The most sacred, and most nuclear, of the fortified sections was the Purple Forbidden City, the center of which was T'ai Ho Tien, the Hall of Supreme Harmony, which housed the Emperor's throne. The Forbidden City, which was reserved solely for the Emperor and his court of high officials, eunuchs and concubines, was surrounded by the Imperial City, which included literally miles of palaces and gardens, as well as three large lakes - the North, South, and Middle Seas. The Inner City encompassed both the successively smaller walled areas and the more public structures such as the Examination Hall, the Granary, and the Elephant Stables, but excluded the majority of ordinary residents who habitated the Outer City.
Just as the fifteen celestial bodies danced around the Star of the Red Myrtle in the Home of the Lord of Heaven, the Ming capital focused around the Forbidden City, the terrestrial home of the Son of Heaven, and China, in turn, around the Ming capital. The entire architectural and urban design of the Imperial capital was a symbolic representation of the Chinese cosmology and ontology, centered on the apotheosis of 500 years of successive emperors. As Frank Dorn testifies, "the mystical lore of numbers was incorporated with great consistency throughout the palace," with a pattern of five being the most essential and the most common. Seen throughout the imperial palaces, including the five bridges which spanned the golden river, the five staircases leading up to the emperor's throne and the five ports through the Meridian Gate, this quintessential quintuplet design symbolized the five elements, the five spheres and, most notably, the five directions - north, south, east, west, and the center, from which all directions are born. Yung Lo demanded a fitting capital for the nation whose name means the Middle Kingdom, a country which perceived itself as the navel of the world, and so the Forbidden City was produced, a monument whose symbolic forms dominated the Chinese political and social worlds from the beginning of the fiftienth century until the beginning of the twentieth century - and arguably beyond.

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