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09 November 2018Area Special Interest Morning
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Area Special Interest Morning Anne Haworth Friday 09 November 2018

The Forbidden City is a vast complex of buildings with yellow-tiled roofs and vermilion walls enclosed by a moat, situated at the heart of modern Beijing.  It is known in Chinese as Gu Gong or Ancient Palace and was built in the early 15th century. The palace was inhabited by two dynasties of powerful rulers of China, the Ming and Qing dragon- emperors who lived in walled seclusion with their empresses, concubines and palace eunuchs. After the abdication of the last emperor in 1911, it was transformed into today's Palace Museum, visited by millions of tourists each year. The multiple pavilions house extensive collections of works of art, collected by generations of Chinese Emperors. 

Lecture 1 focuses on the construction, early history and ceremonies of the Forbidden City and the symbolism of the venerated architecture. The symmetrical arrangement of the palace with its central north-south axis was a metaphor for the Chinese belief that their country was the Middle Kingdom, positioned at the centre of the earth. The Emperors had a cosmic role as semi-divine Sons of Heaven and their lives were bound by ritual and secrecy. 

Lecture 2 will look at the exquisite art collections of the palace from paintings to jade and porcelain and will focus on some of the discerning imperial art connoisseurs. The lecture continues to the impact of 19th century Opium Wars and end of Empire through to the founding of the modern museum