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Purple Forbidden Enclosure — Royal Palace of Heaven

The Purple Forbidden, also known as 紫微垣(Ziwei Yuan), is one of the Three Enclosures in ancient Chinese Astrology, situated in the central area of the northern Circumpolar Stars.


In ancient Chinese Astrology, the Purple Forbidden Enclosure comprised 163 stars, including the Big Dipper.


They are close to the North Pole, never rising or setting.


As such, this enclosure is believed to be the palace of the Great Emperor of Heaven.

Purple Forbidden Enclosure in Dunhuang Star Chart from the Tang Dynasty (618–907)

Purple Forbidden Enclosure in Dunhuang Star Chart from the Tang Dynasty (618–907)

Stars and Symbolism of Purple Forbidden Enclosure


The stars within the Purple Forbidden Enclosure are divided into 39 groups, each assigned a name representing their titles or functions.


The Great Emperor of Heaven resides in the center, surrounded by a crown prince, harems, ministers, judges, guards, maids, deities, administrative centers, kitchens, ritual canyons, weapons, and more.

The Big Dipper serves as the Great Emperor of Heaven's chariot.

Big Dipper

Omens and Celestial Signs of Purple Forbidden Enclosure


According to the ideology of Interactions Between Heaven and Mankind, the stars within the Purple Forbidden Enclosure hold great significance as omens of an emperor's rule.


  • Bright stars signify a peaceful and prosperous kingdom with capable sovereigns and ministers.


  • Dim stars indicate incompetence among the correlated people or agencies, potentially leading to negative consequences if improvements are not made.


  • The occurrence of war or major disasters is predicted if all stars within this enclosure appear gloomy.


  • Other stars moving to certain positions in the enclosure are omens of certain circumstances, such as meteors and the Seven Celestial Beings (Sun, Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn).

Moon Moving Through Constellations in Sky

Cultural Significance of Purple Forbidden Enclosure


Throughout the annals of history, the Purple Forbidden Enclosure has served as an indispensable guide, offering crucial insights into agricultural practices.


It also played pivotal roles in shaping significant historical events, aiding in divination practices, and influencing decisions related to city selection and construction.

For example, Chinese emperors often constructed their royal palaces by emulating the design of the Purple Forbidden Enclosure, as seen in the Forbidden City, the imperial palace of the Ming (1368 — 1644) and Qing (1636 — 1912) dynasties.

Forbidden City in Beijing

Forbidden City in Beijing, the Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 — 1912).

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