Inner Court, Forbidden City – Beijing, China
The Inner Court is separated from the Outer Court by an oblong courtyard lying orthogonal to the City’s main axis. It was the home of the Emperor and his family.
In the Qing Dynasty, the Emperor lived and worked almost exclusively in the Inner Court, with the Outer Court used only for ceremonial purposes.
The Palace of Heavenly Purity
At the centre of the Inner Court is another set of three halls. From the south, these are the Palace of Heavenly Purity (乾清宮), Hall of Union, and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. Smaller than the Outer Court halls, the three halls of the Inner Court were the official residences of the Emperor and the Empress. The Emperor, representing Yang and the Heavens, would occupy the Palace of Heavenly Purity. The Empress, representing Yin and the Earth, would occupy the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. In between them was the Hall of Union, where the Yin and Yang mixed to produce harmony.
The Forbidden City, the culmination of the two-thousand-year development of classical Chinese and East Asian architecture, has been influential in the subsequent development of Chinese architecture, as well as providing inspiration for many modern constructions. Some specific examples include:
Emperor Gia Long of Vietnam built a palace and fortress in the 1800s. Its ruins are in Huế. In English it is called the “Imperial City”. The name of the inner palace complex in Vietnamese is translated literally as “Purple Forbidden City”, which is the same as the Chinese name for the Forbidden City in Beijing.
The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, Washington was designed to incorporate elements of classical Chinese architecture and interior decoration. The ceiling of the auditorium features a dragon panel and chandelier reminiscent of the dragon caisson and Xuanyuan mirror found in the Forbidden City.
Depiction in art, film, literature and popular culture.
The Forbidden City has served as the scene to many works of fiction. In recent years, it has been depicted in films and television series. Some notable examples include:
The Forbidden City (1918), a fiction film about a Chinese emperor and an American.
The Last Emperor (1987), a biographical film about Puyi, was the first feature film ever authorised by the government of the People’s Republic of China to be filmed in the Forbidden City.
Marco Polo a joint NBC and RAI TV miniseries broadcast in the early 1980s, was filmed inside the Forbidden City. Note, however, that the present Forbidden City did not exist in the Yuan Dynasty, when Marco Polo met Kublai Khan.
As a performance venue.
The Forbidden City has also served as a performance venue. However, its use for this purpose is strictly limited, due to the heavy impact of equipment and performance on the ancient structures. Almost all performances said to be “in the Forbidden City” are held outside the palace walls.
Giacomo Puccini’s opera, Turandot, about the story of a Chinese princess, was performed at the Imperial Shrine just outside the Forbidden City for the first time in 1998.
In 1988, the USA musician Marty Friedman composed a song inspired in Forbidden City, as part of the “Dragon Kiss” album.
In 1997, Greek-born composer and keyboardist Yanni performed a live concert in front of the Forbidden City. The concert was recorded and later released as part of the “Tribute” album.
In 2004, the French musician Jean Michel Jarre performed a live concert in front of the Forbidden City, accompanied by 260 musicians, as part of the “Year of France in China” festivities.