Taoism culture. The ancient Chinese believed that the world is composed of five elements, which are metal, wood, water, fire and earth. And earth is the center. The representative color is yellow. The purpose which emperor had his roof decorated by the yellow color was to express to the ordinary people that he possesses the highest rights of the country. and It also represents his emphasis on agriculture, as ancient China was a farming civilization, The quality of agricultural harvests will affects the foundation of the empire's rule.
The walls are decorated with red, which symbolizes fire, represent prosperity, and drives away evil spirits. Prosperity of his empire, Prosperity of his family descendants, always be a everlasting dream
Ladies and gentlemen,
in front of us, we can see a stunning and magnificent hall, it’s called the Hall of Supreme harmony It is the largest building in the entire Forbidden City, symbolizing the supreme power of the emperor, how was the Forbidden City established? Here we have to talk about an important figure, the third emperor of the Ming Empire, Zhu Di.
In the 14th century, China, the once powerful Mongolian Empire that had ruled China over 100 years, was finally overthrown by Chinese farmers uprising, and a new empire was born, which was the called Ming Empire. At that time, Zhu Di, a young general of the Ming Empire and also the fourth son of the old emperor of the Ming Empire, was appointed as the highest military commander of the Beijing City, for nearly 20 years fighting against the Mongols made Zhu Di more powerful and owned a piece of powerful Great Wall army group, After the death of the old emperor, Zhu Di had serious conflicts with the new successor. Zhu Di and his Great Wall army were seen as the greatest threat to the new emperor rules. A secret plan to arrest Zhu Di was formulated, but the plan was leaked, so Zhu Di launched a rebellion war. Four years later, Zhu Di's Great Wall army captured Nanjing, the capital of the Ming Empire, the new emperor disappeared. With the escort of his soldiers, Zhu Di ascended the throne in Nanjing and became the third emperor of the Ming Empire.
Although he became emperor of the Ming Empire, Zhu Di always lived in nightmares every day. He felt strange to this city. Also felt untrust to those previous officials and prevent them from assassinating him. Based on this circumstance, a bod plan gradually appear in this mind, he decided to remove the capital to Beijing, and build the world's most magnificent royal palace in this city. Under his order, nearly 1 million laborers were requisitioned across the country, and it took nearly 20 years to complete this great project. In the year of 1420, Zhu Di officially move the capital to Beijing, and from this gate he came into the Forbidden City, became the first owner of this great palace.
Ladies and gentlemen:
We are now standing in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the place where the emperor handled state affairs with his senior officials. However, there has always been a fierce struggle between the emperor and the official group regarding the distribution of power,
Before the Ming Empire, China had always been a centralized state since the emperor Qin unified China 2000 years ago, but the power of the emperor was strictly limited, and the emperor was not the only decision-maker. When dealing with state affairs, the emperor must cooperate with the senior official group, In many cases, the Prime Minister had equal power, and even in some cases, can veto the emperor's decisions.
When Emperor Zhu Di came into the Forbidden City, he abolished the prime minister system and separated his power into three parts. The administrative power was directly handed over to the different ministries, they were only responsible for executing orders. The legislative power was handed over to the cabinet, which was only responsible to the emperor personally. And final decision right was in emperor’s own hands. Since then, Zhu Di firmly held the supreme power of the empire, and gradually the official group became the emperor's servants. The emperor's orders were issued from the Forbidden City, and quickly delivered to each corner of the empire through 1,375 post stations across the country.
Becoming a dictator was a good thing to the emperor himself, but the risk to his empire. Because the safety of the entire empire is tied to the emperor's personal ability. Once the emperor is incompetent to his job, the empire will be in danger.
Ladies and gentlemen:
The building in front of us now is called the hall of preserving harmony. The most famous function of this hall was a place where hold highest-level Imperial Examination, and the emperor was the examiner during the course, The imperial examination was a civil service examination system in Imperial China administered for the purpose of selecting candidates for the state bureaucracy.
The imperial examination was divided into four levels. The first level called the “Couty examination” , it was taken once for every three years and the people who past is called “Xiucai”. Usually there was only one Xiucai per 15000 people average based on records of Qing empire. The second level was called “Provincial examination” which put all the Xiucai together to take examination, the people who past is called “Juren”. Basically, the pass rate is only 3%, so it’s really difficult! The third level called “Capital examination” which also held once for every three years, those Juren came into the emperor’s capital to join the examination. The people who past is called “Jinshi” .Basically, the pass rate is only 4%,
The last level is called the Palace Examination, which means these Jinshi are all brought here to take part in the examination presided over by the emperor himself, but this time the pass rate is 100%. Those Jinshis are separated different levels according to their examination records. The top three will be allowed to pass through the emperor's middle door of meridian gate, the most glorious moment of their lives. China's imperial examination, regardless of your age, whether you are poor or rich, everyone is eligible to take the exam and has the opportunity to become a senior official to fulfill their dream, it gave the people at the bottom of society a way to rise up and keep the empire stabilized. In addition, during the palace examination, The selected people would definitely appreciate the emperor for everything he had given, and they would naturally become loyal to the emperor.
Ok, Dear friends, the place we are entering now is called Benevolence Garden. And it was once the place where the only Empress Dowager lived. As the mother of the Emperor, the Empress Dowager could enjoy the most noble treatment in the inner court. Everyday morning, the emperor had to come here to show his greetings based imperial rules.
How many wives did the Chinese emperor have? It has always been an attractive topic that many ordinary people like to talk about. Many people think that the ancient Chinese emperor was the happiest man because he could live a romantic life here with his beautiful women over thousand. In fact, this is a common misunderstanding. This is not a romantic place, but a battlefield without smoke. Competing for the emperor's favor, those women had been fighting fiercely.
During the Qing Empire, the royal family had establishment of the strict life system that the emperor had to follow. First of all, if you want to be a woman beside the emperor, you must come from a Manchu noble family. Ordinary people have no chance at all. Moreover, the emperor's concubines were divided into eight levels in total. The number will not exceed a hundred people. The highest level is the empress which can only be one person. The choice of the Empress was not decided by the emperor himself, but by the empress dowager who made the selection and decision from some candidates.
ok, Everyone, the gate in front of us is called Gate of Heavenly Purity, this name originally comes from Chinese Taoism and symbolizes the stability of the country. This door is actually a dividing line between the outer court and inner court of the Forbidden City. From here we are about to enter the emperor's living quarters. During the Ming and Qing empires, no man was allowed to enter here without the emperor's permission, and women living here were strictly prohibited from leaving this door. During the Ming and Qing Dynasty, the emperor often held government meetings here, usually once every five days. The meeting usually started at 6 o'clock in the morning. The emperor sat in the door, and senior officials stood in this square to report issues that occurred to the emperor before the emperor gave the final decision. The meeting ended at 8 o'clock. We can imagine that it is really hard job to these officials in the winter time as the temperature was usually 10 degree below, they were almost getting frozen.
Ladies and gentlemen:
The name of the main hall in front of us is called Qianqing Palace, which means national peace in Chinese. This used to be the residence of ancient emperors. Many people think that the emperor's life must be very romantic in the inner court as he had many concubines, I can tell you it’s totally wrong! Actually, the emperor’s sex life was also strictly regulated. Although the emperor could choose the woman his favorite during the night, but this woman was prohibited strictly to stay overnight with the emperor in his bedroom, even their activity duration could not exceed over 30 minutes. Having sex for too long or too many times would be considered harmful to the emperor's health. During their sex, the eunuch would be standing outside the door and monitoring the time, when the time out, the eunuch will shout "time is up" outside. Then this concubine will be sent back to her residence. Therefore, we can imagine how is it possible to achieve a romantic feeling in this situation? In some kind of sense, the purpose of the emperor's sexual life was not to find love, but to reproduce.
Ladies and gentlemen:
In ancient imperial court, when the old emperor passed away, who was qualified to take over his position? Here, I would like to share with you the rules for the throne inheritance.
Before Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Empire, the royal family had always adopted the "Eldest son inheritance system", where only eldest son born by empress was eligible to inherit the throne. If the empress did not have a son, the candidate would be chosen from the other sons of the emperor. If the emperor has no sons, the candidate would be chosen from the sons of emperor’s brothers. And the crown prince will be appointed while the emperor is alive, but emperor also had power to abolish him. However, the royal court has always been an arena, accompanied by intense competition for the throne, only 30% of the crown prince were able to ascend the throne smoothly.
In 1722, the famous Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty passed away. To compete for the position of heir, his more than 30 sons engaged in a brutal struggle. The ultimate winner was Emperor Yongzheng, but the cost was that he had to eliminate his brothers one by one. The cruel killing also caused psychological harm to Emperor Yongzheng, and he was also reflecting what if his sons also follow this approach when he passed way, the empire would be in great danger.
Finally, Emperor Yongzheng decided to change the system of inheritors and no longer designate heirs while the emperor was alive. But the emperor will write the his successor name in his mind on a piece of paper and seal it in a box. This box will be placed behind the plaque which is upper position of this hall. One day, when the emperor passes away, all members of the royal family and senior officials will gather here, and this secret box will be taken out. The paper will be announced who will be the emperor's heir in public. After the announcement, the new emperor will immediately ascend to the throne. The advantage of this system is, first, to prevent bloody conflicts between brothers, as there is no target person. Second, every prince has the opportunity to become the next emperor, so they will work hard to learn and showcase themselves. After Emperor Yongzheng, there was no bloody conflict in the succession of the throne.
Many people are also curious about how the emperor's meal is different from that of ordinary people. We ordinary people can eat with our family and friends, but the emperor absolutely cannot. No one was allowed to eat at the same table with the emperor. The reason is quite simple: the emperor's safety must be ensured. Therefore, the emperor is also the loneliest eater in the world. The emperor only ate 2 meals a day, breakfast at 7 am, dinner at 2 pm, and maybe a snack in the evening. The Qing emperor's dinner usually consisted of 48 dishes. Strict inspections would be carried out before the meal. Specialists would taste the dishes for the emperor. After confirming that there are no problems, the emperor can eat. During the meal, any dishes was not allowed to have bites over 3 times. The purpose is to prevent people from knowing what the emperor likes to eat, so as to prevent targeted poisoning.
From the view point of ordinary people, being the Chinese emperor is also a hard job. During the Qing Empire, the emperor had to get up at 4 o'clock every morning.
Before taking 2 hours to learn the administrative sayings of the ancestors emperors, and improving his experience in dealing with the country. After breakfast at 7am, the emperor would begin to meet senior officials and listen to the reports. Processing a large number of documents at the same time, each document needs to be read carefully and given instructions on it. The work would continue into the evening. While the emperor could have a short moment of his own. The emperor usually went to bed at 10 o'clock, but many emperors also worked until late at night. The famous Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Empire, according to records, wrote as many as 3,000 words of instructions every day. Note! today, it’s also not easy to write 3,000 words with a pen, let alone writing with a brush at that time. The emperors of the Qing Empire basically maintained this state every day, and only had 3 to 5 days for having rest every year.