Ming Dynasty Architecture
Hall of Supreme Harmony
Forbidden City (Beijing, 1406 AD)
The great achievement of the Ming Dynasty architects was that they built the great palace called the Forbidden City. This was the palace of the Ming Dynasty emperors, in Beijing, and it was the center of the government of China. It was called the Forbidden City because nobody could go in or out without the emperor's permission.
A staircase in the Forbidden City
There's a moat around the whole Forbidden City, and a wall nearly eight meters high. Like all Chinese city walls beginning in the Shang Dynasty, this wall is of rammed earth, but it also has three layers of mortared baked bricks on each side. Inside the wall, there are 980 buildings, with more than eight thousand rooms. Most of the buildings are made of wood, with brick floors. The tile roofs are painted yellow, the color of the emperors.
Once you get inside the walls through the Meridian Gate, you're in the Outer Court of the Forbidden City. The Outer Court was for big ceremonies. It has a river running across it (the Golden Water River). After you cross the river, you go through the Gate of Supreme Harmony, and then you are in front of three halls; the middle one is the Hall of Supreme Harmony. This was where the Ming Emperors held court.
A throne in the Inner Court
From the Outer Court, you can go on into the Inner Court, where the Emperor lived and did ordinary government business. There are another three halls in the center of the Inner Court. The Emperor lived in the Palace of Heavenly Purity. Next to this hall is another one for the Empress, and behind them is a garden and smaller buildings for the Emperor's other women and children. There were also two Taoist shrines.
Further south, in the Wudang Mountains, the Ming Dynasty emperors also built a palace called the Golden Hall.
Learn by doing - Visit a Chinese garden
or write a story about the Forbidden City
Ming Dynasty History
Ming Dynasty Art
Main Chinese Architecture page
Main China page
To find out more about ancient Chinese architecture, check out these books from Amazon.com or from your library:
The British Museum Book of Chinese Art, by Jessica Rawson and others (1996). Rawson is a curator at the British Museum, and she uses the collection of the British Museum to illustrate this book. Library Journal calls it "easily the best introductory overview of Chinese art to appear in years".
Art in China (Oxford History of Art Series), by Craig Clunas (1997). Not specifically for kids, but a good introduction to the spirit of Chinese art. Warning: this one is not arranged in chronological order. Instead, it has chapters on sculpture, calligraphy, and so on.