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Imperial Palace

Ancient Chinese Architecture - Imperial Palace

Imperial palace was the residence of the emperor and his family.

In order to show the supremacy of imperial family and their authority to rule the country, palace architecture in ancient China unanimously pursued grandeur and magnificence in their design and construction.

Imperial palace complex in ancient China was usually divided into two parts. The front part was for the emperor to meet his ministers and talk about state affairs, while the rear was used for residential purposes only. The main buildings were all built along a central south-north axis, while auxiliary buildings stood symmetrically on each side. Row upon row of courtyard and lines after lines of palatial halls demonstrated regal uniformity, solemnity and dignity.

Most of palace buildings adopted large sloping roofs. Roof was not only decorative, but also protective, as the overhang with upturned corners ensured that rain water would flow along roof grooves and fall into places far from wooden structures of building. Zoomorphic ornaments on the upturned roof corners were intended to add a sense of mystery to place, and moreover, served a practical purpose in fastening roof and keeping water flow. Roof were made of glazed golden tiles. Since this color was a symbol of imperial power, it could only be used by imperial facility.

Wooden buildings were a basic feature of ancient Chinese architecture. Beams, pillars, windows, gates were all made of wood and were painted red symbolizing happiness, riches and honor. Pictures of dragons, phoenixes; clouds, flowers and grass were sometimes painted on the surface, which not only made buildings look more magnificent but had the practical purpose of pretecting wood from damage and infection.

For thousands of years, emperors in Chinese history spared no manpower, materials and resource in building gigantic palaces and imperial gardens. Unfortunately, most were destroyed in war. The best-preserved palace building today is Palace Museum, known as the Forbidden City, in Beijing. It is the largest wooden structural complex in the world today and had been used by 24 emperors of both Ming (1368 - 1644) and Qing (1644 - 1911) dynasties.

Hall of Great Harmony in Palace Museum in Beijing is the largest wooden structure in China today. It was seated upon 3 layers of white marble stone foundations, surrounded by stone columns and stone steps inscribed with pattern of dragons and flowers, all of which were exquisitely carved. At the back of the hall is the steps and pathway, paved with monokithic stones. All the stones were sculpted with waves, clouds, and giant flying dragons, symbolizing the imperial magnificence.

Palace Museum is a palace of luxury and extravagance, moreover, it's a museum of architecture arts.

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