The Forbidden City was the imperial palace of China, from the era of the Ming Dynasty to the time of the Qing Dynasty. The city is based in the central area of Beijing in China, and it presently houses the palace museum. For nearly 500 years, the Forbidden City served as the residence of Chinese emperors and their households; the city served as the political and ceremonial center of the then-Chinese administrations (Tesoro, 2004). The city was built between 1406 and 1420, and the city’s complex consists of 980 buildings and covers an area of 720,000 square meters. The White House is the principal workplace and the official residence of American presidents, starting with President John Adams of 1800 to the current president. The White House is located in Washington DC and was built between 1792 and 1800. The first president took residence at the White House in 1801 (Abbott & Rice, 1997). During the burning of Washington in 1812, the British set it ablaze, destroying the inside. Reconstruction efforts were started immediately, and President Monroe took residence in 1817. This paper will discuss the similarities and differences between the Forbidden City and the White House, including that they played political roles (Tesoro, 2004).
Comparison between the Forbidden City and the White House
One similarity between the Forbidden City and the White House is that they are historic constructions used as residential areas for Chinese and American leaders, respectively. The Forbidden City was used as the home of Chinese emperors starting from 1420 during the Ming dynasty, until 1912, when its role as the Chinese political center ceased. The role ceased after the abdication of the last Chinese emperor, named Puyi (Cotterell, 2007). The common roles of the two historic architectural developments show that the two play a major role in defining the historical roots of rule and the administrative rule of America and China.
The history of the Forbidden City and that of the White House depict another similarity, which revolves around the political roles they played, which made them focal centers for political rivalry from the national enemies of the two nations. In the case of the Forbidden City, it was captured by rebel militants under the command of Li Zicheng in 1964, who declared himself as the new Shun Dynasty’s Emperor. Later, Li Zicheng fled the city but set parts of the city on fire, which marked one of the political attacks made on the city.
On the other hand, the White House was attacked by the British, during the War of 1812. During the attack, British forces set the house on fire, which left the interior and parts of the exterior compromised. The attack was staged during the burning of Washington, which was among the major events of the War of 1912 (Clinton, 2000). These historical, political events in the past of the two national iconic sites demonstrate their political importance to the two nations, which made the political attackers – internal in the case of China and external in the case of America – attack them for the political roles they played. Further, the two centers were viewed as the centers of the political rule of China and America; therefore the attacks were staged, so as to weaken the rule of the then administrations among the two nations.
Besides serving as the residential centers for Chinese and American leaders, the Forbidden City and the White House were historically used as national, functional grounds. For example, in the case of the White House, the East wing constructed after 1927 was used as the reception grounds for social events. In the case of the Forbidden City, the outer court also referred as the front court was used as the grounds where ceremonial functions were held. This role of the two iconic sites shows that they were used, not only for political and administrative roles but also for hosting national roles aimed at increasing national unity and harmony (Clinton, 2000).
Differences between the Forbidden City and the White House
The differences between the functional role of the Forbidden City and the White House include that the political function of the Forbidden City ended in 1912, after the abdication of the last Chinese Emperor (Ho & Bronson, 2004). On the other hand, irrespective of the attack staged by the British on the White House, which halted the political function of the site, its political function was restarted in 1817, when President Monroe moved in, after the reconstruction. Further, the political role of the White House, unlike that of the Forbidden City has continued to date, because it has continued its role as the president’s residence (Clinton, 2000).
After the political role of the Forbidden City was discontinued, the site was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, in 1987. Unlike the Forbidden City, the White House has remained a political and functional center for America and the American administration (Barmé, 2008). Therefore, the two sites play significantly different functional roles, because the Forbidden Kingdom plays the role of preserving the culture and the architectural profiles of China. On the other hand, the role of the White House has remained political and is likely that it will remain so, for the coming decades.
The Forbidden City and the White House have remained functionally different, mainly because the White House has not been associated to religious roles. On the other hand, the Forbidden City has been a religious mark in the history of China, which is evident from its use as the grounds for religious functions like the Shamanist ceremony. Also, the city played a key role in the Taoist religious functions of the different administrations under the Ming and Qing dynasties. Other religions linked to the Forbidden City include Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, where the site was used as the center for the location for icons, statues, and Mandalas, all situated in ritualistic outlays (Monkman, 2000).
The Forbidden City was the imperial palace of China, starting from the time of the Ming to the Qing dynasties. For more than 500 years, the site was used as the residence of Chinese emperors. The White House is the principal workplace and the official residence of American Presidents. The similarities between the Forbidden City and the White House include that they were historically used as the residences of administrative heads: presidents and Emperors, and that they played a key political role. Other similarities include that they were both attacked by political enemies and were used as national and functional grounds. The differences between the Forbidden City and the White House include that the political function of the Forbidden City ended, the Forbidden City was declared a world heritage site unlike the White House, and the White House has not been linked to religion, like the Forbidden City.
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Tesoro, J. (2004). The Invisible Palace: The True Story of a Journalist’s Murder in Java. London: Equinox Publishing.
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