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Imperial Palace
Learn Chinese - History and Culture

gongting

The imperial palace, the official residence of the emperor and his family, is the most vital architecture in ancient China.
There were certain architectural features that were reserved solely for buildings built for the Emperor of China. One example is the use of yellow roof tiles; yellow having been the Imperial color, yellow roof tiles still adorn most of the buildings within the Forbidden City (gù gōng 故宫). The Temple of Heaven (tiān tán 天坛), however, uses blue roof tiles to symbolize the sky.

dougongThe roofs are almost invariably supported by brackets (dòu gǒng 斗拱), a feature shared only with the largest of religious buildings. The wooden columns of the buildings, as well as the surface of the walls, tend to be red in color. Black is also a famous color often used in pagodas. They believe the gods are inspired by the black color to descend on to the earth.
Zoomorphic decorations can be found everywhere in the palace complex, even on the roofs. Dragons, phoenixes, lions, elephants, and many mythical animals were used to display the overwhelming imperial majesty or to ward off evil sprits. The Chinese five-clawed dragon, adopted by the first Ming emperor for his personal use, was used as decoration on the beams, pillars, and on the doors on Imperial architecture. Curiously, the dragon was never used on roofs of imperial buildings.
Numerology heavily influenced Imperial Architecture, hence the use of nine in much of construction (nine being the greatest single digit number) and reason why The Forbidden City in Beijing is said to have 9,999.9 rooms - just short of the mythical 10,000 rooms in heaven. The importance of the East (the direction of the rising sun) in orienting and siting Imperial buildings is a form of solar worship found in many ancient cultures, where the notion of Ruler is affiliated with the Sun.
roofThe 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 courtyards and lines after lines palatial halls demonstrated regal uniformity, solemnity and dignity.
Most of the palace buildings adopted large sloping roofs. The roof was not only decorative, but also protective, as the overhang with upturned corners ensured that rain water would flow along the roof grooves and fall into places far from the wooden structures of the building. Zoomorphic ornaments on the upturned roof corners were intend to add a sense of mystery to the place, and moreover, served a practical purpose in fastening the roof and keeping water out. The roofs were made of glazed golden tiles. Since this color was a symbol of imperial power, it could only be used by the imperial family.

宫廷

The Temple of Heaven      宫殿是帝王朝会和居住的地方,以其巍峨壮丽的气势、宏大的规模和严谨整饬的空间格局,给人以强烈的精神感染,突现帝王的权威。同西方相比,在古代中国这个以儒教为国教的君主制国家,宫殿是古代最重要的建筑。
      中国宫殿建筑主要通过三种艺术手法来表现:一是在建筑的“量”上显出差别,即比起其他建筑,宫殿建筑群内的建筑体量最大,数量也最多;二是在群体布局上强调所谓“中正无邪”即中轴对称方式,最尊贵的建筑总是放到中轴线上,较次要的放在两边,成为它的陪衬;三是把这种布局扩大而至全部都城,进一步烘托宫殿的重要。所以中国的宫殿与都城的关系往往密不可分,其发展正是以上观念不断充实完善的过程。
      自中国春秋时代(公元前770年~公元年476年)起,从遗址和实物看,大体分两个阶段。自春秋至唐代,宫城大多在都城中,宫城的一边或两边靠近城墙;有的则在都城外,附着一边城墙或一个城角;甚至有分建两城的。这方面的实例有临淄齐国故城、郑韩故城、邯郸赵国故城、西汉长安城、东汉和北魏洛阳城、曹魏邺城、隋唐长安城和洛阳城等的宫城或宫殿区。
      另一个阶段,是从北宋(公元960年~公元1127年)起,北宋开封城、金中都、元大都城、明中都、明清北京城,宫城处在都城之中,四面为城区所包围。
      宫殿建筑从殷商时期(公元前17世纪~公元前11世纪)就有,到秦统一全国后,建造了大批宫殿。从此,宫殿建筑步入繁盛时期,历史上著名的宫殿有秦阿房宫、西汉长乐宫、未央宫、唐大明宫等等。到现在,保存最完整的,就是位于北京的明清代的皇宫-紫禁城故宫,它是中国现存最宏伟壮丽的古代建筑群。
      紫禁城采取严格对称的院落式布局,按使用功能分区,依用途和重要程度有等差、有节奏地安排建筑群的体量和空间形式,代表中国古代建筑组群布局的最高水平。其中建筑雕梁画柱、金碧辉煌,是中国古代建筑的瑰宝。

 

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