How Long Did It Take To Build The Forbidden City

the time it take to build the forbidden city

According to the official record of the Ming Dynasty, it took over 14 years (from 1406 to 1420) to complete the construction of the Forbidden City. The whole process could be divided into two stages – preparation and construction. And quite surprisingly, the first one is more time-consuming.

In 1406, Emperor Zhudi ordered his chancellors to build imperial palaces in Beijing to prepare for the relocation of the capital in the future (back then, the capital of China was Nanjing, a southeast city in Jiangsu province). He sent individuals to every corner of the country to collect valuable raw materials.

For example, the pillars and beams in the Forbidden City were mainly made of Phoebe (nanmu), which only grew in Sichuan, a province in southwest China. Loggers had to go into dense forests and steep mountains to cut down these precious trees. And because their huge size was beyond the transport capability of humans at that time, workers often tossed them into the river and resorted to the power of flow to transport them downstream.

Likewise, the white stones in the city were mainly from Fang Mountain in the suburb of Beijing; the bricks were manufactured in Shandong, an eastern province in China; the tiles were produced in Jiangsu; the limes were from Hebei province adjacent to Beijing; and the pines were from Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning in the northeast. All these materials had to undergo strict examination, and any flaw would bring the workers severe punishment.

After 11 years, the preparation was finally done. Then, in 1407, emperor Zhudi Recruited about 100,000 craftsmen and 1,000,000 laborers across the country to start the construction. Another four years passed, and in 1420, the Forbidden City, which occupied over 720,000 sq. meters and included nearly 10,000 rooms, was completed. Next year, the capital was moved from Nanjing to Beijing.

Although his successors and the emperors in the Qing dynasty had demolished, renovated, and added some buildings, the overall layout of the Forbidden City remained unchanged. Nowadays, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in China, receiving 6 million to 8 million visitors a year.

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