The palaces of the Purple Forbidden City may not be the stately pleasure domes decreed by Kublai Kahn in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, however, they are certainly the closest things to the Mongol capitol still standing today. Home to twenty-four successive emperors, the center of Chinese court life for two imperial dynasties, and with a life span of well over half a millennium, the Forbidden City - or the Great Within as it is sometimes called - was the seat of power in China until the revolution in 1911 forced the monarchy to abdicate the throne. Even then, the young emperor remained in possession of a majority of his palaces and his official title until his permanent removal from the grounds in 1924.
The tarnished nature of Peiking's twilight, as the last emperor's British tutor, Reginald Johnston, labeled it, stands in stark contrast to the brilliance of its dawning. Begun in 1421, just south of the demolished remains of Khanbalig, the Mongol capitol, the Forbidden City was the ambitious dream of Yung Lo (1402 - 1424), third emperor of the Ming Dynasty. Largely the creation of three master architects of the era - Hsu Tai, Yuan An, and Feng Chiao - the Ming capitol consisted of three successively smaller walled cities, each residing within the other.

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