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[Lecture] An architectural tour to the Forbidden City: Its planning, design and decoration

SEP . 10 2021
Peking University, Sep. 7, 2021: On August 20th, the lecture themed “An architectural tour to the Forbidden City” was successfully held. Jointly organized by the Palace Museum, Peking University Center in Chicago, PKU International Summer Institute and Peking University School of Arts, this series of lectures has received remarkable attention both domestically and internationally. Through the close cooperation between the Palace Museum and Peking University, this online series has provided an in-depth and comprehensive presentation of China’s profound history and cultural assets.

the event poster

This lecture was presented in the form of a dialogue between the guest speaker and host. The guest speaker was Associate Research Librarian Xu Bin from the Palace Museum, and the lecture was hosted by Professor Liu Chen, vice dean of PKU School of Arts. Based on information of the Palace Museum including archaeological discovery, documents, cultural relics and ancient building materials, Xu revealed the historical, cultural and artistic values of the Forbidden City in all aspects of urban planning, architectural design and interior decoration. Despite the slowdown of international exchanges due to Covid-19, the lecture allows overseas groups to explore the Forbidden City virtually and get a comprehensive view of its architectural charm.

The lecture opened with the documentary “The Forbidden City at Dusk”(暮合紫禁) to give the audience an intuitive understanding of the architecture in the Forbidden City. It then introduced the architecture comprehensively from the background of its construction, planning of the palace, architectural design, interior furnishings to the detailed structure.

For the first part, starting from the imperial edict, Xu analyzed the background, time, main figures and their contributions to the construction of the imperial palace in Ming Dynasty.


Dialogue session between Xu Bin and Liu Chen

Secondly, combined with the archaeological sites in the Palace Museum, Xu elaborated the spatial evolution of the Forbidden City from the Yuan Dynasty to the Ming Dynasty.

Thirdly, Xu further divided buildings of the Forbidden City into four categories that served ceremonial, residential, religious and recreational purposes respectively. The architectural appearance, interior decoration and furnishings, and key cultural relics of representative palaces were also introduced in detail.

For the fourth part, Xu led the audience to admire the beauty of the Forbidden City architecture from the microscopic scale with the exquisite design of stone carving, glazed tiles, color painting, caisson ceilings, doors and windows, and other architectural details.

the live webinar

Finally, taking the actual measurement of the ancient buildings of Beijing Central Axis in the 1940s as an example, Xu showed the record and conservation of the ancient buildings by the Society for the Study of Chinese Architecture, which ties in with the previous lecture.

The lecture attracted more than 200 participants online, among whom nearly 100 were students from PKU Chinese Language Summer School organized by PKU International Summer Institute. The lecture was also open to eleven member universities of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU). Students from the University of Tokyo, the University of Copenhagen and other world-renowned research universities also attended the lecture and actively asked questions.

Tapping on the academic prowess of Peking University and the Palace Museum, this series of lectures will continue to be held in various forms, so that more people can gain a more in-depth understanding of the Forbidden City.

Written by: Liu Zijing
Edited by: Ng Joong Hwee
Source: PKU world (Official Account)