Forbidden City, The

May Holdsworth, Caroline Courtauld, Hu Chui
Thousands lived in the Forbidden City when it was imperial China's center of power and the world's most extravagant palace. With the exception of the eunuchs, only one of those thousands was an adult male--the emperor himself. From 1420 to 1912, the occupant of the dragon throne within this palace determined the fate of China and, indeed, of Asia. Here history was made. In 1405, when emperor and architect Yongle planned the city of Beijing, he decreed that it be laid out in accordance with his astrologer's symbolic conception, with open space and buildings corresponding to specific parts of the human body. The high, vermilion palace walls, by keeping the emperor hidden, enhanced his mystique and glory. The location of the Forbidden City itself is linked to the position of the Pole Star. This chronicle richly blends history, anecdotal narrative, biographical portraits and illustrations and takes the reader through 500 years of life in imperial China. The Forbidden City's supreme political significance is described through the main events of an emperor's ceremonial life. Drawing on the reminiscences of palace eunuchs and maidservants, The Forbidden City evokes the secret, stultifying world of the Inner Court, where the emperor and his concubines lived their private lives until the impact of the West eventually led to the collapse of the glittering, corrupt court. Having also created a documentary film on the Forbidden City, the authors gathered previously inaccessible materials from historical archives in Beijing, malting this a truly unique and insightful work. Photographer Hu Chui breathes life into the structures of the Forbidden City; along with a wealth of treasures and paintings collected during imperial times. * Introduction by pre-eminent China scholar Jonathan Spence * Beautifully illustrated with photographs, paintings and artwork * Archival black and white photographs * Draws on previously inaccessible information in Beijing * Explores the lifestyles behind the Forbidden City's walls * Extensive quotes from early days, including views from palace maids and eunuchs * Detailed map of the Forbidden City's layout * Explains the rich history of the home of the Chinese emperor

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