Names of the Forbidden City

Forbidden City was also known as the Palace Museum or Purple Forbidden City. Actually, it was the former imperial palace for the emperor in the old days and served as both living quarters and the venue of the state administration.

During the Ming and Qing dynasties, the emperor’s residence was forbidden to the ordinary people. In the feudal society, the emperor had supreme power and he believed he was the person just below heaven but above all the people, so his residence was certainly a forbidden place to the common people. In other words, the common people were forbidden to enter the imperial palace. Hence the name “Forbidden City”.

The word “Purple” comes from ancient Chinese astronomers’ belief that purple was the symbolic color of the North’ Star. In ancient China, astronomers put the stars into three constellations. The Purple Star was located in the center of the universe,which was believed to be the center of the cosmos, and the Palace on the Purple Star was called “Purple Palace”’ for the God of Heaven to live in. Since the emperor believed that he was the “Son of Heaven”, he called his Forbidden City “Purple Forbidden City”. The emperor also believed that his palace was in the center of the earth, for the palace was built along the north-south central axis of the capital city of Beijing. Hence the name “Purple Forbidden City”.

We have used the name“Palace Museum” since 1925, because here is no longer an imperial palace for the emperor, but a museum with lots of historical relics for People to visit.

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