Numbers inside the Forbidden City

Updated: 2007-07-19 08:37


The number of zoomorphic figures engraved in the ridges of the imperial palaces was usually nine. The ridges of the Hall of Supreme Peace, however, are embossed with 10. This is the only exception to the number of zoomorphic figure in all the buildings in China - showing the uniqueness of the building.

Another riddle was the number of doornails. It was an established rule to have 81 nails on every door in the imperial palace. There are usually nine rows and nine nails in every row. However, on the Donghua Gate of the Forbidden City, there were only eight rows. This is because coffins go through this gate hence the number of doornails was reduced to an even or yin number.

The Golden Section, referred to as the Divine Proportion, has similarities to the architecture of the Greek Parthenon and the Renaissance architecture in Florence. But it also appears that the design and construction of the Forbidden City comply with the Golden Section Rule.

The courtyard where the Gate of Supreme Harmony lies in is 200 meters long and 130 meters wide, with a ratio of width to length reaching 0.65. This number is somewhere near 0.618, the Golden Section Ratio.

Also, with the distance from the Daming Gate to the Jing Mountain reaching 2.5 km, and the distance from the Daming Gate to the center of the Hall of Supreme Harmony hitting 1.5045 km, the ratio of 1.5045 to 2.5 amounts to 0.618, which is exactly the Golden Section Ratio.

There is no clear proof that the design of Chinese palaces was influenced by Western architectural ideas however the employment of the Golden Section Rule in both China and the West testifies to its usefulness , and also reveals that human beings, regardless of nationality, share a common goal in the pursuit of beauty.

Are there 9999.5 rooms in the Forbidden City?

According to an old legend there are 9999.5 rooms in the Forbidden City, but that is not really the case. Based on the field surveys from historic building experts there are 8,707 rooms in the Forbidden City including all the palaces, halls, studios and pavilions.