Who built the Forbidden City?

Forbidden City, the home of emperors in Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD) and Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD), was first built following the order of the Ming Emperor Chengzu, Zhu Di (1360 – 1424 AD). It is said that this splendid palace was designed by a skillful craftsman called Kuai Xiang who won recognition from the Emperor Chengzu. Skillful carpenters, stonemen, architects and a large amount of common people from different places were also gathered to work on with this huge project. 

The Emperor Chengzu, Zhu Di ordered to build a new imperial palace in Beijing.

Cooper Statue of Ming Emperor Chengzu
Statue of Ming Emperor Zhu Di

Zhu Di, the fourth son of Zhu Yuanzhang who founded the Ming Dynasty, was titled the King of Yan when he was 11 years old and enfeoffed Beiping, today’s Beijing as his feud. After he came to the throne and moved into the royal palace in capital Nanjing, his new-born political power wasn’t strong enough since most of his power came from the north. So he decided to move the capital to Beijing to consolidate his political power, thus a new royal palace was needed there. He proposed this idea and finally got the agreement from his ministers. So the huge project was put on the agenda.

Over 1 million craftsmen and common people built the Forbidden City.

In the process of construction, about 100,000 skilled craftsmen were hired and 1 million common people were recruited from all over the country to build the palace.

Why did the building of Forbidden City need so many people?

 Reason 1: The building materials came from all over the country, the process of transporting wood and stone was difficult at that time, consuming much manpower.

 Reason 2: Without any automatic machines, all work was done by the laborers. According to historical records, in order to carry the biggest stone weighed over 12 tons in the Forbidden City to Beijing in cold winter, the laborers dug wells on the road and water was taken from the wells and poured on the road to make an ice track, thus the big stones can slide forward. The stones were carried to Beijing by over 20,000 laborers and 1,000 mules after 28 days of transportation.

 Reason 3: The big palace consists so many rooms and yards and a large amount of laborers were needed to build it. 

The Forbidden City was designed by Kuai Xiang.

It is said that the designer of the Forbidden City is a craftsman named Kuai Xiang. He is extremely skillful. He can draw the pattern of the palace with only his rough calculation, and the completed palace is often exactly the same with his drawings. The Emperor Chengzu was very appreciative of him.

There is also a widely circulated story about Kuai Xiang. It is said that Zhu Di had ordered a carpenter to make a rare piece of giant wood tribute from neighboring countries a threshold of the main hall. However, the carpenter made mistakes and over cut the wood. Later, Kuai Xiang ordered to cut a few more and made the first threshold that was detachable.

- Last updated on May. 17, 2022 -
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