At the four corners of the Forbidden City are four watch towers. Each of the four
watch towers has 9 roof beams, 18 pillars and 72 ridgepoles. You can rarely see such
structures elsewhere. The watch towers are ingeniously built using the magic number
"9". Each of the three numbers are either 9 or multiples of 9, And the total of
the three numbers is 9+18+72=99, which is a heavenly number only the Forbidden City is
But who designed
the watch towers and how?
Legend has it that
when the city of Beijing was built, there were no watch towers, only the high, thick red
wall. One night, the emperor dreamed of four watch towers standing at each corner. When he
woke up he ordered that the watch towers should be made like the ones in his dream.
The Minister of
Works accepted the imperial edict and summoned the best craftsmen in the country to build
the watch towers in three months.
Two shifts of best
craftsmen built very impressive watch towers, but because they weren't like what the
emperor had dreamed of, they were all destroyed and the craftsmen were all beheaded
The third group of
craftsmen were summoned. They were so worried that they could hardly eat or sleep.
One day while
they were lying down chatting, they heard the singing of grasshoppers. It was so noisy
that one craftsman got fed up after a while and went out and prepared to take some action.
He saw that an old man was selling those grasshoppers for a very high price. The craftsman
hoped to get some quiet, but the old man said, How can a grasshopper keep silent? The
craftsman argued with the old man, and all the craftsman went out to see what was
happening. Upon seeing these craftsmen, the old man held his grasshopper cage high and
said loudly, "Sir, won't you buy my fine grasshopper in his fine cage?" All eyes
focused on the cage, it was exactly what they wanted!
The cage was made
of thin sorghum stalks with eight sides and eight more at every corner. The roof was
divided into three storeys. The first storey had upturned eaves on its four sides, and
each of the four corners also had four small upturned eaves. The second was similar to the
first one, except that on its four small upturned eaves were four triangular ridgepoles.
Like the second, the third had four triangular ridgepoles, but on the ridgepoles were Sour
more triangular ridgepoles, and on each of them stood four level ridgepoles.
built the four watch towers according to the design of the cage, and the emperor was
finally quite satisfied.
The old man was
believed to be Lu Ban Grandfather of all Chinese carpenters.
Click here to view the map of Forbidden City