THE FORBIDDEN CITY, Introduction Part Ii

Audio File length: 2.40
English / USA Language: English / USA

Before your visit to the Forbidden City, it might be useful to have some general information to give you a better understanding of this centuries-old palace complex and the functions of its various buildings.

First of all, the complex was home to thousands of people, not just the emperor and his family, including the empress, the concubines and secondary wives, children, siblings, aunts and uncles and cousins. Some emperors had as many as 70 secondary wives and almost as many children.

The various pavilions you can see around the main buildings were used by hundreds of servants and guards, officials, ministers and, above all, slaves, who took care not only of the women, but of the whole imperial family.

It was here that numerous public ceremonies such as coronations, marriages and celebrations were held. State affairs were also conducted here, as well as the administration of the whole country.

State officials were selected through extremely rigorous examinations, which were held all over China and involved thousands of students, not only from the noble classes, from a very young age.

To choose the high-ranking officials, examinations were held every three years. They were presided by the emperor in person, and took place in the Forbidden City. They lasted several weeks, and during that time, dozens of candidates had to present reports on a variety of topics, as well as undertake a series of military tests, which were judged directly by the emperor. Only 5% of the candidates passed these tests.

Our lengthy visitor route will give you the chance to admire all the main buildings, which are located along three axes: the central axis, where you’ll find the most important buildings, and two shorter routes along the sides, which you can visit starting out from the Imperial Garden, so you’ll have to go back to the garden to move from one area to the other. 

Many pavilions host the Palace Museum, where you can admire the imperial collections, archeological finds, ceramics, paintings, clothing and lavish jewelry.


An interesting fact: to avoid any favoritism, the candidates taking the imperial exams were identified with a number rather than a name, and the reports they presented were even copied by court officials, so that candidates could not be identified from their handwriting.



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