Hidden away behind and North of Bei Hai Park Imperial Pleasure Garden and World Heritage site, the Lakes of Beijing continue with Qian Hai and Hou Hai Lake (Shishahai Area). Part of the Ancient Main Watersource of Beijing, Qian Hai waters come from HouHai and continue through Bei Hai to the Imperial Palace Golden River. Nowadays Qian Hai is an easy parklike space surrounded by original Hutong and decorated by the Drum Tower. Once a favoured place for Beijing Men to take their Love for a Boat Ride under Moonlight, lately Qian Hai offers a growing number of small Bars, Restaurants & Cafe's that cater to modern needs. Come to Qian Hai on a Hot Summer's Eve to relax and Enjoy the splendid City.
South to Jingshan Dajie outside ShenWuMen in the North, a distance of 960 meters. The enclosing Wall is 750 meters long from East to West, spanning from Nanchizi Dajie (the location of an interesting affiliated site -the Imperial Library) nearly to Nanchang Jie. The Wall is near 10 meters
in height, seven-and-a-half meters thick on average and is further enclosed by an impressive, 52 meter wide, but now mudded up Moat. Originally this moat was 6 meters deep.
At each of the four corners of the enclosing wall stands a Watchtower, the design of which is unique to the Imperial Palace of Beijing.
Thus, the square "Forbidden City" or Purple Forbidden City, the Inner Palace, reaches its 720.000 square meters in surface area.
However, as you may have inferred from our explanations on how to get to the Palace Museum and what the customary first-time route through the Palace is, in the Past the Palace Grounds were larger and included several adjacent structures, many of which can still be found today.
To explain in the easiest and most recognizable way, starting in the South the Palace Perimeter extendeds well beyond the Meridian Gate - Wu Men. As is still clearly recognizable today, the Southern-most Point of the Palace lay at Tian An Men - the Gate of Heavenly Peace, which at the Time was an announcement Gate. The downtrodden public, the ordinary citizen, was kept well outside of TiananMen Gate, where a small river and the five white marble bridges separated the masses from the Great Within (Da Nei). The Gate was then known as Guo Men - Gate of the State and the White Pillars outside of Tian An Men, still standing today, were pillars where the public
could proclaim their complaints to the Emperor and Court. The Public could further hear the official announcements made on behalf of the Emperor shouted down from the Gates gigantic platform.
From Tian An Men, only the invited could proceed, well watched by the Palace Guards. Invited High Officials would proceed from Tian An Men, through Duan Men, to gather outside and underneath of Wu Men, where the Emperor would speak to them from the Gate Platform.
The normal citizen would therefor never see the Emperor, except perhaps when he left on a tour through the City before offering prayers at the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan) (twice a year).
Cross Nanchizi DaJie' once more and find the Eastern side-entrance into the Imperial Ancestral Temple complex, just a bit to the North and inside a hutong-like alley.
From here one can enter the Ancestral Shrine (buy a ticket!), but one can also explore a little bit southward again to find some last remaining Palace Remnants running between the hidden hutong dwellings here. These are officially slated for destruction and old-styled rebirth, however, this little corner hangs on untill today.
View along Nanchizi Dajie' with its lush green trees. On the left the outer wall of the Imperial Library Vault, the home of the Wanfung Modern Art Gallery.
From the Corner of Nanchizi Jie' and Dong Chang An Avenue Northward extends the Perimeter of the Outer Imperial City and Palace. Follow Nanchizi Jie' northward to find find the Park of the Peoples Culture leading back West inside the Red Wall.
Cut through the Park and continue North on Nachizi Jie' to find an interesting affiliate site to the giant Imperial Palace. Just East and across Nanchizi Jie, just past the Park of the Peoples Culture stands the Former Imperial Library Vault. This Library Vault, was a functional part of the Imperial Palace, however, as a protection against fire-hazzards, it was placed inside its own enclosure, away from the wooden palace structures. As you will note upon your visit, as a further safeguard, the Imperial Library Vault was constructed in stone.
These structures taken together form the larger Palace or what is known as the Outer Palace & Wall.
In the East, the Wall can still be recognized as well. Leading away from TiananMen Gate eastward, the Outer Red Wall first gives access North through a colorful Ceremonial Gate to the Imperial Ancestral Temple. Usually missed by first Time visitors due to the many Times more Impressive Site of the wellknown TianAnMen, the Imperial Ancestral Temple was a very important part of the Imperial Palace Architecture. Here the sacred tablets of representing the spirits of the Imperial Families' Ancestors and deceased Emperors were kept safe and were worshipped on a daily basis. Explore the Site during a later visit to the huge Imperial compound.
Heading Due East along the Red Outer Wall past the Imperial Ancestral Temple, the visitor moves along the Park of the Peoples' Culture, which is located inside the Outer Perimeter Wall and pleasantly hidden away from busy Dong Chang An Avenue. Here the first intersecting street leading North is Nanchizi Dajie'.
Symetrical with the Western Flank of Tian An Men, well inside the corner of Nanchizi DaJie', the second minor Gate overarching Dong Chang An (East Eternal Peace) Avenue was located. In the recent past, some remnants of this minor gate were recognizable here. However, they were cleared somewhere after the year 2002 AD during the construction of a new Ministry at Chang An Avenue's south side and none can be found today.
In the West, a Red Wall leads away from TiananMen Gate to the Gate of what is now Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park and even beyond. Here the Red OuterWall crosses NanChang Jie to continue to the Gate of New China (XinHua Men) at ZhongNanHai and further, including the ZhongNanHai compound in the whole. The Western Wall only ends at the corner of FuYou Jie', the Road and Wall leading North along the West Banks of Zhong Hai and Nan Hai Lakes.
As can be seen in some of the old Films of the Grand Military Reviews at Tian An Men, in The Past, the Space of South of Tian An Men Gate, now TiananMen Square (and originally much smaller), was seperated to the West & East by two minor red wall gates arching over Chang An Avenue.
XinHua Men, The Gate of New China, south ceremonial Gate to ZhongNanHai Park and Palace, since 1949 AD the residency of the Chinese Political Leadership. In the Past a part of the extended Imperial Palace of the Ching Dynasty. Famous residents - The imprisoned Guanxu Emperor and Chairman Mao Zedong.
At Times, the Palace extended even further. During both Ming and Ching Dynasties many Minor and some very Major changes were made inside the Purple Forbidden City Palace. However, during the Ching Dynasty, the original Palace was enlarged and extended, first northward, then mainly west-ward.
Before ZhongNanhai, west of the current day Palace Museum, became the Leadership Residence Compound of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949 AD, it was part of the extended Imperial Palace of the (later) Ching Dynasty. During the Reign of Emperor Qianlong, The Imperial Palace was extended west-ward to include the Zhong Hai and Nan Hai lakes and their Western Banks.
In 1887 AD, the original main Christian Church in Beijing, the Jesuit Cathedral located at CaiShiKou on the western banks of what is now ZhongNanHai (since the early Ming Dynasty), had to be demolished, relocated and entirely rebuilt to enlarge the Palace further. Find a much larger and newer Church at new Location at XishiKu Northern Church.