When was the Forbidden City built?

The construction of the Forbidden City lasted from 1406 to 1420, taking 14 years in total. In 1406, the Ming Emperor Chengzu Zhu Di (1360 – 1424 AD) sent out the imperial decree to build the Forbidden City taking Nanjing Ming Imperial Palace as the blueprint. The preparation work took 11 years. In 1417, the site construction officially started. The new palace was finally completed in 1420.

In 1406, the preparation started following Ming Emperor Chengzu’s order.

Forbidden City

After the Emperor Chengzu Zhu Di was enthroned, in order to consolidate his political power, he ordered the capital to be moved from Nanjing to Beijing, his former feud. Therefore a new royal palace was needed. In 1406, he officially ordered the construction of a new royal palace in Beijing, which was the later Forbidden City. 

The preparatory work lasted for 11 years.

Before the construction started, the preparatory work lasted for 11 years.

Why did the preparation need so long time?

There are two main reasons:

1. The building materials came from all over the country. It took a lot of time to find and collect them. The work of collecting wood for the construction is said to have continued for 13 years.

2. The transportation of building materials also needed time. The building materials includes the best timber, bricks and stones from all over the country need to be carried to Beijing, which took a long time. The process of mining and transporting the stone is equally difficult. The biggest stone used for building was carried to Beijing taking 28 days by over 20,000 laborers and 1,000 mules according to the history records.

The construction officially started in 1417.

In June of 1417, after most materials were ready, the Emperor Chengzu recruited skilled craftsmen from all over the country and finally officially began to build the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Forbidden City was built in 1420.

Consisting over 70 palaces and 9,000 rooms, the whole construction process of the splendid palace is 4 years’ long. The new palace was finally completed in 1420, and the Emperor Chengzu moved the capital to Beijing and started to live in the Forbidden City.

It was rebuilt and repaired constantly.

In the over 600 year’s history, there were over 100 outbreaks of fire in the Forbidden City since the structure of most palaces are timber, burn out many palaces inside. So there were several big rebuild and repairs in Ming Dyansty and Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD).

Below are several large-scale repair and reconstruction work in the history of Forbidden City:

1. In 1557, there was a big fire in Forbidden City, three big halls were burnt down. The repair lasted four years.

2. In 1597, 6 palaces and halls were destroyed by fire. It wasn’t completely repaired until 1627.

3. In 1644, the Ming Dynasty fell, most parts of Forbidden City were burnt down by Li Zicheng, the leader of the peasant uprising in the late Ming Dynasty. The emperors of Qing took over 50 years to rebuild it.

4. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, a large-scale renovation of the Forbidden City was carried out and it is still going on right now

- Last updated on Sep. 18, 2019 -
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