It was built by a Ming Emperor in our fifteenth century - to be a terrestrial reflection of the celestial realm of the Jade Emperor. Destroyed and rebuilt on an even more splendid scale by the final ManchuQuing Emperors, it consists of a series of courtyards approached by gates (chief among them Tianan Men) and an imperial way. This book brilliantly reconstructs the life that went on in those ancestral temples, lacquered chambers and vermilion halls both in the imperial heyday and in the decadent decline under the Dowager Empress. Fifty years ago Mao considered razing all to the ground. Now it is a Wonder of the World.
Based at the Pacific and Asian History Division of the Australian National University, Canberra, Geremie R. Barme has also worked with a number of film projects. He is joint editor of the online China Heritage Quarterly.