Summer Palace

Summer Palace – Best Royal Garden in China


About Summer Palace

Summer Palace is now a public park, but used to be the private garden for Royal families of Qing Dynasty to decamp during the hot summer days. It has assembled almost the best design, skill and classic features of traditional gardening architecture of ancient China.

Type: World Heritage Site, Royal Garden, Architectural Buildings, Parks
Best Seasons: Spring/Autumn
Recommended Visiting Time: 3~4 hours
Opening Hours: Apr to Oct: 06:30 ~ 18:00 / Nov to Mar: 07:00 ~ 17:00
Tickets: Apr to Oct: ¥30 / Nov to Mar: 20¥
Address: 19 Xin Jian Gong Men Rd, Haidian District, Beijing 100084, China

Brief Impression about Summer Palace – Facts

Located on the western outskirts, Summer Place (颐和园) is one of the most popular attractions in Beijing. Just as its name implies, the palace is the place of emperors and his families of Qing Dynasty for summer retreat. Not only the landscape, but also the designs of Summer Palace are the best masterpieces among all the ancient gardens. Constructed around the Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, Summer Palace is a vast complex of gardens, palaces, lakes and hills.

On December 2nd, 1998, UNESCO announced the Summer Palace as a World Heritage Site with the declaration “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design”. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a “harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value”.

Location & Transportation

Where is Summer Palace

Summer Palace is located in Haidian District (海淀区), approximately 15km away from the central Beijing, adjacent to Yuanmingyuan Garden (圆明园), Tsinghua University (清华大学) and Peking University (北京大学).

About 21 km from Temple of Heaven
About 19 km from Forbidden City
About 20 km from Tiananmen Square
Transfer to/off Summer Palace

The Summer Palace is usually covered in a full day’s visiting of Beijing tour package with other famous sites, such as Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven. The package includes convenient and private transfer, which is helpful and more enjoyable for you to focus on sightseeing.

If you prefer independent travel, you can take the subway Line 4 to the northern gate or eastern gate of Summer Palace. There are also many public buses available for you to transfer to or off the Summer Palace, such as 209, 330, 331, 332, 346, etc.


History of Summer Palace

Built by Emperor Qianlong

To irrigate royal gardens in western region outside the Forbidden City, the emperor Qianlong (乾隆) o ordered to expand the West Lake in 1750, and renamed the lake as Kunming Lake. The excavated earth from the expansion was moved to pile the Jar Hill which later was renamed as Longevity Hill (长寿山). In 1764, Qianlong gave the order again to construct a real garden around the Kunming Lake with the blueprint of the famous West Lake in Hangzhou. The garden, firstly named “Qingyiyuan” (清漪園; “Gardens of Clear Ripples””), was themed by an ancient Chinese mythology about three holy mountains in the East Sea. So the artisans built three islands in the lake to represent the three mountains – Nanhu Island, Tuancheng Island and Zaojiantang Island. Many constructions in the palace imitated the designs of other famous sites around China, including Yueyang Tower (岳阳楼) in Hunan, Yellow Crane Tower (黄鹤楼) in Hubei, shopping streets in Suzhou and Yangzhou.

Destruction and Restoration

In 1860, the end of the Second Opium War, allied army of British and French destructed large parts of Qingyiyuan Palace. During 1884~1895, the empress Dowager Cixi (慈溪太后) rebuilt the palace and gave the present Chinese name “Yiheyuan” (颐和园). In 1900, the army of the Eight-Nation Alliance invaded Beijing again, and destroyed the Summer Palace. Many artifacts stored in the palace were looted. Two years later, the palace was restored again under the order of empress Cixi. Since then, the Summer Palace has been preserved well, and served as a public park till today.


Summer Palace in Qing Dynasty

Attractions & Things to do in Summer Palace

The Summer Palace can functionally be divided into three zones. The first, represented by the solemn Renshou Palace, is the administrative zone where the empress Cixi and emperor Guangxu deal with the daily affairs and hold diplomatic activities. The second, represented by Leshou Palace, Yulan Palace and Yiyun Palace, is the living zone of Cixi, Guangxu and his princesses. The third zone is the largest as well as the most important part playing the role as entertaining, gardening and sightseeing, surrounded the Longevity Hill, including the highlighting sites Foxiang Pavilion, Paiyun Pavilion, 17-Arch Bridge, etc.

Attractions You can’t Miss Out

Renshou Palace – Hall of Benevolence and Longevity (仁寿殿): Situated at the left side of the entrance of eastern gate. It used to be the place where court sessions were held during the reign of Qianlong Emperor and Guangxu Emperor (光绪皇帝).

Leshou Palace – Hall of Joy and Longevity (乐寿堂). Facing the Kunming Lake, back against the Longevity Hill, Leshou Palace was the palace where empress Cixi lived.

Yulan Palace – Hall of Jade Billows (玉澜堂): Located west of Renshou Palace, Yulan Palace served as the living quarters of the Qing emperors. The empress Cixi once confined the emperor Guangxu here for 10 years.

Longevity Hill – this 58-meter high hill is the seat of some most important buildings of Summer Palace located on the front and back hills, including Paiyun Pavilion (排云殿), Foxiang Pavilion (佛香阁) and some Tibetan Buddhist temples.

Kunming Lake (昆明湖) – it is the body lake, and covers more than 3/4 the entire size of Summer Palace. Three small islands sit in the lake standing for three holy mountains in ancient mythology legend. Many buildings, such as bridge, dikes, imitated the features of those of West Lake in Hangzhou.

Foxiang Pavilion – this 41-meter high pavilion is a Buddhist temple for royal families to worship to the Buddha in Qing Dynasty. It has 8 stories, was propped up by 8 huge wooden pillars. The design and decoration inside is fabulous.

Long Corridor (长廊) – it lies at the southern foot of Longevity Hill facing the Kunming Lake. The corridor is regarded as the longest of its kind in the world with a total length of 728 meters. More than 14,000 paintings of famous places and known story from legends, folktales, novels, and so on, hang on the corridor.

Suzhou Street (苏州街) – the emperor Qianlong were keen on the prosperity of Jiangnan (Suzhou, Hangzhou, etc.), so he built the imitated shopping street resembling Shantang Street in Suzhou. Eunuch and maids in the royal palace acted as retailers when the emperors shop on the street.

17-Arch Bridge (十七孔桥) – 8 meters wide and 150 meters long, the bridge is the largest and longest bridge in the Summer Palace with 17 different types of arches. It incorporates features of the Precious Belt Bridge in Suzhou and the Lugou Bridge in Beijing.

Recommended Activities in Summer Palace

Boating is very popular among travelers especially families with kids. The Kunming Lake covers vastly allowing you to enjoy the fascinating landscape with slow pace on the boat. But it is not available during winter because the lake usually is frozen.


Kunming Lake


Long Corridor


17-Arch Bridge

Recommended Visiting Route

Classic Route

There are three entrances – Eastern Gate, Northern Gate and New Palace Gate. Travelers usually enter into the park from the Eastern Gate, then sightsee sites around, such as Renshou Palace, Wenchang Temple, etc. Then stroll around to the living zone of Royal families of Qing Empire. Don’t miss the Yulan Palace, Leshou Palace and Yiyun Palace. Then go to explore the famous Long Corridor. Next is to visit some important architecture on the Longevity Hill, such as Paiyun Pavilion, Foxiang Pavilion, etc. Lastly, take a boat to the Nanhu Island to see the 17-Arch Bridge, and exist from New Palace Gate. The entire sightseeing takes about 3 hours to go through.

Extension Route

If time allows, you can extend your visit to the western dam region which is featured in different type of bridges. The back hill of Longevity Hill also offers many interesting sites, such as the Suzhou Street, Xiequ Garden (Garden of Harmonious Pleasures), etc. If you are interested in Tibetan Buddhism, don’t miss the Four Great Regions which resembles the Samye Monastery in Tibet.

Nearby Places to Go

Summer Palace region is also famous for having two most famous universities in China – Tsinghua and Peking both of which have long history and outstanding reputation throughout China. Addition to the youth and vigour, Tsinghua and Peking Universities are also a pleasant place for exploring some ancient historical sites and peaceful nature.


Peking University

Useful Tips

Best time to go – seasonal advice – Different views in different season

September and October are best months to visit Summer Palace. The autumn here is cool, neither too cold nor too hot. Spring is pleasant. Summer is usually hot and rainy, but a good season to enjoy the prosperous nature as well as the best time for boating on the Kunming Lake. If you want to see some spectacular views of Summer Palace, winter is the time when the snow covers the pavilions, towers, bridges – peaceful and pure.

Ticket & Fee

Apr to Oct: ¥30 / Nov to Mar: 20¥


  1. The price doesn’t include the boating and entry fees for Wenchang Temple(¥20), Dehe Garden(¥5), Foxiang Pavilion(¥10) and Danning Hall(¥10);
  2. Joint Ticket charges ¥60(Apr to Oct) and ¥50(Nov to Mar), and covers the entry fees for Wenchang Temple, Dehe Garden, Foxiang Pavilion and Danning Hall.

Service & Facility

Summer Palace offers tour guide service for different language travelers, including English, Russian, French, etc. Self-service audio explanation is also available.

There are also places for dinning and shopping, including 3 Chinese restaurants, several artwork shops. Barrier-free washroom and path are available.

Source: chinadiscovery



Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven – Brilliant World Heritage Site


About Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is the best place in Beijing to explore the traditional royal sacrificial culture of ancient China. At the same time, it is a pleasant place for leisure stay of walking or sightseeing, also for exploration of local culture.

Type: World Heritage Site, Historic Sites, Parks, Sights & Landmarks
Best Seasons: Spring/Autumn
Recommended Visiting Time: 1~2 hours
Opening Hours: Apr to Oct: 06:00 ~ 20:00 / Nov to Mar: 06:30 ~ 21:00
Tickets: ¥15 / Nov to Mar: ¥10
Address: Tiantan Road, Dongcheng District, Beijing 100050, China

Brief Impression about Temple of Heaven – Facts

The Temple of Heaven (天坛) is one of the most brilliant ancient architectures in China. It is also an outstanding masterpiece of classic imperial buildings throughout Chinese history. The site was firstly built in 1420 by Yongle Emperor (永乐皇帝), then expanded by the subsequent emperors of both Ming and Qing Dynasty, and had served as the holy place for emperors to pay homage to Heaven and to pray for a year of rich harvest.

Compared with all other sacrificial sites in the world, the Temple of Heaven is the largest not only in the size and scale, but also the forms and traditions. In 1998, the UNESCO listed the Temple of Heaven in the World Heritage Sites List with description as “a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilizations…”

Location & Transportation

Where is the Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is located in the central area of Beijing City which is also the attraction-gathering region. The famous Forbidden City (Palace Museum) and Tiananmen Square are conveniently situated at the northwest of Temple of Heave within short walking distance.

  • 6 km from Forbidden City
  • 5 km from Tiananmen Square
  • 21 km from Summer Palace
  • 75 km from Badaling Great Wall
  • 6.5 km from Jingshan Park

Transfer to/around Temple Heaven

The visit of Temple of Heaven takes about 1~2 hours, so it is usually recommended to tour with other sites in Beijing city, such as the Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Summer Palace or Hutongs as a full day tour package which has covered convenient and private transfer to and around the Temple of Heaven.

Subway and public buses are also available for independent travelers. You can take subway Line 5, and exist at Tiantan Dongmen Station which is only several minutes’ walking away from the East Gate of Temple of Heaven. Many buses pass by the park, including 120, 17, 2, 35, 36, 504, 53, etc.


Temple of Heaven Location Map


Temple of Heaven in Qing Dynasty

Architectural Art, Layout & Geomantic Omen


The Temple of Heaven is featured in precise structure, peculiar design and magnificent decoration. Covering more than 267 hectares (660 acres), the Temple of Heaven is the general reference of Huanqiu Altar (圜丘) and Qigu Altar(祈谷) which locate separately at an axle path from south to north – Danbi Bridge (丹陛桥). The most important building of Huanqiu Altar is Huangqiongyu Pavillion (皇穹宇). Qigu Altar has Qinian Pavilion (祈年殿), Huangqian Pavilion (皇乾殿) and Qinian Gate (祈年门), etc.

Ancient Chinese mythology believed the Heaven is circle and the Earth is square, which is fully embodied in the design of Temple Heaven. Two long-sketching cordons of wall surrounded the temple complex. The southern outer wall was built like a taller semi-circular representing Heaven. While the northern wall is shorter, rectangular, stands for the Earth. Both the Huanqiu Altar and Qigu Altar are round, and stand on two square yards.

The brilliant artisans of Qing Dynasty built supernatural sites – Echo Wall, Three-Sound Stone, and Conversation Stone according to the science of acoustics.


Layout of Temple of Heaven

Architectural Art, Layout & Geomantic Omen

Important Buildings in the Park

Qinian Hall (Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests) is most magnificent building in the Temple of Heaven. It is a wooden triple-gable circular pavilion which is 38 meters high with a three-level marble stone base. The ancient emperors prayed for good harvests here. There are 28 pillars propping up the hall. The inner 4 pillars are large, and stand for four seasons. The middle 12 pillars represent the twelve months. The outer 12 pillars indicate 12 periods of a day.

Huangqiongyu Hall (The Imperial Vault of Heaven) is smaller with only one circular gable and one level of marble stone base compared with Qinian Hall. It is the place to enshrine the worshiping tablets of Gods. Inside the hall are pillars and vault decorated by beautiful paintings and carvings. Outside is a circular wall – Echo Wall which can transmit sounds over long distances.

Huanqiu Altar (The Circular Mound Altar) is an empty circular platform with three levels of marble stones. Vivid dragons were carved on the stones to stand for the emperors. The number nine stands for power as well as the emperors in ancient China. You will surprisedly find the balusters and steps are either the sacred number nine or its multiples. In the ancient time, the emperors burn the offerings for Heaven in a stove on the platform.


Inside Qinian Hall


Huangqiongyu Hall

Local Folk & Activities

The Temple of Heaven is divided into two parts – public park area and tourist area. The public area now serves as an entertaining and morning exercise place for locals, and is open from early morning to later night. People living near usually like to take exercise or take part in folk activities in the park, such as running, cycling, playing Tai Chi. You can spare some time to stroll leisurely in the park to get involved in the interested activities, or just experience the peaceful atmosphere of local people’s living.


Local Acitivities in Temple of Heaven


Temple of Heaven Tourist Map

Sacrificial Culture of Temple of Heaven

In the ancient China, the emperors attached great importance on the sacrifice to the Heaven because they are believed to be the son of Heaven. They ruled the county on behalf of Heaven.

To show their respect and gratefulness to the Heaven, the emperors of Ming and Qing Dynasties moved from Forbidden City to encamp in the Temple of Heaven with their retunes twice a year. The emperor would pray to Heaven for good harvests on the altar. Grand ceremony must be held perfectly, because the smallest mistake would bring bad luck for the whole nation in the next years.


Sacrificial Ceremony in Temple of Heaven

Useful Tips

Best time to go – seasonal advice – Different views in different season

March to May and September to November is the best time to visit the Temple of Heaven. But actually the Temple of Heaven is suitable for travel all year around. You can see the blooming lilac during the middle April. In summer days, the whole park is decorated by flourishing green trees. The cool autumn is the best season when the sky is clear and blue. Winter is cold, but you can get rid of the crowds, and focus on exploring the fabulous architectures.

Ticket & Fee

Apr to Oct: ¥35 / Nov to Mar: ¥30

Notes: Note: the price include both the entrance fee and tickets for sites for Qigu Altar and Huanqiu Altar(¥20), Sacrificial Music Hall and Fast Palace (¥10).

Tour Guide Service

Independent travelers can rent the self-service audio guide device at the four gates of Temple of Heaven (Chinese, Cantonese, English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean). You can also hire a personal tour guide in the park to get more detailed explanation.

Source: chinadiscovery

Forbidden City

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Forbidden City is a palace complex in central Beijing, China. The former seat of Imperial Chinese Dragon Throne from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty—the years 1420 to 1912, it now houses the Palace Museum. The Forbidden City served as the home of emperors and their households as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government for almost 500 years.

Constructed from 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 72 ha (over 180 acres). The palace exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture, and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

Since 1925 the Forbidden City has been under the charge of the Palace Museum, whose extensive collection of artwork and artefacts were built upon the imperial collections of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Part of the museum’s former collection is now in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Both museums descend from the same institution, but were split after the Chinese Civil War. Since 2012, the Forbidden City has seen an average of 15 million visitors annually, and had 16 million visitors in 2016.




1 Name
2 History
3 Description
3.1 Walls and gates
3.2 Outer Court or the Southern Section
3.3 Inner Court or the Northern Section
3.4 Religion
3.5 Surroundings
3.6 Symbolism
4 Collections
5 Influence


The common English name “Forbidden City” is a translation of the Chinese name Zijin Cheng (Chinese: 紫禁城; pinyin: Zíjinchéng; literally: “Purple Forbidden City“). The name Zijin Cheng first formally appeared in 1576. Another English name of similar origin is “Forbidden Palace”.

The name “Zijin Cheng” is a name with significance on many levels. Zi, or “Purple”, refers to the North Star, which in ancient China was called the Ziwei Star, and in traditional Chinese astrology was the heavenly abode of the Celestial Emperor. The surrounding celestial region, the Ziwei Enclosure (Chinese: 紫微垣; pinyin: Zǐwēiyuán), was the realm of the Celestial Emperor and his family. The Forbidden City, as the residence of the terrestrial emperor, was its earthly counterpart. Jin, or “Forbidden”, referred to the fact that no one could enter or leave the palace without the emperor’s permission. Cheng means a city.

Today, the site is most commonly known in Chinese as Gùgōng (故宫), which means the “Former Palace”. The museum which is based in these buildings is known as the “Palace Museum” (Chinese: 故宫博物院; pinyin: Gùgōng Bówùyùan).


Verbotene-Stadt1500 (1)

The Forbidden City as depicted in a Ming dynasty painting

When Hongwu Emperor’s son Zhu Di became the Yongle Emperor, he moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing, and construction began in 1406 on what would become the Forbidden City.

Construction lasted 14 years and required more than a million workers. Material used include whole logs of precious Phoebe zhennan wood (Chinese: 楠木; pinyin: nánmù) found in the jungles of south-western China, and large blocks of marble from quarries near Beijing. The floors of major halls were paved with “golden bricks” (Chinese: 金砖; pinyin: jīnzhuān), specially baked paving bricks from Suzhou.

From 1420 to 1644, the Forbidden City was the seat of the Ming dynasty. In April 1644, it was captured by rebel forces led by Li Zicheng, who proclaimed himself emperor of the Shun dynasty. He soon fled before the combined armies of former Ming general Wu Sangui and Manchu forces, setting fire to parts of the Forbidden City in the process.

By October, the Manchus had achieved supremacy in northern China, and a ceremony was held at the Forbidden City to proclaim the young Shunzhi Emperor as ruler of all China under the Qing dynasty. The Qing rulers changed the names on some of the principal buildings, to emphasise “Harmony” rather than “Supremacy”, made the name plates bilingual (Chinese and Manchu), and introduced Shamanist elements to the palace.

In 1860, during the Second Opium War, Anglo-French forces took control of the Forbidden City and occupied it until the end of the war. In 1900 Empress Dowager Cixi fled from the Forbidden City during the Boxer Rebellion, leaving it to be occupied by forces of the treaty powers until the following year.


The East Glorious Gate under renovation as part of the 16-year restoration process

After being the home of 24 emperors – 14 of the Ming dynasty and 10 of the Qing dynasty – the Forbidden City ceased being the political centre of China in 1912 with the abdication of Puyi, the last Emperor of China. Under an agreement with the new Republic of China government, Puyi remained in the Inner Court, while the Outer Court was given over to public use, until he was evicted after a coup in 1924. The Palace Museum was then established in the Forbidden City in 1925. In 1933, the Japanese invasion of China forced the evacuation of the national treasures in the Forbidden City. Part of the collection was returned at the end of World War II, but the other part was evacuated to Taiwan in 1948 under orders by Chiang Kai-shek, whose Kuomintang was losing the Chinese Civil War. This relatively small but high quality collection was kept in storage until 1965, when it again became public, as the core of the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, some damage was done to the Forbidden City as the country was swept up in revolutionary zeal. During the Cultural Revolution, however, further destruction was prevented when Premier Zhou Enlai sent an army battalion to guard the city.

The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 by UNESCO as the “Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties”, due to its significant place in the development of Chinese architecture and culture. It is currently administered by the Palace Museum, which is carrying out a sixteen-year restoration project to repair and restore all buildings in the Forbidden City to their pre-1912 state.

In recent years, the presence of commercial enterprises in the Forbidden City has become controversial. A Starbucks store that opened in 2000 sparked objections and eventually closed on 13 July 2007. Chinese media also took notice of a pair of souvenir shops that refused to admit Chinese citizens in order to price-gouge foreign customers in 2006.

On November 8, 2017, President of the United States Donald Trump was the first US President to be granted a state dinner in the Forbidden City since the founding of the People’s Republic of China.



The Forbidden City viewed from Jingshan Hill



The Forbidden City is a rectangle, with 961 metres (3,153 ft) from north to south and 753 metres (2,470 ft) from east to west. It consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,886 bays of rooms. A common myth states that there are 9,999 rooms including antechambers, based on oral tradition, and it is not supported by survey evidence. The Forbidden City was designed to be the centre of the ancient, walled city of Beijing. It is enclosed in a larger, walled area called the Imperial City. The Imperial City is, in turn, enclosed by the Inner City; to its south lies the Outer City.

The Forbidden City remains important in the civic scheme of Beijing. The central north–south axis remains the central axis of Beijing. This axis extends to the south through Tiananmen gate to Tiananmen Square, the ceremonial centre of the People’s Republic of China, and on to Yongdingmen. To the north, it extends through Jingshan Hill to the Bell and Drum Towers. This axis is not exactly aligned north–south, but is tilted by slightly more than two degrees. Researchers now believe that the axis was designed in the Yuan dynasty to be aligned with Xanadu, the other capital of their empire.

Walls and Gates


The Meridian Gate, front entrance to the Forbidden City, with two protruding wings


The northwest corner tower


The Gate of Supreme Harmony

The Forbidden City is surrounded by a 7.9 metres (26 ft) high city wall and a 6 metres (20 ft) deep by 52 metres (171 ft) wide moat. The walls are 8.62 metres (28.3 ft) wide at the base, tapering to 6.66 metres (21.9 ft) at the top. These walls served as both defensive walls and retaining walls for the palace. They were constructed with a rammed earth core, and surfaced with three layers of specially baked bricks on both sides, with the interstices filled with mortar.

At the four corners of the wall sit towers (E) with intricate roofs boasting 72 ridges, reproducing the Pavilion of Prince Teng and the Yellow Crane Pavilion as they appeared in Song dynasty paintings. These towers are the most visible parts of the palace to commoners outside the walls, and much folklore is attached to them. According to one legend, artisans could not put a corner tower back together after it was dismantled for renovations in the early Qing dynasty, and it was only rebuilt after the intervention of carpenter-immortal Lu Ban.

The wall is pierced by a gate on each side. At the southern end is the main Meridian Gate (A). To the north is the Gate of Divine Might (B), which faces Jingshan Park. The east and west gates are called the “East Glorious Gate” (D) and “West Glorious Gate” (C). All gates in the Forbidden City are decorated with a nine-by-nine array of golden door nails, except for the East Glorious Gate, which has only eight rows.

The Meridian Gate has two protruding wings forming three sides of a square (Wumen, or Meridian Gate, Square) before it. The gate has five gateways. The central gateway is part of the Imperial Way, a stone flagged path that forms the central axis of the Forbidden City and the ancient city of Beijing itself, and leads all the way from the Gate of China in the south to Jingshan in the north. Only the Emperor may walk or ride on the Imperial Way, except for the Empress on the occasion of her wedding, and successful students after the Imperial Examination.

Outer Court or the Southern Section


The Hall of Supreme Harmony


The name plate on the Hall of Supreme Harmony


The throne in the Hall of Preserving Harmony


The Hall of Central Harmony (foreground) and the Hall of Preserving Harmony

Traditionally, the Forbidden City is divided into two parts. The Outer Court (外朝) or Front Court (前朝) includes the southern sections, and was used for ceremonial purposes. The Inner Court (内廷) or Back Palace (后宫) includes the northern sections, and was the residence of the Emperor and his family, and was used for day-to-day affairs of state. (The approximate dividing line shown as red dash in the plan above.) Generally, the Forbidden City has three vertical axes. The most important buildings are situated on the central north–south axis.

Entering from the Meridian Gate, one encounters a large square, pierced by the meandering Inner Golden Water River, which is crossed by five bridges. Beyond the square stands the Gate of Supreme Harmony (F). Behind that is the Hall of Supreme Harmony Square. A three-tiered white marble terrace rises from this square. Three halls stand on top of this terrace, the focus of the palace complex. From the south, these are the Hall of Supreme Harmony (太和殿), the Hall of Central Harmony (中和殿), and the Hall of Preserving Harmony (保和殿).

The Hall of Supreme Harmony (G) is the largest, and rises some 30 metres (98 ft) above the level of the surrounding square. It is the ceremonial centre of imperial power, and the largest surviving wooden structure in China. It is nine bays wide and five bays deep, the numbers 9 and 5 being symbolically connected to the majesty of the Emperor. Set into the ceiling at the centre of the hall is an intricate caisson decorated with a coiled dragon, from the mouth of which issues a chandelier-like set of metal balls, called the “Xuanyuan Mirror”. In the Ming dynasty, the Emperor held court here to discuss affairs of state. During the Qing dynasty, as Emperors held court far more frequently, a less ceremonious location was used instead, and the Hall of Supreme Harmony was only used for ceremonial purposes, such as coronations, investitures, and imperial weddings.

The Hall of Central Harmony is a smaller, square hall, used by the Emperor to prepare and rest before and during ceremonies. Behind it, the Hall of Preserving Harmony, was used for rehearsing ceremonies, and was also the site of the final stage of the Imperial examination. All three halls feature imperial thrones, the largest and most elaborate one being that in the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

At the centre of the ramps leading up to the terraces from the northern and southern sides are ceremonial ramps, part of the Imperial Way, featuring elaborate and symbolic bas-relief carvings. The northern ramp, behind the Hall of Preserving Harmony, is carved from a single piece of stone 16.57 metres (54.4 ft) long, 3.07 metres (10.1 ft) wide, and 1.7 metres (5.6 ft) thick. It weighs some 200 tonnes and is the largest such carving in China. The southern ramp, in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, is even longer, but is made from two stone slabs joined together – the joint was ingeniously hidden using overlapping bas-relief carvings, and was only discovered when weathering widened the gap in the 20th century.

In the south west and south east of the Outer Court are the halls of Military Eminence (H) and Literary Glory (J). The former was used at various times for the Emperor to receive ministers and hold court, and later housed the Palace’s own printing house. The latter was used for ceremonial lectures by highly regarded Confucian scholars, and later became the office of the Grand Secretariat. A copy of the Siku Quanshu was stored there. To the north-east are the Southern Three Places (南三所) (K), which was the residence of the Crown Prince.

Inner Court or the Northern Section

The Inner Court is separated from the Outer Court by an oblong courtyard lying orthogonal to the City’s main axis. It was the home of the Emperor and his family. In the Qing dynasty, the Emperor lived and worked almost exclusively in the Inner Court, with the Outer Court used only for ceremonial purposes.


The Palace of Heavenly Purity


Water spouts drain rainwater from upper level platforms on which the principal halls are built.

At the centre of the Inner Court is another set of three halls (L). From the south, these are the Palace of Heavenly Purity (乾清宮), Hall of Union, and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. Smaller than the Outer Court halls, the three halls of the Inner Court were the official residences of the Emperor and the Empress. The Emperor, representing Yang and the Heavens, would occupy the Palace of Heavenly Purity. The Empress, representing Yin and the Earth, would occupy the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. In between them was the Hall of Union, where the Yin and Yang mixed to produce harmony.


The throne in the Palace of Heavenly Purity

The Palace of Heavenly Purity is a double-eaved building, and set on a single-level white marble platform. It is connected to the Gate of Heavenly Purity to its south by a raised walkway. In the Ming dynasty, it was the residence of the Emperor. However, beginning from the Yongzheng Emperor of the Qing dynasty, the Emperor lived instead at the smaller Hall of Mental Cultivation (N) to the west, out of respect to the memory of the Kangxi Emperor. The Palace of Heavenly Purity then became the Emperor’s audience hall. A caisson is set into the roof, featuring a coiled dragon. Above the throne hangs a tablet reading “Justice and Honour” (Chinese: 正大光明; pinyin: zhèngdàguāngmíng).

The Palace of Earthly Tranquility (坤寧宮) is a double-eaved building, 9 bays wide and 3 bays deep. In the Ming dynasty, it was the residence of the Empress. In the Qing dynasty, large portions of the Palace were converted for Shamanist worship by the new Manchu rulers. From the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor, the Empress moved out of the Palace. However, two rooms in the Palace of Earthly Harmony were retained for use on the Emperor’s wedding night.

Between these two palaces is the Hall of Union, which is square in shape with a pyramidal roof. Stored here are the 25 Imperial Seals of the Qing dynasty, as well as other ceremonial items.


The Nine Dragons Screen in front of the Palace of Tranquil Longevity

Behind these three halls lies the Imperial Garden (M). Relatively small, and compact in design, the garden nevertheless contains several elaborate landscaping features. To the north of the garden is the Gate of Divine Might.

Directly to the west is the Hall of Mental Cultivation (N). Originally a minor palace, this became the de facto residence and office of the Emperor starting from Yongzheng. In the last decades of the Qing dynasty, empresses dowager, including Cixi, held court from the eastern partition of the hall. Located around the Hall of Mental Cultivation are the offices of the Grand Council and other key government bodies.

The north-eastern section of the Inner Court is taken up by the Palace of Tranquil Longevity (寧壽宮) (O), a complex built by the Qianlong Emperor in anticipation of his retirement. It mirrors the set-up of the Forbidden City proper and features an “outer court”, an “inner court”, and gardens and temples. The entrance to the Palace of Tranquil Longevity is marked by a glazed-tile Nine Dragons Screen. This section of the Forbidden City is being restored in a partnership between the Palace Museum and the World Monuments Fund, a long-term project expected to finish in 2017.


Religion was an important part of life for the imperial court. In the Qing dynasty, the Palace of Earthly Harmony became a place of Manchu Shamanist ceremony. At the same time, the native Chinese Taoist religion continued to have an important role throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties. There were two Taoist shrines, one in the imperial garden and another in the central area of the Inner Court.

Another prevalent form of religion in the Qing dynasty palace was Buddhism. A number of temples and shrines were scattered throughout the Inner Court, including that of Tibetan Buddhism or Lamaism. Buddhist iconography also proliferated in the interior decorations of many buildings. Of these, the Pavilion of the Rain of Flowers is one of the most important. It housed a large number of Buddhist statues, icons, and mandalas, placed in ritualistic arrangements.



Location of the Forbidden City in the historic centre of Beijing

The Forbidden City is surrounded on three sides by imperial gardens. To the north is Jingshan Park, also known as Prospect Hill, an artificial hill created from the soil excavated to build the moat and from nearby lakes.

To the west lies Zhongnanhai, a former royal garden centred on two connected lakes, which now serves as the central headquarters for the Communist Party of China and the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. To the north-west lies Beihai Park, also centred on a lake connected to the southern two, and a popular royal park.

To the south of the Forbidden City were two important shrines – the Imperial Shrine of Family or the Imperial Ancestral Temple (Chinese: 太廟; pinyin: Tàimiào) and the Imperial Shrine of State or Beijing Shejitan (Chinese: 社稷壇; pinyin: Shèjìtán), where the Emperor would venerate the spirits of his ancestors and the spirit of the nation, respectively. Today, these are the Beijing Labouring People’s Cultural Hall and Zhongshan Park (commemorating Sun Yat-sen) respectively.

To the south, two nearly identical gatehouses stand along the main axis. They are the Upright Gate (Chinese: 端门; pinyin: Duānmén) and the more famous Tiananmen Gate, which is decorated with a portrait of Mao Zedong in the centre and two placards to the left and right: “Long Live the People’s Republic of China” and “Long live the Great Unity of the World’s Peoples”. The Tiananmen Gate connects the Forbidden City precinct with the modern, symbolic centre of the Chinese state, Tiananmen Square.

While development is now tightly controlled in the vicinity of the Forbidden City, throughout the past century uncontrolled and sometimes politically motivated demolition and reconstruction has changed the character of the areas surrounding the Forbidden City. Since 2000, the Beijing municipal government has worked to evict governmental and military institutions occupying some historical buildings, and has established a park around the remaining parts of the Imperial City wall. In 2004, an ordinance relating to building height and planning restriction was renewed to establish the Imperial City area and the northern city area as a buffer zone for the Forbidden City. In 2005, the Imperial City and Beihai (as an extension item to the Summer Palace) were included in the shortlist for the next World Heritage Site in Beijing.



Imperial roof decoration of the highest status on the roof ridge of the Hall of Supreme Harmony

The design of the Forbidden City, from its overall layout to the smallest detail, was meticulously planned to reflect philosophical and religious principles, and above all to symbolise the majesty of Imperial power. Some noted examples of symbolic designs include:

  • Yellow is the color of the Emperor. Thus almost all roofs in the Forbidden City bear yellow glazed tiles. There are only two exceptions. The library at the Pavilion of Literary Profundity (文渊阁) had black tiles because black was associated with water, and thus fire-prevention. Similarly, the Crown Prince’s residences have green tiles because green was associated with wood, and thus growth.
  • The main halls of the Outer and Inner courts are all arranged in groups of three – the shape of the Qian triagram, representing Heaven. The residences of the Inner Court on the other hand are arranged in groups of six – the shape of the Kun triagram, representing the Earth.
  • The sloping ridges of building roofs are decorated with a line of statuettes led by a man riding a phoenix and followed by an imperial dragon. The number of statuettes represents the status of the building – a minor building might have 3 or 5.
  • The Hall of Supreme Harmony has 10, the only building in the country to be permitted this in Imperial times. As a result, its 10th statuette, called a “Hangshi”, or “ranked tenth” (Chinese: 行十; pinyin: Hángshí), is also unique in the Forbidden City.
    The layout of buildings follows ancient customs laid down in the Classic of Rites. Thus, ancestral temples are in front of the palace. Storage areas are placed in the front part of the palace complex, and residences in the back.



Palace Museum exhibits on display in the corridor connecting the Hall of Literary Glory and the Hall of Main Respect


Two Qing dynasty “blue porcelain” wares


A blue and white porcelain vase with cloud and dragon designs, marked with the word “Longevity” (寿), Jiajing period of Ming dynasty


Bathing Horses (section) by Zhao Mengfu (1254–1322)


Equestrian painting of the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1735–1796) by Giuseppe Castiglione

The collections of the Palace Museum are based on the Qing imperial collection. According to the results of a 1925 audit, some 1.17 million pieces of art were stored in the Forbidden City. In addition, the imperial libraries housed a large collection of rare books and historical documents, including government documents of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

From 1933, the threat of Japanese invasion forced the evacuation of the most important parts of the Museum’s collection. After the end of World War II, this collection was returned to Nanjing. However, with the Communists’ victory imminent in the Chinese Civil War, the Nationalist government decided to ship the pick of this collection to Taiwan. Of the 13,491 boxes of evacuated artefacts, 2,972 boxes are now housed in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. More than 8,000 boxes were returned to Beijing, but 2,221 boxes remain today in storage under the charge of the Nanjing Museum.

After 1949, the Museum conducted a new audit as well as a thorough search of the Forbidden City, uncovering a number of important items. In addition, the government moved items from other museums around the country to replenish the Palace Museum’s collection. It also purchased and received donations from the public.

Today, there are over a million rare and valuable works of art in the permanent collection of the Palace Museum, including paintings, ceramics, seals, steles, sculptures, inscribed wares, bronze wares, enamel objects, etc. A new inventory of the Museum’s collections was conducted between 2004 and 2010. Subsequently, the Palace Museum was shown to hold a total of 1,807,558 artefacts and includes 1,684,490 items designated as nationally protected “valuable cultural relics.” At the end of 2016, the Palace Museum held a press conference, announcing that 55,132 previously unlisted items had been discovered in an inventory check carried out from 2014 to 2016. The total number of items in the Palace Museum collection is presently at 1,862,690 objects.


The Palace Museum holds 340,000 pieces of ceramics and porcelain. These include imperial collections from the Tang dynasty and the Song dynasty, as well as pieces commissioned by the Palace, and, sometimes, by the Emperor personally. The Palace Museum holds about 320,000 pieces of porcelain from the imperial collection. The rest are almost all held in the National Palace Museum in Taipei and the Nanjing Museum.


The Palace Museum holds close to 50,000 paintings. Of these, more than 400 date from before the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). This is the largest such collection in China. The collection is based on the palace collection in the Ming and Qing dynasties. The personal interest of Emperors such as Qianlong meant that the palace held one of the most important collections of paintings in Chinese history. However, a significant portion of this collection was lost over the years. After his abdication, Puyi transferred paintings out of the palace, and many of these were subsequently lost or destroyed. In 1948, many of the works were moved to Taiwan. The collection has subsequently been replenished, through donations, purchases, and transfers from other museums.


The Palace Museum’s bronze collection dates from the early Shang dynasty. Of the almost 10,000 pieces held, about 1,600 are inscribed items from the pre-Qin period (to 221 BC). A significant part of the collection is ceremonial bronzeware from the imperial court.


The Palace Museum has one of the largest collections of mechanical timepieces of the 18th and 19th centuries in the world, with more than 1,000 pieces. The collection contains both Chinese- and foreign-made pieces. Chinese pieces came from the palace’s own workshops, Guangzhou (Canton) and Suzhou (Suchow). Foreign pieces came from countries including Britain, France, Switzerland, the United States and Japan. Of these, the largest portion come from Britain.


Jade has a unique place in Chinese culture. The Museum’s collection, mostly derived from the imperial collection, includes some 30,000 pieces. The pre-Yuan dynasty part of the collection includes several pieces famed throughout history, as well as artefacts from more recent archaeological discoveries. The earliest pieces date from the Neolithic period. Ming dynasty and Qing dynasty pieces, on the other hand, include both items for palace use, as well as tribute items from around the Empire and beyond.

Palace Artefacts

In addition to works of art, a large proportion of the Museum’s collection consists of the artefacts of the imperial court. This includes items used by the imperial family and the palace in daily life, as well as various ceremonial and bureaucratic items important to government administration. This comprehensive collection preserves the daily life and ceremonial protocols of the imperial era.


In the East Glorious Gate


In the West Wing of the Meridian Gate



A gilded lion in front of the Palace of Tranquil Longevity


Glazed building decoration

The Forbidden City, the culmination of the two-thousand-year development of classical Chinese and East Asian architecture, has been influential in the subsequent development of Chinese architecture, as well as providing inspiration for many artistic works. Some specific examples include:

Depiction in art, film, literature and popular culture

The Forbidden City has served as the scene to many works of fiction. In recent years, it has been depicted in films and television series. Some notable examples include:

  • The Forbidden City (1918), a fiction film about a Chinese emperor and an American.
    The Last Emperor (1987), a biographical film about Puyi, was the first feature film ever authorised by the government of the People’s Republic of China to be filmed in the Forbidden City.
  • Forbidden City Cop (1996) a Hong Kong wuxia comedy film about an imperial secret agent
  • Marco Polo a joint NBC and RAI TV miniseries broadcast in the early 1980s, was filmed inside the Forbidden City. Note, however, that the present Forbidden City did not exist in the Yuan dynasty, when Marco Polo met Kublai Khan.
  • The 2003 real-time strategy game Rise of Nations depicts the Forbidden City as one of the great wonders of the world; in terms of game mechanics, it functions identically to a major city and provides additional resources to the player.

Live Performance concert venue

The Forbidden City has also served as a performance venue. However, its use for this purpose is strictly limited, due to the heavy impact of equipment and performance on the ancient structures. Almost all performances said to be “in the Forbidden City” are held outside the palace walls.

  • In 1997, Greek-born composer and keyboardist Yanni performed a live concert in front of the Forbidden City the first modern Western artist to perform at the historic Chinese site. The concert was recorded and later released as part of the Tribute album.
  • Giacomo Puccini’s opera, Turandot, the story of a Chinese princess, was performed at the Imperial Shrine just outside the Forbidden City for the first time in 1998.
  • In 2001, the Three Tenors, Plácido Domingo and José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti, sang in front of Forbidden City main gate as one of their performances.
  • In 2004, the French musician Jean Michel Jarre performed a live concert in front of the Forbidden City, accompanied by 260 musicians, as part of the “Year of France in China” festivities.

Great Wall of China

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, generally built along an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe. Several walls were being built as early as the 7th century BC; these, later joined together and made bigger and stronger, are collectively referred to as the Great Wall. Especially famous is the wall built in 220–206 BC by Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Little of that wall remains. The Great Wall has been rebuilt, maintained, and enhanced over various dynasties; the majority of the existing wall is from the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).


Apart from defense, other purposes of the Great Wall have included border controls, allowing the imposition of duties on goods transported along the Silk Road, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration. Furthermore, the defensive characteristics of the Great Wall were enhanced by the construction of watch towers, troop barracks, garrison stations, signaling capabilities through the means of smoke or fire, and the fact that the path of the Great Wall also served as a transportation corridor.

The Great Wall stretches from Dandong in the east to Lop Lake in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. A comprehensive archaeological survey, using advanced technologies, has concluded that the Ming walls measure 8,850 km (5,500 mi). This is made up of 6,259 km (3,889 mi) sections of actual wall, 359 km (223 mi) of trenches and 2,232 km (1,387 mi) of natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers. Another archaeological survey found that the entire wall with all of its branches measure out to be 21,196 km (13,171 mi). Today, the Great Wall is generally recognized as one of the most impressive architectural feats in history.



1 Names
2 History
2.1 Early walls
2.2 Ming era
2.3 Foreign accounts
3 Course
4 Characteristics
5 Condition
6 Visibility from space
6.1 From the Moon
6.2 From low Earth orbit
7 Gallery


The collection of fortifications known as the Great Wall of China has historically had a number of different names in both Chinese and English.

In Chinese histories, the term “Long Wall(s)” (長城, changcheng) appears in Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian, where it referred to both the separate great walls built between and north of the Warring States and to the more unified construction of the First Emperor. The Chinese character 城 is a phono-semantic compound of the “place” or “earth” radical 土 and 成, whose Old Chinese pronunciation has been reconstructed as *deŋ. It originally referred to the rampart which surrounded traditional Chinese cities and was used by extension for these walls around their respective states; today, however, it is much more often the Chinese word for “city”.

The longer Chinese name “Ten-Thousand Mile Long Wall” (萬里長城, Wanli Changcheng) came from Sima Qian’s description of it in the Records, though he did not name the walls as such. The ad 493 Book of Song quotes the frontier general Tan Daoji referring to “the long wall of 10,000 miles”, closer to the modern name, but the name rarely features in pre-modern times otherwise. The traditional Chinese mile (里, lǐ) was an often irregular distance that was intended to show the length of a standard village and varied with terrain but was usually standardized at distances around a third of an English mile (540 m). Since China’s metrication in 1930, it has been exactly equivalent to 500 metres or 1,600 feet, which would make the wall’s name describe a distance of 5,000 km (3,100 mi). However, this use of “ten-thousand” (wàn) is figurative in a similar manner to the Greek and English myriad and simply means “innumerable” or “immeasurable”.

Because of the wall’s association with the First Emperor’s supposed tyranny, the Chinese dynasties after Qin usually avoided referring to their own additions to the wall by the name “Long Wall”. Instead, various terms were used in medieval records, including “frontier(s)” (塞, sāi), “rampart(s)” (垣, yuán), “barrier(s)” (障, zhàng), “the outer fortresses” (外堡, wàibǎo), and “the border wall(s)” (t 邊牆, s 边墙, biānqiáng). Poetic and informal names for the wall included “the Purple Frontier” (紫塞, Zǐsāi) and “the Earth Dragon” (t 土龍, s 土龙, Tǔlóng). Only during the Qing period did “Long Wall” become the catch-all term to refer to the many border walls regardless of their location or dynastic origin, equivalent to the English “Great Wall”.

The current English name evolved from accounts of “the Chinese wall” from early modern European travelers. By the 19th century, “The Great Wall of China” had become standard in English, French, and German, although other European languages continued to refer to it as “the Chinese wall”.


Early walls


The Great Wall of the Qin


The Great Wall of the Han

The Chinese were already familiar with the techniques of wall-building by the time of the Spring and Autumn period between the 8th and 5th centuries BC. During this time and the subsequent Warring States period, the states of Qin, Wei, Zhao, Qi, Yan, and Zhongshan all constructed extensive fortifications to defend their own borders. Built to withstand the attack of small arms such as swords and spears, these walls were made mostly by stamping earth and gravel between board frames.

King Zheng of Qin conquered the last of his opponents and unified China as the First Emperor of the Qin dynasty (“Qin Shi Huang”) in 221 BC. Intending to impose centralized rule and prevent the resurgence of feudal lords, he ordered the destruction of the sections of the walls that divided his empire among the former states. To position the empire against the Xiongnu people from the north, however, he ordered the building of new walls to connect the remaining fortifications along the empire’s northern frontier. Transporting the large quantity of materials required for construction was difficult, so builders always tried to use local resources. Stones from the mountains were used over mountain ranges, while rammed earth was used for construction in the plains. There are no surviving historical records indicating the exact length and course of the Qin walls. Most of the ancient walls have eroded away over the centuries, and very few sections remain today. The human cost of the construction is unknown, but it has been estimated by some authors that hundreds of thousands, if not up to a million, workers died building the Qin wall. Later, the Han, the Sui, and the Northern dynasties all repaired, rebuilt, or expanded sections of the Great Wall at great cost to defend themselves against northern invaders. The Tang and Song dynasties did not undertake any significant effort in the region. The Liao, Jin, and Yuan dynasties, who ruled Northern China throughout most of the 10th–13th centuries, constructed defensive walls in the 12th century but those were located much to the north of the Great Wall as we know it, within China’s province of Inner Mongolia and in Mongolia itself.

Ming Era


The extent of the Ming Empire and its walls

The Great Wall concept was revived again under the Ming in the 14th century, and following the Ming army’s defeat by the Oirats in the Battle of Tumu. The Ming had failed to gain a clear upper hand over the Mongolian tribes after successive battles, and the long-drawn conflict was taking a toll on the empire. The Ming adopted a new strategy to keep the nomadic tribes out by constructing walls along the northern border of China. Acknowledging the Mongol control established in the Ordos Desert, the wall followed the desert’s southern edge instead of incorporating the bend of the Yellow River.

Unlike the earlier fortifications, the Ming construction was stronger and more elaborate due to the use of bricks and stone instead of rammed earth. Up to 25,000 watchtowers are estimated to have been constructed on the wall. As Mongol raids continued periodically over the years, the Ming devoted considerable resources to repair and reinforce the walls. Sections near the Ming capital of Beijing were especially strong. Qi Jiguang between 1567 and 1570 also repaired and reinforced the wall, faced sections of the ram-earth wall with bricks and constructed 1,200 watchtowers from Shanhaiguan Pass to Changping to warn of approaching Mongol raiders. During the 1440s–1460s, the Ming also built a so-called “Liaodong Wall”. Similar in function to the Great Wall (whose extension, in a sense, it was), but more basic in construction, the Liaodong Wall enclosed the agricultural heartland of the Liaodong province, protecting it against potential incursions by Jurched-Mongol Oriyanghan from the northwest and the Jianzhou Jurchens from the north. While stones and tiles were used in some parts of the Liaodong Wall, most of it was in fact simply an earth dike with moats on both sides.

Towards the end of the Ming, the Great Wall helped defend the empire against the Manchu invasions that began around 1600. Even after the loss of all of Liaodong, the Ming army held the heavily fortified Shanhai Pass, preventing the Manchus from conquering the Chinese heartland. The Manchus were finally able to cross the Great Wall in 1644, after Beijing had already fallen to Li Zicheng’s rebels. Before this time, the Manchus had crossed the Great Wall multiple times to raid, but this time it was for conquest. The gates at Shanhai Pass were opened on May 25 by the commanding Ming general, Wu Sangui, who formed an alliance with the Manchus, hoping to use the Manchus to expel the rebels from Beijing. The Manchus quickly seized Beijing, and eventually defeated both the rebel-founded Shun dynasty and the remaining Ming resistance, establishing the Qing dynasty rule over all of China.

Under Qing rule, China’s borders extended beyond the walls and Mongolia was annexed into the empire, so constructions on the Great Wall were discontinued. On the other hand, the so-called Willow Palisade, following a line similar to that of the Ming Liaodong Wall, was constructed by the Qing rulers in Manchuria. Its purpose, however, was not defense but rather migration control.

Foreign accounts


Part of the Great Wall of China (April 1853, X, p. 41)


The Great Wall in 1907

None of the Europeans who visited Yuan China or Mongolia, such as Marco Polo, Giovanni da Pian del Carpine, William of Rubruck, Giovanni de’ Marignolli and Odoric of Pordenone, mentioned the Great Wall.

The North African traveler Ibn Battuta, who also visited China during the Yuan dynasty ca. 1346, had heard about China’s Great Wall, possibly before he had arrived in China. He wrote that the wall is “sixty days’ travel” from Zeitun (modern Quanzhou) in his travelogue Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling. He associated it with the legend of the wall mentioned in the Qur’an, which Dhul-Qarnayn (commonly associated with Alexander the Great) was said to have erected to protect people near the land of the rising sun from the savages of Gog and Magog. However, Ibn Battuta could find no one who had either seen it or knew of anyone who had seen it, suggesting that although there were remnants of the wall at that time, they weren’t significant.

Soon after Europeans reached Ming China by ship in the early 16th century, accounts of the Great Wall started to circulate in Europe, even though no European was to see it for another century. Possibly one of the earliest European descriptions of the wall and of its significance for the defense of the country against the “Tartars” (i.e. Mongols), may be the one contained in João de Barros’s 1563 Asia. Other early accounts in Western sources include those of Gaspar da Cruz, Bento de Goes, Matteo Ricci, and Bishop Juan González de Mendoza. In 1559, in his work “A Treatise of China and the Adjoyning Regions,” Gaspar da Cruz offers an early discussion of the Great Wall. Perhaps the first recorded instance of a European actually entering China via the Great Wall came in 1605, when the Portuguese Jesuit brother Bento de Góis reached the northwestern Jiayu Pass from India. Early European accounts were mostly modest and empirical, closely mirroring contemporary Chinese understanding of the Wall, although later they slid into hyperbole, including the erroneous but ubiquitous claim that the Ming Walls were the same ones that were built by the First Emperor in the 3rd century BC.

When China opened its borders to foreign merchants and visitors after its defeat in the First and Second Opium Wars, the Great Wall became a main attraction for tourists. The travelogues of the later 19th century further enhanced the reputation and the mythology of the Great Wall, such that in the 20th century, a persistent misconception exists about the Great Wall of China being visible from the Moon or even Mars.



The main sections of the Great Wall that are still standing today


An area of the sections of the Great Wall at Jinshanling

Although a formal definition of what constitutes a “Great Wall” has not been agreed upon, making the full course of the Great Wall difficult to describe in its entirety, the course of the main Great Wall line following Ming constructions can be charted.

The Jiayu Pass, located in Gansu province, is the western terminus of the Ming Great Wall. Although Han fortifications such as Yumen Pass and the Yang Pass exist further west, the extant walls leading to those passes are difficult to trace. From Jiayu Pass the wall travels discontinuously down the Hexi Corridor and into the deserts of Ningxia, where it enters the western edge of the Yellow River loop at Yinchuan. Here the first major walls erected during the Ming dynasty cuts through the Ordos Desert to the eastern edge of the Yellow River loop. There at Piantou Pass (t 偏頭關, s 偏头关, Piāntóuguān) in Xinzhou, Shanxi province, the Great Wall splits in two with the “Outer Great Wall” (t 外長城, s 外长城, Wài Chǎngchéng) extending along the Inner Mongolia border with Shanxi into Hebei province, and the “inner Great Wall” (t 內長城, s 內长城, Nèi Chǎngchéng) running southeast from Piantou Pass for some 400 km (250 mi), passing through important passes like the Pingxing Pass and Yanmen Pass before joining the Outer Great Wall at Sihaiye (四海冶, Sìhǎiyě), in Beijing’s Yanqing County.

The sections of the Great Wall around Beijing municipality are especially famous: they were frequently renovated and are regularly visited by tourists today. The Badaling Great Wall near Zhangjiakou is the most famous stretch of the Wall, for this is the first section to be opened to the public in the People’s Republic of China, as well as the showpiece stretch for foreign dignitaries. South of Badaling is the Juyong Pass; when used by the Chinese to protect their land, this section of the wall had many guards to defend China’s capital Beijing. Made of stone and bricks from the hills, this portion of the Great Wall is 7.8 m (25 ft 7 in) high and 5 m (16 ft 5 in) wide.

One of the most striking sections of the Ming Great Wall is where it climbs extremely steep slopes in Jinshanling. There it runs 11 km (7 mi) long, ranges from 5 to 8 m (16 ft 5 in to 26 ft 3 in) in height, and 6 m (19 ft 8 in) across the bottom, narrowing up to 5 m (16 ft 5 in) across the top. Wangjinglou (t 望京樓, s 望京楼, Wàngjīng Lóu) is one of Jinshanling’s 67 watchtowers, 980 m (3,220 ft) above sea level. Southeast of Jinshanling is the Mutianyu Great Wall which winds along lofty, cragged mountains from the southeast to the northwest for 2.25 km (1.40 mi). It is connected with Juyongguan Pass to the west and Gubeikou to the east. This section was one of the first to be renovated following the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution.

At the edge of the Bohai Gulf is Shanhai Pass, considered the traditional end of the Great Wall and the “First Pass Under Heaven”. The part of the wall inside Shanhai Pass that meets the sea is named the “Old Dragon Head”. 3 km (2 mi) north of Shanhai Pass is Jiaoshan Great Wall (焦山長城), the site of the first mountain of the Great Wall. 15 km (9 mi) northeast from Shanhaiguan is Jiumenkou (t 九門口, s 九门口, Jiǔménkǒu), which is the only portion of the wall that was built as a bridge. Beyond Jiumenkou, an offshoot known as the Liaodong Wall continues through Liaoning province and terminates at the Hushan Great Wall, in the city of Dandong near the North Korean border.

In 2009, 180 km of previously unknown sections of the wall concealed by hills, trenches and rivers were discovered with the help of infrared range finders and GPS devices. In March and April 2015 nine sections with a total length of more than 10 km (6 mi), believed to be part of the Great Wall, were discovered along the border of Ningxia autonomous region and Gansu province.



The Great Wall at Mutianyu, near Beijing


Great Wall of China in tourist season

Before the use of bricks, the Great Wall was mainly built from rammed earth, stones, and wood. During the Ming, however, bricks were heavily used in many areas of the wall, as were materials such as tiles, lime, and stone. The size and weight of the bricks made them easier to work with than earth and stone, so construction quickened. Additionally, bricks could bear more weight and endure better than rammed earth. Stone can hold under its own weight better than brick, but is more difficult to use. Consequently, stones cut in rectangular shapes were used for the foundation, inner and outer brims, and gateways of the wall. Battlements line the uppermost portion of the vast majority of the wall, with defensive gaps a little over 30 cm (12 in) tall, and about 23 cm (9.1 in) wide. From the parapets, guards could survey the surrounding land. Communication between the army units along the length of the Great Wall, including the ability to call reinforcements and warn garrisons of enemy movements, was of high importance. Signal towers were built upon hill tops or other high points along the wall for their visibility. Wooden gates could be used as a trap against those going through. Barracks, stables, and armories were built near the wall’s inner surface.



A more rural portion of the Great Wall that stretches throughout the mountains, here seen in slight disrepair


The Great Wall of China at Badaling

While portions north of Beijing and near tourist centers have been preserved and even extensively renovated, in many other locations the Wall is in disrepair. Those parts might serve as a village playground or a source of stones to rebuild houses and roads. Sections of the Wall are also prone to graffiti and vandalism, while inscribed bricks were pilfered and sold on the market for up to 50 renminbi. Parts have been destroyed because the Wall is in the way of construction. A 2012 report by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage states that 22% of the Ming Great Wall has disappeared, while 1,961 km (1,219 mi) of wall have vanished. More than 60 km (37 mi) of the wall in Gansu province may disappear in the next 20 years, due to erosion from sandstorms. In some places, the height of the wall has been reduced from more than 5 m (16 ft 5 in) to less than 2 m (6 ft 7 in). Various square lookout towers that characterize the most famous images of the wall have disappeared. Many western sections of the wall are constructed from mud, rather than brick and stone, and thus are more susceptible to erosion. In 2014 a portion of the wall near the border of Liaoning and Hebei province was repaired with concrete. The work has been much criticized.

Visibility from space

From the Moon

One of the earliest known references to the myth that the Great Wall can be seen from the moon appears in a letter written in 1754 by the English antiquary William Stukeley. Stukeley wrote that, “This mighty wall of four score miles km] in length is only exceeded by the Chinese Wall, which makes a considerable figure upon the terrestrial globe, and may be discerned at the Moon.” The claim was also mentioned by Henry Norman in 1895 where he states “besides its age it enjoys the reputation of being the only work of human hands on the globe visible from the Moon.” The issue of “canals” on Mars was prominent in the late 19th century and may have led to the belief that long, thin objects were visible from space. The claim that the Great Wall is visible from the moon also appears in 1932’s Ripley’s Believe It or Not! strip and in Richard Halliburton’s 1938 book Second Book of Marvels.

The claim the Great Wall is visible from the moon has been debunked many times, but is still ingrained in popular culture. The wall is a maximum 9.1 m (29 ft 10 in) wide, and is about the same color as the soil surrounding it. Based on the optics of resolving power (distance versus the width of the iris: a few millimeters for the human eye, meters for large telescopes) only an object of reasonable contrast to its surroundings which is 110 km (70 mi) or more in diameter (1 arc-minute) would be visible to the unaided eye from the Moon, whose average distance from Earth is 384,393 km (238,851 mi). The apparent width of the Great Wall from the Moon is the same as that of a human hair viewed from 3 km (2 mi) away. To see the wall from the Moon would require spatial resolution 17,000 times better than normal (20/20) vision. Unsurprisingly, no lunar astronaut has ever claimed to have seen the Great Wall from the Moon.

From low Earth orbit


A satellite image of a section of the Great Wall in northern Shanxi, running diagonally from lower left to upper right and not to be confused with the more prominent river running from upper left to lower right. The region pictured is 12 km × 12 km (7 mi × 7 mi).

A more controversial question is whether the Wall is visible from low Earth orbit (an altitude of as little as 160 km (100 mi)). NASA claims that it is barely visible, and only under nearly perfect conditions; it is no more conspicuous than many other man-made objects. Other authors have argued that due to limitations of the optics of the eye and the spacing of photoreceptors on the retina, it is impossible to see the wall with the naked eye, even from low orbit, and would require visual acuity of 20/3 (7.7 times better than normal).

Astronaut William Pogue thought he had seen it from Skylab but discovered he was actually looking at the Grand Canal of China near Beijing. He spotted the Great Wall with binoculars, but said that “it wasn’t visible to the unaided eye.” U.S. Senator Jake Garn claimed to be able to see the Great Wall with the naked eye from a space shuttle orbit in the early 1980s, but his claim has been disputed by several U.S. astronauts. Veteran U.S. astronaut Gene Cernan has stated: “At Earth orbit of 100 to 200 miles 160 to 320 km] high, the Great Wall of China is, indeed, visible to the naked eye.” Ed Lu, Expedition 7 Science Officer aboard the International Space Station, adds that, “it’s less visible than a lot of other objects. And you have to know where to look.”

In 2001, Neil Armstrong stated about the view from Apollo 11: “I do not believe that, at least with my eyes, there would be any man-made object that I could see. I have not yet found somebody who has told me they’ve seen the Wall of China from Earth orbit. … I’ve asked various people, particularly Shuttle guys, that have been many orbits around China in the daytime, and the ones I’ve talked to didn’t see it.”

In October 2003, Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei stated that he had not been able to see the Great Wall of China. In response, the European Space Agency (ESA) issued a press release reporting that from an orbit between 160 and 320 km (100 and 200 mi), the Great Wall is visible to the naked eye, even though the ISS is in low Earth orbit, not space. In an attempt to further clarify things, the ESA published a picture of a part of the “Great Wall” photographed from low orbit. However, in a press release a week later, they acknowledged that the “Great Wall” in the picture was actually a river.

Leroy Chiao, a Chinese-American astronaut, took a photograph from the International Space Station that shows the wall. It was so indistinct that the photographer was not certain he had actually captured it. Based on the photograph, the China Daily later reported that the Great Wall can be seen from ‘space’ with the naked eye, under favorable viewing conditions, if one knows exactly where to look. However, the resolution of a camera can be much higher than the human visual system, and the optics much better, rendering photographic evidence irrelevant to the issue of whether it is visible to the naked eye.




1280px-Great_Wall_at_Simatai_overlooking_gorge (1).jpg




Masjid Istiqlal


Masjid Istiqlal adalah masjid nasional negara Republik Indonesia yang terletak di pusat ibukota Jakarta. Masjid Istiqlal merupakan masjid terbesar di Asia Tenggara. Pembangunan masjid ini diprakarsai oleh Presiden Republik Indonesia saat itu, Ir. Soekarno di mana pemancangan batu pertama, sebagai tanda dimulainya pembangunan Masjid Istiqlal dilakukan oleh Ir. Soekarno pada tanggal 24 Agustus 1951. Arsitek Masjid Istiqlal adalah Frederich Silaban, seorang Kristen Protestan.


Lokasi kompleks masjid ini berada di bekas Taman Wilhelmina, di timur laut lapangan Medan Merdeka yang ditengahnya berdiri Monumen Nasional (Monas). Di seberang timur masjid ini berdiri Gereja Katedral Jakarta. Bangunan utama masjid ini terdiri dari lima lantai dan satu lantai dasar. Masjid ini memiliki gaya arsitektur modern dengan dinding dan lantai berlapis marmer, dihiasi ornamen geometrik dari baja antikarat. Bangunan utama masjid dimahkotai satu kubah besar berdiameter 45 meter yang ditopang 12 tiang besar. Menara tunggal setinggi total 96,66 meter menjulang di sudut selatan selasar masjid. Masjid ini mampu menampung lebih dari dua ratus ribu jamaah.


Selain digunakan sebagai aktivitas ibadah umat Islam, masjid ini juga digunakan sebagai kantor berbagai organisasi Islam di Indonesia, aktivitas sosial, dan kegiatan umum. Masjid ini juga menjadi salah satu daya tarik wisata yang terkenal di Jakarta. Kebanyakan wisatawan yang berkunjung umumnya wisatawan domestik, dan sebagian wisatawan asing yang beragama Islam. Masyarakat non-Muslim juga dapat berkunjung ke masjid ini setelah sebelumnya mendapat pembekalan informasi mengenai Islam dan Masjid Istiqlal, meskipun demikian bagian yang boleh dikunjungi kaum non-Muslim terbatas dan harus didampingi pemandu.


Pada tiap hari besar Islam seperti Ramadhan, Idul Fitri, Idul Adha, Tahun Baru Hijriyah, Maulid Nabi Muhammad dan Isra dan Mi’raj, Presiden Republik Indonesia selalu mengadakan kegiatan keagamaan di masjid ini yang disiarkan secara langsung melalui televisi nasional (TVRI) dan sebagian televisi swasta.

Nama Masjid

Masjid Istiqlal merupakan masjid negara Indonesia, yaitu masjid yang mewakili umat muslim Indonesia. Karena menyandang status terhormat ini maka masjid ini harus dapat menjadi kebanggaan bangsa Indonesia sekaligus menggambarkan semangat perjuangan dalam meraih kemerdekaan. Masjid ini dibangun sebagai ungkapan dan wujud dari rasa syukur bangsa Indonesia yang mayoritas beragama Islam, atas berkat dan rahmat Allah SWT yang telah menganugerahkan nikmat kemerdekaan, terbebas dari cengkraman penjajah. Karena itulah masjid ini dinamakan “Istiqlal” yang dalam bahasa Arab berarti “Merdeka“.


Setelah perang kemerdekaan Indonesia, mulai berkembang gagasan besar untuk mendirikan masjid nasional. Ide pembangunan masjid tercetus setelah empat tahun proklamasi kemerdekaan. Gagasan pembangunan masjid kenegaraan ini sejalan dengan tradisi bangsa Indonesia yang sejak zaman kerajaan purba pernah membangun bangunan monumental keagamaan yang melambangkan kejayaan negara. Misalnya pada zaman kerajaan Hindu-Buddha bangsa Indonesia telah berjaya membangun candi Borobudur dan Prambanan. Karena itulah pada masa kemerdekaan Indonesia terbit gagasan membangun masjid agung yang megah dan pantas menyandang predikat sebagai masjid negara berpenduduk muslim terbesar di dunia.


Pada tahun 1950, KH. Wahid Hasyim yang waktu itu menjabat sebagai Menteri Agama Republik Indonesia dan H. Anwar Tjokroaminoto dari Partai Syarikat Islam mengadakan pertemuan dengan sejumlah tokoh Islam di Deca Park, sebuah gedung pertemuan di jalan Merdeka Utara, tidak jauh dari Istana Merdeka. Pertemuan dipimpin oleh KH. Taufiqurrahman, yang membahas rencana pembangunan masjid. Gedung pertemuan yang bersebelahan dengan Istana Merdeka itu, kini tinggal sejarah. Deca Park dan beberapa gedung lainnya tergusur saat proyek pembangunan Monumen Nasional (Monas) dimulai.

Masjid tersebut disepakati akan diberi nama Istiqlal. Secara harfiah, kata Istiqlal berasal dari bahasa Arab yang berarti: kebebasan, lepas atau kemerdekaan, yang secara istilah menggambarkan rasa syukur kepada Allah SWT atas limpahan rahmat berupa kemerdekaan bangsa.

Pada pertemuan di gedung Deca Park tersebut, secara mufakat disepakati H. Anwar Tjokroaminoto sebagai ketua Yayasan Masjid Istiqlal. Dia juga ditunjuk secara mufakat sebagai ketua panitia pembangunan Masjid Istiqlal meskipun dia terlambat hadir karena baru kembali ke tanah air setelah bertugas sebagai delegasi Indonesia ke Jepang membicarakan masalah pampasan perang saat itu.

Pada tahun 1953, Panita Pembangunan Masjid Istiqlal, melaporkan rencana pembangunan masjid itu kepada kepala negara. Presiden Soekarno menyambut baik rencana tersebut, bahkan akan membantu sepenuhnya pembangunan Masjid Istiqlal. Kemudian Yayasan Masjid Istiqlal disahkan dihadapan notaris Elisa Pondag pada tanggal 7 Desember 1954.

Presiden Soekarno mulai aktif dalam proyek pembangunan Masjid Istiqlal sejak dia ditunjuk sebagai Ketua Dewan Juri dalam Sayembara maket Masjid Istiqlal yang diumumkan melalui surat kabar dan media lainnya pada tanggal 22 Februari 1955. Melalui pengumuman tersebut, para arsitek baik perorangan maupun kelembagaan diundang untuk turut serta dalam sayembara itu.

Terjadi perbedaan pendapat mengenai rencana lokasi pembangunan Masjid Istiqlal. Ir. H. Mohammad Hatta (Wakil Presiden RI) berpendapat bahwa lokasi yang paling tepat untuk pembangunan Masjid Istiqlal tersebut adalah di Jl. Moh. Husni Thamrin yang kini menjadi lokasi Hotel Indonesia. Dengan pertimbangan lokasi tersebut berada di lingkungan masyarakat Muslim dan waktu itu belum ada bangunan di atasnya.

Sementara itu, Ir. Soekarno (Presiden RI saat) mengusulkan lokasi pembangunan Masjid Istiqlal di Taman Wilhelmina, yang di dalamnya terdapat reruntuhan benteng Belanda dan dikelilingi oleh bangunan-bangunan pemerintah dan pusat-pusat perdagangan serta dekat dengan Istana Merdeka. Hal ini sesuai dengan simbol kekuasaan kraton di Jawa dan daerah-daerah di Indonesia bahwa masjid harus selalu berdekatan dengan kraton atau dekat dengan alun-alun, dan Taman Medan Merdeka dianggap sebagai alun-alun Ibu Kota Jakarta. Selain itu Soekarno juga menghendaki masjid negara Indonesia ini berdampingan dengan Gereja Katedral Jakarta untuk melambangkan semangat persaudaraan, persatuan dan toleransi beragama sesuai Pancasila.

Pendapat H. Moh. Hatta tersebut akan lebih hemat karena tidak akan mengeluarkan biaya untuk penggusuran bangunan-bangunan yang ada di atas dan di sekitar lokasi. Namun, setelah dilakukan musyawarah, akhirnya ditetapkan lokasi pembangunan Masjid Istiqlal di Taman Wilhelmina. Untuk memberi tempat bagi masjid ini, bekas benteng Belanda yaitu benteng Prins Frederick yang dibangun pada tahun 1837 dibongkar.

Sayembara Rancang Bangun Masjid

Dewan Juri sayembara rancang bangun Masjid Istiqlal, terdiri dari para Arsitek dan Ulama terkenal. Susunan Dewan Juri adalah Presiden Soekarno sebagai ketua, dengan anggotanya Ir. Roeseno, Ir. Djuanda, Ir. Suwardi, Ir. R. Ukar Bratakusumah, Rd. Soeratmoko, H. Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah (HAMKA), H. Abu Bakar Aceh, dan Oemar Husein Amin.

Sayembara berlangsung mulai tanggal 22 Februari 1955 sampai dengan 30 Mei 1955. Sambutan masyarakat sangat menggembirakan, tergambar dari banyaknya peminat hingga mencapai 30 peserta. Dari jumlah tersebut, terdapat 27 peserta yang menyerahkan sketsa dan maketnya, dan hanya 22 peserta yang memenuhi persyaratan lomba.

Setelah dewan juri menilai dan mengevaluasi, akhirnya ditetapkanlah 5 (lima) peserta sebagai nominator. Lima peserta tersebut adalah:

  1. Pemenang Pertama: Fredrerich Silaban dengan disain bersandi Ketuhanan
  2. Pemenang Kedua: R. Utoyo dengan disain bersandi Istighfar
  3. Pemenang Ketiga: Hans Gronewegen dengan disain bersandi Salam
  4. Pemenang Keempat: 5 orang mahasiswa ITB dengan disain bersandi Ilham
  5. Pemenang Kelima: adalah 3 orang mahasiswa ITB dengan disain bersandi Khatulistiwa dan NV. Associatie dengan sandi Lima Arab

Pada tanggal 5 Juli 1955, Dewan Juri menetapkan F. Silaban sebagai pemenang pertama. Penetapan tersebut dilakukan di Istana Merdeka, sekaligus menganugerahkan sebuah medali emas 75 gram dan uang Rp. 25.000. Pemenang kedua, ketiga, dan keempat diberikan hadiah. Dan seluruh peserta mendapat sertifikat penghargaan.


Pemancangan tiang pertama dilakukan oleh Presiden Ir. Soekarno pada tanggal 24 Agustus 1961 bertepatan dengan peringatan Maulid Nabi Muhammad SAW, disaksikan oleh ribuan umat Islam.


Selanjutnya pelaksanaan pembangunan masjid ini tidak berjalan lancar. Sejak direncanakan pada tahun 1950 sampai dengan 1965 tidak mengalami banyak kemajuan. Proyek ini tersendat, karena situasi politik yang kurang kondusif. Pada masa itu, berlaku demokrasi parlementer, partai-partai politik saling bertikai untuk memperjuangkan kepentingannya masing-masing. Kondisi ini memuncak pada tahun 1965 saat meletus peristiwa G30S/PKI, sehingga pembangunan masjid terhenti sama sekali. Setelah situasi politik mereda,pada tahun 1966, Menteri Agama KH. M. Dahlan mempelopori kembali pembangunan masjid ini. Kepengurusan dipegang oleh KH. Idham Chalid yang bertindak sebagai Koordinator Panitia Nasional Pembangunan Masjid Istiqlal.

Tujuh belas tahun kemudian, Masjid Istiqlal selesai dibangun. Dimulai pada tanggal 24 Agustus 1961, dan diresmikan penggunaannya oleh Presiden Soeharto pada tanggal 22 Februari 1978,ditandai dengan prasasti yang dipasang di area tangga pintu As-Salam. Biaya pembangunan diperoleh terutama dari APBN sebesar Rp.,- (tujuh miliar rupiah) dan US$. 12.000.000 (dua belas juta dollar AS).

Peristiwa Kontemporer

Karena Masjid Istiqlal adalah masjid nasional Republik Indonesia, setiap upacara atau peringatan hari besar Islam senantiasa digelar di masjid ini. Misalnya Hari raya Idul Fitri, Idul Adha, Isra Mi’raj, dan Maulid Nabi digelar di masjid ini dan diliput televisi nasional. Untuk turut memeriahkan perhelatan Visit Indonesia Year 1991 digelarlah Festival Istiqlal yang pertama pada tahun 1991. Festival ini digelar untuk memamerkan seni dan kebudayaan Islam Indonesia, turut hadir perwakilan negara sahabat berpenduduk muslim seperti Iran, Arab Saudi, dan perwakilan muslim China dari Uighur. Festival Istiqlal yang kedua digelar pada tahun 1995 untuk memperingati 50 tahun kemerdekaan Republik Indonesia.

Pada pukul 15.20 WIB hari Senin, 19 April 1999 bom meledak di lantai dasar Masjid Istiqlal. Letusan ini meretakkan tembok dan memecahkan kaca beberapa kantor organisasi Islam yang berkantor di Masjid Istiqlal, termasuk kantor Majelis Ulama Indonesia. Dua orang terluka akibat ledakan ini. Pada bulan Juni 1999 Polisi mengumumkan tujuh orang pengamen tersangka pelaku pengeboman Masjid Istiqlal yang telah ditangkap. Ketujuh orang ini adalah pelaksana yang menempatkan bom di Masjid Istiqlal, meskipun demikian siapakah otak perencana di balik pengeboman ini masih belum terungkap jelas.

Karena letak Masjid Istiqlal dan Gereja Katedral Jakarta yang bedampingan, maka kedekatan ini menjadi simbol keharmonisan antarumat beragama di Indonesia. Kendaraan umat Katolik yang merayakan misa hari besar keagamaan Katolik diperkenankan menggunakan lahan parkir Masjid Istiqlal.


Sebagai masjid terbesar di Kawasan Timur Asia (Asia Tenggara dan Asia Timur), Masjid Istiqlal menarik perhatian wisatawan dalam dan luar negeri, terutama wisatawan muslim yang datang dari berbagai penjuru Indonesia ataupun wisatawan muslim dari luar negeri. Pengunjung muslim dapat langsung masuk dan berbaur dengan jemaah untuk menunaikan shalat berjamaah. Wisatawan non-Muslim diperbolehkan berkunjung dan memasuki masjid ini, setelah sebelumnya mendapat pembekalan informasi mengenai Islam dan Masjid Istiqlal. Pengunjung non-Muslim harus mengikuti tata cara mengunjungi masjid seperti melepaskan alas kaki serta mengenakan busana yang sopan dan pantas. Misalnya pengunjung tidak diperkenankan mengenakan celana pendek atau pakaian yang kurang pantas (busana lengan pendek, kaus kutang atau tank top). Pengunjung yang mengenakan celana pendek biasanya dipinjamkan sarung, sedangkan pengunjung wanita diminta mengenakan kerudung. Meskipun demikian bagian yang boleh dikunjungi kaum non-Muslim terbatas dan harus didampingi pemandu. Misalnya pengunjung non-Muslim (kecuali tamu negara atau VVIP) tidak diperkenankan memasuki lantai pertama ruang utama tempat mihrab dan mimbar, tetapi diperbolehkan melihat bagian dalam ruangan ini dari balkon lantai kedua. Selebihnya pengunjung non-Muslim boleh mengunjungi bagian lain seperti pelataran terbuka, selasar, kaki menara dan koridor masjid.

Setelah presiden Amerika Serikat Barack Obama didampingi istrinya mengunjungi Masjid Istiqal pada November 2010, makin banyak wisatawan asing yang berkunjung ke masjid ini, rata-rata sekitar 20 wisatawan asing mengunjungi masjid ini tiap harinya. Kebanyakan berasal dari Eropa. Para tokoh penting asing terkenal yang pernah mengunjungi Masjid Istiqlal antara lain; Bill Clinton Presiden Amerika Serikat pada tahun 1994, Presiden Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Presiden Libya Muammar Gaddafi, Pangeran Charles dari Britania Raya, Li Yuanchao wakil ketua Partai Komunis China, Presiden Cile Sebastián Piñera, Heinz Fischer Presiden Austria, dan Jens Stoltenberg Perdana Menteri Norwegia,dan Kanselir Jerman Angela Merkel pada tahun 2012.


Sebagai masjid negara Indonesia, Masjid Istiqlal diharapkan dapat menampung jamaah dalam jumlah yang besar. Karena itu arsitekturnya menerapkan prinsip minimalis, dengan mempertimbangkan keberadaannya di kawasan beriklim tropis. Masjid dirancang agar udara dapat bebas bersirkulasi sehingga ruangan tetap sejuk, sementara jemaah terbebas dari panas matahari dan hujan. Ruangan shalat yang berada di lantai utama dan terbuka sekelilingnya diapit oleh plaza atau pelataran terbuka di kiri-kanan bangunan utama dengan tiang-tiang dengan bukaan lowong yang lebar di antaranya, dimaksudkan untuk memudahkan sirkulasi udara dan penerangan yang alami.

Gaya Arsitektur

Masjid ini bergaya arsitektur Islam modern internasional, yaitu menerapkan bentuk-bentuk geometri sederhana seperti kubus, persegi, dan kubah bola, dalam ukuran raksasa untuk menimbulkan kesan agung dan monumental. Bahannya pun dipilih yang besifat kokoh, netral, sederhana, dan minimalis, yaitu marmer putih dan baja antikarat (stainless steel). Ragam hias ornamen masjid pun bersifat sederhana namun elegan, yaitu pola geometris berupa ornamen logam krawangan (kerangka logam berlubang) berpola lingkaran, kubus, atau persegi. Ornamen-ornamen ini selain berfungsi sabagai penyekat, jendela, atau lubang udara, juga berfungsi sebagai unsur estetik dari bangunan ini. Krawangan dari baja ini ditempatkan sebagai jendela, lubang angin, atau ornamen koridor masjid. Pagar langkan di tepi balkon setiap lantainya serta pagar tangga pun terbuat dari baja antikarat. Langit-langit masjid dan bagian dalam kubah pun dilapisi kerangka baja antikarat. Dua belas pilar utama penyangga kubah pun dilapisi lempengan baja antikarat.

Karena bangunan yang begitu besar dan luas, jika memanfaatkan seluruh permukaan lantai di semua bagian bangunan, masjid ini dapat menampung maksimal sekitar 200.000 jamaah, meskipun demikian kapasitas ideal masjid ini adalah sekitar 120.000 jamaah. Masjid ini mempunyai arsitektur yang bergaya modern. Jamaah dan wisatawan yang berkunjung ke masjid ini dapat melihat konstruksi kokoh bangunan masjid yang didominasi oleh batuan marmer pada tiang-tiang, lantai, dinding dan tangga serta baja antikarat pada tiang utama, kubah, puncak menara, plafon, dinding, pintu krawangan, tempat wudhu, dan pagar keliling halaman.

Selain sebagai tempat ibadah, Masjid Istiqlal juga merupakan obyek wisata religi, pusat pendidikan, dan pusat aktivitas syiar Islam. Dengan berkunjung ke masjid ini, jamaah dan wisatawan dapat melihat keunikan arsitektur masjid yang merupakan perpaduan antara arsitektur Indonesia, Timur Tengah, dan Eropa. Arsitektur Indonesia nampak pada bangunan yang bersifat terbuka dengan memungkinkan sirkulasi udara alami sesuai dengan iklim tropis serta letak masjid yang berdekatan dengan bangunan pusat pemerintahan. Kemudian pada bagian dalam kubah masjid yang berhiaskan kaligrafi merupakan hasil adopsi arsitektur Timur Tengah. Masjid ini juga dipengaruhi gaya arsitektur Barat, sebagaimana terlihat dari bentuk tiang dan dinding yang kokoh.

Arsitektur Masjid Istiqlal juga menampilkan pendekatan yang unik terhadap berbagai serapan budaya dalam komposisi yang harmonis. Perpaduan itu menunjukkan kuatnya pemahaman yang menghargai berbagai budaya dari masyarakat yang berbeda, yang ditempatkan sebagai potensi untuk membangun harmoni dan toleransi antar umat beragama, dalam rangka membina kesatuan dan persatuan bangsa.

Beberapa kalangan menganggap arsitektur Islam modern Timur Tengah masjid Istiqlal berupa kubah besar dan menara terlalu bersifat Arab dan modern, sehingga terlepas dari kaitan harmoni dan warisan tradisi arsitektur Islam Nusantara tradisional Indonesia. Mungkin sebagai jawabannya mantan presiden Suharto melalui Yayasan Amal Bhakti Muslim Pancasila menyeponsori pembangunan berbagai masjid beratap limas tingkat tiga bergaya tradisional masjid Jawa.


Rancangan arsitektur Masjid Istiqlal mengandung angka dan ukuran yang memiliki makna dan perlambang tertentu. Terdapat tujuh gerbang untuk memasuki ruangan dalam Istiqlal yang masing-masing dinamai berdasarkan Al-Asmaul-Husna, nama-nama Allah yang mulia dan terpuji. Angka tujuh melambangkan tujuh lapis langit dalam kosmologi alam semesta Islam, serta tujuh hari dalam seminggu. Tempat wudhu terletak di lantai dasar, sementara ruangan utama dan pelataran utama terletak di lantai satu yang ditinggikan. Bangunan masjid terdiri atas dua bangunan; bangunan utama dan bangunan pendamping yang lebih kecil. Bangunan pendamping berfungsi sebagai tangga sekaligus tempat tambahan untuk beribadah. Bangunan utama ini dimahkotai kubah dengan bentang diameter sebesar 45 meter, angka “45” melambangkan tahun 1945, tahun Proklamasi Kemerdekaan Republik Indonesia. Kemuncak atau mastaka kubah utama dimahkotai ornamen baja antikarat berbentuk Bulan sabit dan bintang, simbol Islam.


Interior ruang utama masjid Istiqlal; kubah raksasa ditopang 12 tiang berlapis baja antikarat

Kubah utama ini ditopang oleh 12 tiang ruang ibadah utama disusun melingkar tepi dasar kubah, dikelilingi empat tingkat balkon. Angka “12” yang dilambangkan oleh 12 tiang melambangkan hari kelahiran nabi Muhammad yaitu tanggal 12 Rabiul Awwal, juga melambangkan 12 bulan dalam penanggalan Islam (juga penanggalan Masehi) dalam satu tahun. Empat tingkat balkon dan satu lantai utama melambangkan angka “5” yang melambangkan lima Rukun Islam sekaligus melambangkan Pancasila, falsafah kebangsaan Indonesia. Tangga terletak di keempat sudut ruangan menjangkau semua lantai. Pada bangunan pendamping dimahkotai kubah yang lebih kecil berdiameter 8 meter.

Adanya dua bangunan masjid; yaitu bangunan utama dan bangunan pendamping (berfungsi sebagai tangga, ruang tambahan dan pintu masuk Al Fattah), serta dua kubah yaitu kubah utama dan kubah pendamping, melambangkan angka “2” atau dualisme yang saling berdampingan dan melengkapi; langit dan bumi, kepentingan akhirat dan kepentingan duniawi, bathin dan lahir, serta dua bentuk hubungan penting bagi muslim yaituHablum minallah (hubungan manusia dengan Tuhannya) dan Hablum minannaas (hubungan manusia dengan sesamanya). Hal ini sesuai dengan sifat agama Islam yang lengkap, mengatur baik urusan keagamaan maupun sosial kemasyarakatan. Islam tidak semata-mata bertitik berat pada masalah ibadah dan akhirat saja tetapi juga memperhatikan urusan duniawi; kesejahteraan, keadilan dan kepedulian sosial, ekonomi, hukum, ilmu pengetahuan, kebudayaan dan kehidupan sehari-hari umat muslim.

Rancangan interior masjid ini sederhana, minimalis, dengan hiasan minimal berupa ornamen geometrik dari bahan baja antikarat. Sifat gaya arsitektur dan ragam hias geometris yang sederhana, bersih dan minimalis ini mengandung makna bahwa dalam kesederhanaan terkandung keindahan. Pada dinding utama yang menghadap kiblat terdapat mihrab dan mimbar di tengahnya. Pada dinding utama terdapat ornamen logam bertuliskan aksara Arab Allah di sebelah kanan dan nama Muhammad di sebelah kiri, di tengahnya terdapat kaligrafi Arab Surah Thaha ayat ke-14. Semua ornamen logam baja antikarat didatangkan dari Jerman. Pada awalnya direncanakan menggunakan bahan marmer impor dari Italia seperti Monumen Nasional. Akan tetapi untuk menghemat biaya dan mendukung industri mamer lokal maka bahan marmer akhirnya diambil dari Tulungagung di Jawa Timur.

Thousands of the Indonesian muslims congregrated during Eid ul Fitr mass prayer in Istiqlal Mosque, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, located in Central Jakarta, Indonesia.

Ribuan umat muslim Indonesia berkumpul untuk menunaikan shalat Ied pada Hari Raya Idul Fitri di Masjid Istiqlal

Struktur bangunan utama dihubungkan dengan emper dan koridor yang mengelilingi pelataran terbuka yang luas. Teras besar terbuka ini berukuran seluas 29.800 meter persegi, berupa pelataran berlapis tegel keramik berwarna merah bata yang disusun sesuai shaf shalat, terletak di sisi dan belakang gedung utama. Teras ini berfungsi menampung jemaah pada saat shalat Idul Fitri dan Idul Adha. Koridor di sekeliling teras pelataran menghubungkan bangunan utama dengan menara masjid. Tidak seperti masjid dalam arsitektur Islam Arab, Persia, Turki, dan India yang memiliki banyak menara, Istiqlal hanya memiliki satu menara yang melambangkan Keesaan Allah. Struktur menara berlapis marmer berukuran tinggi 66,66 meter (6.666 cm),melambangkan 6.666 ayat dalam persepsi tradisional dalam Al Quran. Ditambah kemuncak yang memahkotai menara terbuat dari kerangka baja setinggi 30 meter melambangkan 30 juz’ dalam Al Quran, maka tinggi total menara adalah 96,66 meter. Selain koridor emper keliling terdapat pula koridor di tengah yang menghubungkan Gerbang Al Fattah dengan Gerbang Ar Rozzaq. Jika masjid sudah tentu berkiblat ke arah Mekkah, penjuru koridor ini mengarah ke Monumen Nasional, hal ini untuk menunjukkan bahwa masjid ini adalah masjid nasional Republik Indonesia.

Di masjid ini juga terdapat bedug raksasa yang terbuat dari dari sebatang pohon kayu meranti merah asal pulau Kalimantan yang berusia sekitar 300 tahun.

Masjid Istiqlal dikenal dengan kemegahan bangunannya. Luas bangunannya hanya mencapai 26% dari kawasan seluas 9.32 hektare, yang selebihnya adalah halaman dan pertamanan. Pada taman masjid di sudut barat daya terdapat kolam besar dengan air mancur yang dapat menyemburkan air setinggi 45 meter. Air mancur ini hanya diaktifkan tiap hari Jumat menjelang shalat Jumat atau pada hari raya dan hari penting keagamaan Islam seperti Idul Fitri, Idul Adha, Maulid Nabi, dan Isra Miraj.

Lingkungan Sekitar

Pada tahun 1950, keadaan dan kondisi kawasan Taman Wilhelmina yang berada di depan Lapangan Banteng merupakan tempat yang sepi, gelap, kotor, dan tak terurus. Reruntuhan tembok bekas bangunan Benteng Prins Frederick di taman itu penuh dengan lumut, dan ditumbuhi ilalang dimana-mana.

Pada tanggal 21 Mei 1961, dalam rangka peringatan Hari Kebangkitan Nasional di tempat yang sama, sekitar 50.000 orang dari berbagai unsur lapisan masyarakat, termasuk pegawai negeri dan swasta, alim ulama, tentara, dan lain-lain bekerja bakti membersihkan taman Wilhelmina yang tak terurus itu, sebagai persiapan lokasi pembangunan Masjid yang diawali dengan pidato Menteri Jaksa Agung.

Beberapa bulan kemudian, tepatnya tanggal 24 Agustus 1961, telah menjadi tanggal yang paling bersejarah bagi kaum muslimin di Jakarta khususnya, dan Indonesia pada umumnya, untuk pertama kalinya di bekas taman itu, kota Jakarta akan memiliki sebuah masjid besar dan monumental. Maka dengan ucapan Bismillahirrahmanirrahim Presiden RI Ir. Soekarno meresmikan permulaan pembangunan Masjid Istiqlal diatas area seluas 9.32 Ha. Yang ditandai dengan pemasangan tiang pancang disaksikan oleh ribuan ummat Islam. Sebuah masjid yang akan menjadi simbol kemerdekaan bagi bangsa Indonesia.

Kompleks Masjid Istiqlal juga mempunyai daya tampung parkir untuk 800 kendaraan.

Pagar dan Pintu Gerbang

Komplek Masjid Istiqlal dikelilingi pagar setinggi empat meter, terdiri dari tembok setinggi satu meter dan diatasnya berdiri pagar setinggi tiga meter yang terbuat dari bahan stainless steel, baja anti karat sepanjang 1.165 meter.

Semula pagar ini meski dibuat dari bahan baja antikarat dan cukup kokoh, namun tingginya hanya sekitar 1,2 meter ditambah 1 meter tembok sehingga memudahkan keluar masuknya orang-orang yang tidak bertanggung jawab dengan cara melompati pagar tersebut, ditambah lagi dengan pintu gerbang yang sangat mudah dilewati meski pintu tersebut dalam keadaan terkunci.

Sebagai solusinya maka mulai tahun 2007 pagar diganti menjadi lebih tinggi dan indah seperti yang disaksikan sekarang. Pintu gerbangpun diubah dan dipercantik dengan menggunakan alumunium cor dan dirancang memiliki celah-celah yang rapat yang tidak mungkin dilewati oleh manusia.

Saat ini untuk masuk ke wilayah Masjid Istiqlal baik menggunakan kendaraan ataupun berjalan kaki harus melalui pintu gerbang yang terbuka yang masing-masing mempunyai gardu jaga. Pintu-pintu gerbang tersebut terletak di sebelah utara, timur, tenggara dan selatan. Salah satu dari pintu gerbang tersebut diperuntukkan khusus untuk VIP yaitu RI 1 dan RI 2.

Terdapat lima pintu gerbang masuk menuju kompleks Masjid Istiqlal, beberapa gerbang masuk ini dihubungkan ke masjid oleh jembatan yang dibawahnya mengalir sungai Ciliwung dan di kiri kanannya terdapat lapangan parkir yang luas, sedangkan dua buah lainnya di bagian utara tidak dihubungkan dengan jembatan. Gerbang masjid ini terdapat di ketiga sisi kompleks masjid, yaitu sisi utara menghadap pintu air dan jalan Veteran, sisi timur menghadap Gereja Katedral Jakarta dan jalan Katedral, dan sisi tenggara-selatan menghadap jalan Perwira dan kantor pusat Pertamina. Sementara di sepanjang sisi barat terdapat rel kereta api yang menghubungkan Stasiun Gambir dan Stasiun Juanda, di sisi barat ini tidak terdapat pintu gerbang.

  1. Sisi Utara dari arah Pintu Air terdapat satu pintu gerbang yang langsung diarahkan menuju pintu As-Salam. Pada acara kenegaraan biasanya hanya dibuka untuk dilalui para undangan VIP setingkat pejabat negara, para menteri, duta-duta besar perwakilan negara sahabat, pejabat legislatif, pejabat daerah dan undangan VIP lainnya.
  2. Sisi Timur Laut dari arah Katedral terdapat satu buah pintu gerbang berhadapan dengan bangunan gereja Katedral. Pintu gerbang inilah yang dibuka setiap harinya untuk keluar masuk area Masjid Istiqlal dan mulai pada pertengahan tahun 2008 perparkiran menggunakan sistem Check Point.
  3. Sisi Tenggara-Selatan dari arah Kantor Pusat Pertamina dan jalan Perwira terdapat tiga pintu gerbang, satu pintu gerbang ujung selatan tepat di pertigaan Jalan Merdeka Timur dan jalan Perwira searah dengan gedung kantor pusat Pertamina dan Stasiun Gambir, satu pintu di sisi tenggara dekat jembatan Ciliwung, dan satu lagi dekat pertigaan Lapangan Banteng searah dengan gedung Kementerian Agama Pusat. Gerbang tenggara dekat jembatan Ciliwung biasanya dibuka untuk umum hanya pada saat shalat Jumat, sedangkan pintu gerbang ujung selatan khusus diperuntukkan bagi Presiden dan Wakil Presiden Indonesia beserta rombongan bila menghadiri acara keagamaan yang diselenggarakan secara kenegaraan di Masjid Istiqlal, seperti peringatan hari-hari besar Islam seperti Hari Raya Idul Fitri dan Idul Adha.

Seluruh pintu gerbang ini dibuka setiap acara resmi kenegaraan, sedangkan untuk hari-hari biasa pintu gerbang yang dibuka hanya pintu dari arah Katedral yang langsung menuju pintu Al-Fattah.

Sedangkan pada bangunan Masjid Istiqlal terdapat 7 buah pintu gerbang yand dinamakan berdasarkan Asmaul Husna.

Taman, Parkir, Jembatan, dan Air Mancur

Halaman di sekitar Masjid Istiqlal sebelah utara, selatan dan timur seluas 6,85 Ha terdari dari:

Pertamanan seluas 4,15 Ha, dibagi menjadi 23 lokasi dan masing-masing diberi nama sesuai dengan nama pepohonan yang dominan berada di lokasi tersebut. Misalnya Taman Kamboja dan lain-lain. Rindangnnya pertamanan berfungsi juga sebagai hutan kota, dihidupi pula dengan beberapa jenis unggas untuk menambah keindahan komplek Masjid Istiqlal. Dengan demikian menjadikan suasana masjid terasa sejuk sehinnga akan menambah kekhusyuan beribadah bagi para jamaah.


Air mancur di tengah kolam sudut barat daya taman Masjid Istiqlal

Perparkiran seluas 2,15 Ha, yang dapat menampung kurang lebih 800 kendaraan sekaligus melalui 7 buah pintu gerbang yang ada. Kualitas pengaspalan untuk halaman, parkir dan jalan dibuat dengan methode pengaspalan kelas satu. Sungai Ciliwung mengalir membelah kompleks Masjid Istiqlal. Karena halaman Masjid Istiqlal dikelilingi oleh sungai, maka dibangun pula tiga buah jembatan besar yang lebarnya 18,6 meter dan panjang sekitar 21 sampai 25 meter. Ditambah satu buah jembatan kecil untuk pejalan kaki, kerangka dari jembatan-jembatan ini juga terbuat dari bahan stainless steel. Tepat di taman ini aliran sungai Ciliwung bercabang dua, cabang ke barat mengarah ke Harmoni, Jalan Gajah Mada-Hayam Wuruk, dan kawasan Kota Tua Jakarta, sedangkan cabang ke timur mengarah ke Pasar Baru, Gunung Sahari dan Ancol. Di sisi utara cabang barat terdapat pintu air yang dibangun pada zaman kolonial Hindia Belanda.

Untuk menambah indahnya panorama kompleks Masjid Istiqlal, di halaman bagian selatan dilengkapi dengan kolam air mancur yang ditempatkan di tengah-tengah, taman air mancur ini seluas 2.803 meter persegi, dan kolam air mancur seluas 8.490 meter persegi, jadi luas keseluruhannya 11,293 meter persegi. Pada bagian tengah kolam dibuat ring penampung air bersih bergaris tengah 45 meter, jumlah nozel pemancar air mancur sebanyak: 1 buah tegak lurus di tengah-tengah cawan air mancur, 17 buah di lingkar luar, dan 8 buah buah di lingkar dalam pada kolam penampungan air bersih. Air mancur ini dapat memancarkan air setinggi 45 meter.

Gedung Utama dan Gedung Pendukung

Masjid Istiqlal berdaya tampung jamaah sebanyak 200.000 orang yang terdiri dari:

  1. Ruang shalat utama dan balkon serta sayap memuat 61.000 orang.
  2. Ruang pada bangunan pendahuluan memuat 8.000 orang.
  3. Ruang teras terbuka di lantai 2 memuat 50.000 orang.
  4. Semua koridor dan tempat lainnya memuat 81.000 orang.

Pintu Masuk

Terdapat tujuh pintu gerbang masuk ke dalam Masjid Istiqlal. Masing-masing pintu itu diberi nama berdasarkan Asmaul Husna. Dari ketujuh pintu ini tiga pintu yaitu Al Fattah, As Salam dan Ar Rozzaq adalah pintu utama. Ketujuh pintu itu adalah:

  1. Al Fattah (Gerbang Pembuka): pintu utama yang terletak sisi timur laut berhadapan dengan Gereja Katedral. Pintu ini adalah pintu untuk masyarakat umum yang senantiasa terbuka dan terletak di bangunan pendamping dengan kubah kecil diatasnya.
  2. Al Quddus (Gerbang Kesucian): pintu yang terletak di sisi timur laut terdapat di sudut bangunan utama masjid.
  3. As Salam (Gerbang Kedamaian): salah satu pintu utama ini terletak di ujung utara pada sudut bangunan utama. Pintu ini langsung menuju dekat shaf terdepan barisan shalat, sehingga pintu ini digunakan untuk tamu penting VIP, seperti ulama, tamu asing, duta besar dari negara muslim, dan tamu penting lainnya pada acara keagamaan penting.
  4. Al Malik (Gerbang Raja): pintu VVIP di sisi barat pada sudut bangunan utama masjid. Seperti pintu As Salam pintu ini juga langsung menuju dekat shaf terdepan barisan shalat, sehingga pintu ini digunakan untuk tamu penting VVIP seperti presiden dan wakil presiden Indonesia serta tamu negara yang berkunjung.
  5. Al Ghaffar (Gerbang Ampunan): pintu ini terletak di ujung selatan pada bangunan selasar pelataran, tepat di bawah menara masjid Istiqlal. Pintu ini adalah yang paling dekat gerbang tenggara sekaligus yang terjauh dari mihrab masjid.
  6. Ar Rozzaq (Gerbang Rezeki): salah satu pintu utama ini terletak di tengah-tengah sisi selatan selasar pelataran Istiqlal. Dari pintu ini terdapat koridor yang lurus menghubungkannya dengan pintu Al Fatah di sisi timur laut.
  7. Ar Rahman (Gerbang Pengasih): pintu ini terletak di sudut barat daya bangunan selasar masjid, dekat pintu Al Malik.

Gedung Utama

  • Tinggi: 60 meter
  • Panjang: 100 meter
  • Lebar: 100 meter
  • Tiang pancang: 2.361 buah


Masjid Istiqlal yang megah ini adalah bangunan berlantai dua. Lantai pertama untuk perkantoran, ruang pertemuan, instalasi AC sentral dan listrik, kamar mandi, toilet dan ruang tempat wudhu. Lantai dua, untuk shalat yang terdiri dari ruang shalat utama dan teras terbuka yang luas guna untuk menampung jemaah yang melimpah terutama pada saat shalat Idul Fitri dan Idul Adha.

Gedung utama dengan ruang shalat utama mengarah ke kiblat (Mekkah), sedangkan teras terbuka yang luas mengarah ke Monumen Nasional (Monas).

Lantai utama yang disediakan untuk ruang sholat baik Rawatib ataupun sholat sunnat lainnya terletak di gedung utama dengan daya tampung 61.00 orang jamaah. Di bagian depan terdapat Mihrab tempat dimana imam memimpin sholat jamaah, dan disebelah kanan mihrab terdapat mimbar yang ditinggikan. Lantainya ditutupi karpet merah sumbangan seorang dermawan dari Kerajaan Arab Saudi.

Kubah besar

Dengan diameter 45 m, terbuat dari kerangka baja antikarat dari Jerman Barat dengan berat 86 ton, sementara bagian luarnya dilapisi dengan keramik. Diameter 45 meter merupakan simbol penghormatan dan rasa syukur atas kemerdekaan Bangsa Indonesia pada tahun 1945 sesuai dengan nama Istiqlal itu sendiri. Bagian bawah sekeliling kubah terdapat kaligrafi Surat Yassin yang ditulis oleh K.H Fa’iz seorang Khatthaath senior dari Jawa Timur.

Dari luar atap bagian atas kubah dipasang penangkal petir berbentuk lambang Bulan dan Bintang yang terbuat dari stainless steel dengan diameter 3 meter dan berat 2,5 ton. Dari dalam kubah di topang oleh 12 pilar berdiameter 2,6 meter dengan tinggi 60 meter, 12 buah pilar ini merupakan simbol angka kelahiran nabi Muhammad SAW yaitu 12 Rabiul Awal tahun Gajah atau 20 April 571 M.

Seluruh bagian di gedung utama ini dilapisi marmer yang didatangkan langsung dari Tulungagung seluas 36.980 meter persegi.

Gedung pendahuluan

  • Tinggi: 52 meter
  • Panjang: 33 meter
  • Lebar: 27 meter

Bagian ini memiliki lima lantai yang terletak di belakang gedung utama yang diapit dua sayap teras. Luas lantainya 36.980 meter persegi, dilapisi dengan 17.300 meter persegi marmer. Jumlah tiang pancangnya sebanyak 1800 buah. Di atas gedung ini ada sebuah kubah kecil, fungsi utama dari gedung ini yaitu setiap jamaah dapat menuju gedung utama secara langsung. Selain itu juga bisa dimanfaatkan sebagai perluasan tempat shalat bila gedung utama penuh.

Teras raksasa

Teras raksasa terbuka seluas 29.800 meter terletak di sebelah kiri dan dibelakang gedung induk. Teras ini berlapis tegel keramik berwarna merah kecoklatan yang disusun membentuk shaf shalat. Teras ini dibuat untuk menampung jamaah pada saat shalat Idul Fitri dan Idul Adha. Selain itu teras ini juga berfungsi sebagai tempat acara-acara keagamaan seperti MTQ dan pada emper tengah biasa digunakan untuk peragaan latihan manasik haji, teras raksasa ini dapat menampung sekitar 50.000 jamaah.

Emper keliling dan koridor

  • Panjang: 165 meter
  • Lebar : 125 meter

Emper atau koridor ini mengelilingi teras raksasa dan koridor tengah yang sekelilingya terdapat 1800 pilar guna menopang bangunan emper. Di bagian tengah terdapat koridor tengah yang menghubungkan pintu Al Fattah di timur laut dengan pintu Ar Rozzaq di barat daya. Arah poros koridor ini mengarah ke Monumen Nasional menandakan masjid ini adalah masjid nasional.


  • Tinggi tubuh menara marmer: 6.666 cm = 66.66 meter
  • Tinggi kemuncak (pinnacle) menara baja antikarat: 30 meter
  • Tinggi total menara: sekitar 90 meter
  • Diameter menara 5 meter

Bangunan menara meruncing ke atas ini berfungsi sebagai tempat Muadzin mengumandangkan adzan. Di atasnya terdapat pengeras suara yang dapat menyuarakan adzan ke kawasan sekitar masjid.

Menara megah tersebut melambangkan keagungan Islam, dan kemuliaan kaum muslimin. Keistimewaan lainnya, menara yang terletak di sudut selatan masjid, dengan ketinggian 6.666 cm ini dinisbahkan dengan jumlah ayat-ayat Al-Quran. Pada bagian ujung atas menara, berdiri kemuncak (pinnacle) dari besi baja yang menjulang ke angkasa setinggi 30 meter sebagai simbol dari jumlah juz dalam Al-Quran. Menara dan kemuncak baja ini membentuk tinggi total menara sekitar 90 meter.

The minaret or tower of Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta, Indonesia. The National Monument (Monas) and Medan Merdeka Square in the background with Jakarta skyline.

Menara Istiqlal dengan Monas terlihat di kejauhan

Puncak menara yang meruncing dirancang berlubang-lubang terbuat dari kerangka baja tipis. Angka 6.666 merupakan simbol dari jumlah ayat yang terdapat dalam AL- Quran, seperti yang diyakini oleh sebahagian besar ulama di Indonesia.

Lantai Dasar dan Tangga

Ruangan shalat terdapat di lantai pertama tepat di atas lantai dasar, sedangkan lantai dasar terdapat ruang wudhu, kantor Masjid Istiqlal, dan kantor berbagai organisasi Islam. Lantai dasar Masjid Istiqlal seluruhnya ditutupi oleh marmer seluas 25.000 meter persegi dipersiapkan untuk sarana perkantoran, sarana penunjang masjid, dan ruang serbaguna. Gagasan semula tempat ini akan dibiarkan terbuka yang sewaktu-waktu dapat dipergunakan, misalnya pada saat penyelenggaraan Festival Istiqlal I tahun 1991 dan Festival Istiqlal II tahun 1995 ruangan-ruangan serbaguna di lantai dasar dan pelataran halaman Masjid dijadikan ruang pameran seni Islam Indonesia dan bazaar. Namun pasca terjadinya pengeboman di Masjid Istiqlal pada tanggal 19 April 1999 maka dilakukanlah pemagaran dan pembuatan pintu-pintu strategis pada tahun 1999.

Jumlah tangga menuju lantai shalat utama sebanyak 11 unit. Tiga diantaranya memiliki ukuran besar dan berfungsi sebagai tangga utama yaitu: satu unit berada disisi utara gedung induk, satu unit berada pada gedung pendahuluan yang dapat dipergunakan langsung menuju lantai lima, dan satu unit lainnya berlokasi di emper selatan menuju lantai utama, tangga-tangga ini memiliki lebar 15 meter.

Disamping itu terdapat 4 unit tangga dengan ukuran lebar 3 meter berlokasi pada tiap-tiap pojok gedung utama yang langsung menuju lantai lima dan di sudut-sudut teras raksasa.

Sarana dan Fasilitas

Ruang shalat utama luasnya satu hektare dapat menampung jamaah lebih dari 16.000 orang. Ruang tersebut ditambah balkon 4 tingkat dan sayap disebelah timur, selatan, dan utara sehingga luas seluruhnya menjadi 36.980 meter persegi atau sama dengan hampir 4 hektare yang berarti dapat menampung jamaah sekitar 61.000 orang.


Koridor keliling dipenuhi jemaah shalat Ied hari raya Idul Fitri

Di sebelah barat ruang shalat utama terletak mimbar yang diapit sebelah kiri dan kanannya oleh tembok berlapiskan marmer di mana terpajang kaligrafi Arab yang indah berbunyi: “Allah” (sebelah utara), “Laa Ilaha Illa Allah, Muhammad ar Rasulu Allah” (tengah), dan “Muhammad” (sebelah selatan).

Sarana Peribadatan


Seluruh lantai utama masjid ditutupi oleh karpet merah sumbangan dari seorang dermawan Arab Saudi bernama Sheikh Esmail Abu Daud yang diserah terimahkan pada tanggal 3 Juni 2005. Karpet sebanyak 103 gulung ini berwarna merah terbuat dari bahan dasar wol.

Perawatan karpet tersebut dikerjakan secara manual, setiap hari dibersihkan dengan menggunakan alat vacum cleaner. Jumlah karpet penutup lantai utama 18 lembar, setiap lembarnya berukuran: panjang 25 meter dan lebar 4 meter, rata-rata beratnya 250 kg.

Rak Al Quran

Masjid Istiqlal juga menyediakan mushaf Al-Qur’an untuk dibaca oleh para jama’ah yang ditempatkan pada rak yang melingkar di 12 tiang yang terdapat pada lantai utama, setiap rak berbentuk setengah lingkaran yang terdiri dari dua tingkat terbuat dari bahan stainless steel.

Setiap rak dapat menampung 100 sampai 150 buah mushaf yang disediakan oleh BPPMI serta waqaf dari jamaah.


Umat muslim Indonesia tengah membaca Al Quran setelah menunaikan shalat di Masjid Istiqlal, Jakarta, Indonesia. Indonesia memiliki jumlah umat muslim terbesar di dunia


Untuk pembatas antara tempat shalat bagi jamaah pria dan wanita dan batas area sholat rawatib, di lantai utama Masjid Istiqlal juga disediakan sketsel yang terbuat dari 20 modul dengan bahan stainless steel dan dari bahan kayu 20 modul dengan ukuran masing-masing 2 meter x 80 cm. Sketsel tersebut bersifat knock down yang bisa dipasang sesuai kebutuhan.

Sarana Olahraga

Didalam tubuh yang sehat terdapat jiwa yang kuat. Menjaga kesehatan dengan berolahraga merupakan hal yang rutin dilakukan oleh siswa-siswi madrasah dan remaja Masjid Istiqlal.

Untuk mendukung berbagai macam program yang ada, BPPMI menyediakan fasilitas-fasilitas pendukung seperti sarana olah raga yang representatif berstandart nasional dan internasional yang dibangun di pojok kiri bagian timur Masjid.

Pusat kegiatan olahraga ini berupa lapangan terbuka terdiri dari lapangan Futsal, Badminton, Bola Volly dan Basket. Lapangan olah raga ini berukuran 420 meter persegi, diresmikan penggunaannya oleh ibu Menteri Agama RI pada Tanggal 17 Januari 2009 M/20 Muharram 1430 H.

Tenaga Listrik

Tenaga listrik di Masjid Istiqlal difungsikan untuk:

  1. Penerangan
  2. Tenaga Hydrofour
  3. AC
  4. Sound system
  5. Air Mancur
  6. Alat eloktronik lainnya seperti TV, Komputer dll.

Penggunaan listrik untuk kebutuhan penerangan diseluruh areal Masjid Istiqlal baik di gedung ataupun di taman dan halaman serta pagar menggunakan layanan listrik dari PLN. Suplai listrik yang diperoleh dari Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) dengan satu gardu tersendiri yang menyiapkan central box berkapasitas 2.000 KVA.

Sebagai cadangan bila terjadi pemadaman dari pihak PLN, disiapkan juga dua buah mesin diesel atau generator berkekuatan 825 KVA dan 500 KVA. Selain untuk penerangan tenaga listrik ini juga dipergunakan untuk mesin-mesin Hydrofour dan AC di ruang perkantoran yang terdapat di lantai dasar masjid, rata-rata konsumsi listrik setiap bulannya adalah 1.750 KVA, dengan pembayaran rekening rata-rata sebesar Rp: 125.000.000/bulan.

Sistem Suara dan Multimedia

Untuk keperluan ibadah dan sarana informasi Masjid Istiqlal menggunakan sound system yang dikendalikan secara terpusat yang terletak pada ruang kaca bagian belakang lantai dua, dengan jumlah speaker sebanyak 200 chanel yang tersebar pada lantai utama.

Jumlah speaker yang terdapat pada koridor, gedung penghubung dan gedung pendahuluan sebanyak 158 chanel. Sound system dikendalikan oleh 26 amplyfire dan 5 (lima) buah mixer dan diawasi oleh enam orang yang bertugas secara bergantian baik siang ataupun malam hari.

Untuk mendukung kelancaran komunikasi pada waktu pelaksanaan ibadah dan kegiatan, di lantai utama juga telah dipasang system TV plasma sehingga akses informasi dpat diikuti secara merata oleh para jamaah yang berada diseluruh area ruang utama Masjid.

Pendingin Udara (AC)

AC difungsikan secara sentral yang meliputi seluruh perkantoran dan ruangan lain yang ada di lantai dasar. Untuk memenuhi kebutuhan AC ini didukung oleh empat buah mesin pendingin atau chiller.

Pendingin ruangan hanya digunakan bagi ruangan-ruangan kantor di lantai bawah dengan menggunakan sistem AC central dan AC split.

Untuk menambah kenyamanan beribadah bagi jamaah, sekarang ini ruang utama Masjid Istiqlal dilengkapi juga dengan 5 unit standing AC, masing-masing berkekuatan 5 PK dan sebelas unit AC celling berkekuatan masing-masing 5 PK, ditambah kipas angin berukuran besar.

Disamping itu pada ruangan perkantoran, ruang madrasah serta ruang VIP yang berada pada lantai dasar sistem pendinginnya juga menggunakan AC sentral yang digerakkan oleh empat unit mesin chiller dengan 300 buah fan coil unit yang tersebar pada setiap ruangan, karena termakan usia di beberapa ruangan ditemukan AC chiller sudah kurang berfungsi maka secara bertahap dilakukan penggantian dengan AC split.

Fasilitas Air, Ruang Wudhu, Kamar Mandi, WC

Keperluan air untuk bersuci di Masjid Istiqlal pada awalnya dari Perusahaan Air Minum (PAM). Sebagai cadangan untuk mengantisipasi kekurangan dan kerusakan maka dibuatlah 6 buah sumur artesis dengan kedalaman 100 M, menggunakan mesin berkekuatan 3 PK dan 3 fase berkapasitas 600 liter permenit dan didistribusikan ke tempat-tempat wudhu.


Tempat wudhu pria

Untuk kebutuhan air di tempat pembuangan air kecil digunakan delapa buah mesin Hydrofour, ditambah empat tangki Hydrofour berkapasitas 1400 liter. Mesin-mesin air tersebut menggunakan tenaga listrik sebanyak 15 PK.

Tempat wudhu terdapat di beberapa lokasi di lantai dasar yaitu di sebelah utara, timur maupun selatan gedung utama. Di setiap lokasi tersedia 100 unit tempat wudhu dengan kran air terbuat dari bahan stainless steel, tiap unitnya terdiri atas 6 buah kran maka jumlah kran seluruhnya sebanyak 600 buah. Berarti pada saat yang bersamaan dapat melayani 600 orang berwudhu sekaligus.


Tempat wudhu wanita

Sedangkan toilet terdapat di lantai dasar sebelah barat, selatan dan timur di bawah teras raksasa. Toilet ini sengaja dibangun terpisah dari tempat wudhu, hal ini dimaksudkan agar tempat yang bersih dan suci tidak berdekatan dengan tempat yang kotor. Disisi sebelah timur, dibawah emper masjid terdapat dua lokasi urinior yang berkapasitas 80 ruang.

Selain itu juga terdapat 52 kamar mandi dan WC, dengan rincian: 12 buah dibawah emper barat, 12 buah dibawah emper selatan dekat menara dan 28 buah dibawah emper sebelah timur. Keperluan air untuk wudhu, kamar mandi dan toilet ini setiap hari dipasok air dari PAM yaang berkapasitas 600 liter per menit.

Lift Bagi Penyandang Cacat

Mengingat Masjid Istiqlal sebagai sarana umum dan jamaah yang berkunjung juga terdapat diantaranya penyandang cacat dan jamaah lanjut usia. Karena itu bagi penyandang cacat yang akan menuju ke lantai dua dan lantai utama disediakan lift yang terletak di bagian selatan. Hal ini dalam rangka peningkatan pelayanan kepada para jamaah penyandang cacat dan lansia.

Keberadaan satu unit lift yang diperuntukkan khusus bagi jamaah penyandang cacat dan lansia ini adalah berkat bantuan pemerintah DKI Jakarta. Lift tersebut berkapasitas 6 orang dan dioperasikan pada waktu-waktu tertentu sesuai kebutuhan.

Lift ini terdapat di lokasi pintu Ar-Rahman dan dapat diakses melalui pintu gerbang depan kantor pusat pertamina.

Perpustakaan Islam

Firman yang pertama kali diturunkan-Nya dalam Al Quran adalah perintah membaca, melalui firman-Nya tersebut Allah memerintahkan manusia membaca sebagai jalan untuk menuntut ilmu. Jadi jika menutut ilmu memiliki kedudukan mulia, maka jalan kearahnya pun dengan membaca menjadi jalan yang mulia. Kesadaran akan pentingnya membaca sebagai jalan masuknya ilmu telah mendorong generasi terdahulu umat Islam untuk mendirikan fasilitas yang bisa menampung bahan bacaan karya-karya ulama Islam waktu itu.

Perpustakaan Islam Istiqlal, walaupun belum bisa mewakili jumlah besarnya koleksi buku seperti perpustakaan-perpustakaan Islam yang besar lainnya, mewakili fungsinya sebagai pusat keilmuan Islam. Perpustakaan Islam sendiri sudah mulai berkembang di Indonesia. Hampir di setiap masjid-masjid besar di Ibukota, telah dilengkapi dengan sarana perpustakaan.


Ketika gubernur DKI Jakarta dijabat oleh Bapak Sumarno pada tahun 1968 dimana Masjid Istiqlal masih dalam proses pembangunan, maka untuk membantu karyawan dalam pemeriksaan kesehatan, Gubernur Sumarno ketika itu meminta bantuan pihak RS Gatot Soebroto untuk turut serta membantu dalam bidang pelayanan kesehatan bagi seluruh pekerja dan karyawan proyek pembangunan Masjid Istiqlal. Pihak RS mengirimkan bantuan empat orang tenaga mantri secara bergiliran yaitu:

H.Abd.Hamid Ipang H.M.Sukiran Suster Yuyun Rahayu Suster Rosda Setelah proyek pembangunan masjid diserahkan kepada Sekretaris Negara pada tahun 1984 tenaga medis yang menangani pelayanan kesehatan tinggal dua orang yaitu H.Abd. Hamid Ipang dan H.M. Sukiran.

Sampai sekarang Masjid Istiqlal tetap menyediakan fasilitas berupa Poliklinik Umum. Poliklinik ini berada di bawah tanggung jawab dr. Khulushinnisak, MARS yang juga PNS Departemen Agama. Di Klinik ini karyawan dan para jamaah Masjid Istiqla bisa mendapatkan layanan kesehatan dengan berbagai kemudahan. Klinik Istiqlal bertempat di lantai dasar Masjid Istiqlal Jl. Taman Wijaya Kusuma No.1, Jakarta Pusat.

Pelayanan Kesehatan yang diberikan berupa pemeriksaan dan konsultasi dokter umum serta obat-obatan generik. Bagi karyawan dan jamaah Masjid Istiqlal, dibebaskan biaya pemeriksanaan. Karyawan dan jamaah harus membawa kartu berobat (atau kartu identitas jika belum memiliki kartu berobat) agar dibebaskan dari biaya pemeriksaan dan konsultasi dokter.

Obat-obatan yang diberikan diutamakan dalam bentuk generik, dan bagi obat-obatan yang tidak ada dalam bentuk generik diutamakan penyediaan hasil produksi perusahaan farmasi nasional.

Jadwal pelayanan kesehatan bagi karyawan adalah setiap hari kerja :

Senin s/d Jum’at : 08.00 – 16.00, Hari sabtu dan Ahad tutup kecuali jika di Masjid Istiqlal diadakan acara hari-hari besar Islam atau acara-acara penting lainnya.

Sejak tahun 2003, pliklinik Masjid Istiqlal sudah dilengkapi oleh tiga orang tenaga dokter dan seorang paramedis, tiga orang tenaga dokter tersebut adalah dokter umum yang terdiri dari seorang dokter PNS Departemen Agama DPK, dua orang dokter Kememterian Agama dan seorang paramedis/mantri karyawan Masjid Istiqlal pensiunan dari RS Gatot Soebroto. Poliklinik Masjid Istiqlal juga dilengkapi alat untuk mengecek kadar gula darah dan kolestrol serta satu unit mobil ambulans.

Adapun obat-obatan yang tersedia di poliklinik ini adalah obat generik bagi penyakit ringan untuk membantu pada tahap pertolongan pertama, bila ada penyakit yang memerlukan pengobatan medis yang serius maka akan dirujuk ke RS. Gatot Soebroto atau RSCM.


Masjid ini menjadi pedoman dan teladan pengelolaan masjid di Indonesia, sehingga harus menjadi contoh dan model dalam pengelolaan masjid secara nasional. Dalam konsep pengelolaan masjid yang ideal, masjid tidak hanya berfungsi sebagai tempat ibadah, tetapi juga harus mejadi tempat pembinaan umat melalui berbagai macam kegiatan. Salah satu kegiatan yang sangat penting adalah pendidikan untuk pembinaan masyarakat atau umat baik pendidikan formal maupun non formal.

Telah diselenggarakan pendidikan formal di Masjid Istiqlal yang terdiri dari jenjang pendidikan: Kelompok bermain dan Raudhatul Athfal, Madarasah Ibtidaiyah (MI) dan Madrasah Tsanawiyah (MTs).

Bedug Raksasa

Pada waktu dulu masjid-masjid di Indonesia dilengkapi dengan bedug yang berfungsi sebagai tanda masuk waktu shalat. Bedug dipukul ketika waktu untuk shalat tiba, diikuti adzan.


Di Masjid Istiqlal bedug masih ada dan dilestarikan keberadaannya sebagai warisan budaya bangsa, saat ini bunyi bedug direkam kemudian diperdengarkan melalui pengeras suara sebelum adzan dikumandangkan. Bedug tersebut memiliki ukuran yang sangat besar, diletakkan di atas penyangga setinggi 3,80 meter, panjangnya 3,45 meter, dan lebarnya 3,40 meter. Semua terbuat dari kayu jati dari hutan Randu Blatung di Jawa Tengah.

Bedug Masjid Istiqlal panjangnya 3 meter, dengan berat 2,30 ton, bagian depan berdiameter 2 meter, bagian belakang 1,71 meter, terbuat dari kayu meranti merah (shorea wood) dari sebuah pohon berumur 300 tahun, diambil dari hutan di Kalimantan Timur, diawetkan menggunakan bahan pengawet superwolman salt D (fluoride, clirome, dan arsenate)

Dulu bedug di Masjid Istiqlal tersebut dipukul setiap hari Jumat, mendahului adzan Jumat yang dikumandangkan melalui pengeras suara. Belakangan ini suara bedug direkam kemudian diperdengarkan melalui pengeras suara sebelum adzan dikumandangkan. Walaupun fungsi beduk sudah dapat digantikan oleh pengeras suara, dalam menentukan tanda masuk waktu shalat, tetapi di Masjid Istiqlal, beduk masih dimanfaatkan. Beduk dipukul sebelum adzan. Selain itu beduk raksasa masjid ini juga berfungsi sebagai hiasan dan sekaligus melestarikan salah satu budaya Islam Indonesia.


  • Garis tengah bagian depan : 2 meter
  • Garis tengah bagian belakang : 1,71 meter
  • Panjang : 3 meter
  • Berat : + 2,30 ton
  • Jenis kayu : Meranti Merah (Shorea) dari Kalimantan Timur
  • Umur pohon : + 300 tahun.

Kaki bedug (Jagrag)

  • Tinggi : 3,80 meter
  • Panjang : 3,45 meter
  • Lebar : 3,40 meter
  • Volume kayu  : + 3,10 meter kubik
  • Jenis kayu : jati (tectona grandis) dari Randublatung Jawa Tengah.
  • Ukiran : Jepara.

Ukiran pada Jagrag

Tulisan “Allah” di dalam segilima pada 4 tempat. Segi-lima melambangkan : 5 rukun Islam dan 5 waktu sholat.

Tulisan “Bismillahirrahmanirrahim” pada 2 tempat. Tulisan Kalimah Sahadat pada 4 tempat. Surya Sengkala (tahun Matahari) : 1978 dalam seni kaligrafi yang berbunyi :

  • Angesti = angka 8
  • Suwara = angka 7
  • Kusumaning = angka 9
  • Samadi = angka 1

Pada bagian-bagian jagrag seluruhnya terdapat 27 (dua puluh tujuh) ukiran Surya sengkala.

“Nanasan” dengan dua susun kelopak daun, masing-masing menunjukkan Angka 7 dan 8 (daun).

Ukiran pada Bedug

Ukiran surya Sengkala (tahun matahari) : 1978 dalam seni kaligrafi dengan pengertian sama dengan No.4. Pada kayu bedug terdapat 2 (dua) ukiran Surya Sengkala dilingkari segi lima. Dua buah kendit/sabuk dari logam kuningan terukir berfungsi sebagai hiasan. Pada kedua kendit terdapat 11 (sebelas) ukiran Surya Sengkala.

Bahan kayu

Kayu jagrag berbahan jati (tectona grandis) dari Randublatung Jawa Tengah. Bahan kayu bedug dari jenis Meranti Merah (Shorea) dari Kalimantan Timur, umur pohon diperkirakan 300 tahun, sumbangan dari Badan Pelaksana Pembangunan dan Pengelolaan Pengusahaan Proyek Taman Mini Indonesia Indah dan merupakan potongan batang pohon dari koleksi Taman Mini Indonesia Indah.

Bahan kulit

Bagian depan adalah kulit sapi jantan dari daerah Jawa Timur. Bagian belakang adalah kulit sapi betina jenis Santa Gertrudis, umur 2 tahun, sumbangan PT. Redjo Sari Bumi, Tapos, Bogor.

Bahan lainnya

  • Kendit/Sabuk : dari logam kuningan.
  • Gantungan : dari besi baja yang di verchroom.
  • Band penguat : (pada kedua ujung) dari baja anti karat (stainless steel).
  • Paku kulit : dari kayu sonokeling, 90 buah pada bagian depan dan 80Â buah pada bagian belakang.
  • Obat pengawet : Superwolmansalt D (fluoride, chrome, arsenate), konsentrasi larutan kl. 4%, masa rendam 6 (enam) hari.
  • Pemukul bedug : 4 (empat) buah dari kayu jati terukir.

Jagrag/kaki dikerjakan dalam waktu 25 hari, sedangkan bedug dalam 60 hari.

Koperasi Karyawan dan Jamaah Masjid Istiqlal (KOSTIQ)

Usaha Pengembangan KOSTIQ (Koperasi karyawan dan Jamaah Masjid Istiqlal), selain dapat memakmurkan masjid, juga sangat diharapkan mampu menciptakan dan meningkatkan kesejahtraan karyawan dan jamaah Masjid Istiqlal.

KOSTIQ telah diakui keberadaannya oleh badan hukum yang telah disahkan oleh Menteri Koperasi dan Pembinaan Pengusaha Kecil pada tanggal 19 Mei 1997 nomor 171/BHKWK.9/V/1997 serta anggaran rumah tangga yang disahkan pada Rapat Anggota Tahunan (RAT) tanggal 31 Maret 2004. Pendirian Kostiq dimotori oleh para pengurus BPPMI, dalam rangka pemberdayaan potensi yang dimiliki oleh Masjid Istiqlal.

Salah satu tujuan KOSTIQ adalah ikut serta meningkatkan citra baik Masjid Istiqlal melalui kegiatan-kegiatan sosial masyarakat. Saat ini KOSTIQ telah banyak dimanfaatkan oleh para karyawan dan jamaah Masjid Istiqlal.

Pada awal berdirinya KOSTIQ mensepakati usaha yang dijalankan adalah pengadaan barang-barang kebutuhan sehari-hari, usaha yang sudah berjalan hingga saat ini adalah penjualan sembako. Untuk kebutuhan lainnya seperti barang-barang elektronik KOSTIQ menerapkan sistem kredit jangka pendek maksimun 12 bulan.

Disamping itu usaha yang benar-benar menjadi konsentrasi KOSTIQ adalah:

  • Usaha simpan pinjam
  • Usaha perdagangan umum
  • Usaha toko sembako dan elektronik serta usaha cetak foto yang sangat dibutuhkan oleh para pengunjung di Masjid Istiqlal
  • Usaha kerjasama khusus
  • Usaha jasa boga

Kegiatan KOSTIQ dipusatkan di kamar 58 Masjid Istiqlal, sebagai pusat administrasi usaha. Untuk toko penjualan sembako selama ini dipusatkan di pintu air sebelah utara Masjid Istiqlal sementara usaha wartel dan foto copy di area parkir timur pintu utama Masjid Istiqlal.

Koperasi Istiqlal mempekerjakan 6 (enam) orang tenaga staf yang terdiri dari tenaga bantuan dan tenaga staf penuh, jumlah angota sampai dengan 31 Desember 2008 adalah 261 orang. Pengurus Kostiq selalu berusaha semaksimal mungkin untuk melakukan pembinaan administrasi melalui pemanfaatan potensi pegawai dan saran perkantoran dengan segala keterbatasannya.

Imam dan Muadzin

Masjid Istiqlal mempunyai seorang imam besar, seorang wakil imam besar, dan tujuh orang imam. Sampai saat ini, Masjid Istiqlal memiliki empat imam besar. Imam Besar bertugas untuk mengawasi peribadatan di Masjid Istiqlal sesuai Syari’at Islam dan memberikan layanan konsultasi agama. Mereka adalah K. H. A. Zaini Miftah (1970-1980), K. H. Mukhtar Natsir (1980-2004), K. H. Nasrullah Djamaluddin (2004-2005)dan Imam Besar saat ini yang dijabat oleh Prof. Dr. K. H. Ali Musthafa Ya’qub, M. A. Dia adalah pengasuh Pondok Pesantren Luhur Ilmu Hadis Darus Sunnah di Ciputat, Jakarta Selatan. Wakil Imam Besar dijabat Drs. H. Syarifuddin Muhammad, M. M. Dia adalah mantan Ketua Ikatan Penghafal al-Qur’an. Tujuh imam lainnya adalah:

  1. Drs. H. Ali Hanafiah
  2. H. Ahmad Husni Isma’il S. Ag.
  3. Drs. H. Muhasyim Abdul Majid
  4. H. Martomo Malaing AS, S. Q. , S. Th. I
  5. H. Ahmad Rofi’uddin Mahfudz, S. Q.
  6. Drs. H. Hasanuddin Sinaga, M. A.
  7. Drs. H. Dzulfatah Yasin, M. A.

Selain itu, Masjid Istiqlal juga memiliki tujuh orang muadzin yang bertugas mangumandangkan adzan dan memberikan pengajaran tentang Al-Qur’an dan agama Islam. Mereka adalah:

  1. Drs. H. Abdul Wahid
  2. H. Sayuti
  3. H. Muhammad Mahdi, S. Ag.
  4. H. Ahmad Achwani S. Ag.
  5. H. Hasan Basri
  6. H. Muhdori Abdur Razzaq, S. Ag.
  7. H. Saiful Anwar al-Bintani


1024px-Istiqlal_Mosque Istiqlal2

1024px-Istiqlal_Interior 1024px-Eid_ul-Fitr_Family_Istiqlal_Mosque_Jakarta

1024px-Istiqlal_Mosque_Eid_ul_Fitr_Jamaah_4 masjid-istiqlal-laksanakan-dua-gelombang-shalat-tarawih-86556

image032 Hukum Berdiam Di Masjid Bagi Wanita Haidh, Abu Mujahidah

01 istiqlal.c6b7b7262abaa7d476637cc6ded984c6 MASJID-ISTIQLAL1


Source: Wikipedia

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Sheikh Zayed Mosque



Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (Arabic: جامع الشيخ زايد الكبير‎) is located in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates and is considered to be the key for worship in the country.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque 3D

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was initiated by the late president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), HH SheikhZayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who wanted to establish a structure which unites the cultural diversity of Islamic world, the historical and modern values of architecture and art. His final resting place is located on the grounds beside the same mosque. The mosque was constructed from 1996 to 2007. It is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and the eighth largest mosque in the world. The building complex measures approximately 290 m (960 ft) by 420 m (1,380 ft), covering an area of more than 12 hectares (30 acres), exclusive of exterior landscaping and vehicle parking.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque-2 3D

As the country’s grand mosque, it is the key place of worship for Friday gathering and Eid prayers. During Eid it can be visited by more than 40,000 people.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center (SZGMC) offices are located in the east minarets. SZGMC manages the day-to-day operations, as a place of worship and Friday gathering, and also a center of learning and discovery through its educational cultural activities and visitor programs.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque-3 3D

The library, located in the north/east minaret, serves the community with classic books and publications addressing a range of Islamic subjects: sciences, civilization, calligraphy, the arts, coins and includes some rare publications dating back more than 200 years. In reflection of the diversity of the Islamic world and the United Arab Emirates, the collection comprises material in a broad range of languages, including Arabic, English, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Korean.


The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque’s design and construction “unites the world”, using artisans and materials from many countries including Italy, Germany, Morocco, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Malaysia, Iran, China, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Greece and United Arab Emirates. More than 3,000 workers and 38 renowned contracting companies took part in the construction of the mosque. Natural materials were chosen for much of its design and construction due to their long-lasting qualities, including marble stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics. It was built by the Italian company Impregilo.

The design of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque has been inspired by Persian, Mughal and Moorish mosque architecture, particularly the Badshahi Mosque inLahore, Pakistan and the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco being direct influences. The dome layout and floorplan of the mosque was inspired by the Badshahi Mosque and the architecture was inspired by Persian, Mughal and Moorish design. Its archways are quintessentially Moorish and its minarets classically Arab. The design of the mosque can be best described as a fusion of Arab, Persian, Mughal and Moorish architecture.

Dimensions and Statistics

Interior of the Main Prayer Hall in Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Interior of the Main Prayer Hall in Sheikh Zayed Mosque

The mosque is large enough to accommodate over 40,000 worshipers. The main prayer hall can accommodate over 7,000 worshipers. There are two smaller prayer halls, with a 1,500-capacity each, one of which is the female prayer hall.

There are four minarets on the four corners of the courtyard which rise about 107 m (351 ft) in height. The courtyard, with its floral design, measures about 17,000 m2 (180,000 sq ft),and is considered to be the largest example of marble mosaic in the world.

  • Sivec from Prilep, Macedonia was used on the external cladding (115,119 m2 (1,239,130 sq ft) of cladding has been used on the mosque, including the minarets)
  • Lasa from Laas, South Tyrol, Italy was used in the internal elevations
  • Makrana from Makrana India was used in the annexes and offices
  • Aquabiana and Biano from Italy
  • East White and Ming Green from China

Some Key Architectural Features

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has many special and unique elements: The carpet in the main prayer hall is considered to be the world’s largest carpet made by Iran’s Carpet Company and designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi. This carpet measures 5,627 m2 (60,570 sq ft), and was made by around 1,200-1,300 carpet knotters. The weight of this carpet is 35 ton and is predominantly made from wool (originating from New Zealand and Iran). There are 2,268,000,000 knots within the carpet and it took approximately two years to complete.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has seven imported chandeliers from Germany that incorporate millions of Swarovski crystals. The largest chandelier is the second largest known chandelier inside a mosque, the third largest in the world and has a 10 m (33 ft) diameter and a 15 m (49 ft) height.

The pools along the arcades reflect the mosque’s spectacular columns, which becomes even more glorious at night. The unique lightning system was designed by lightning architects Speirs + Major to reflect the phases of the moon. Beautiful bluish gray clouds are projected in lights onto the external walls and get brighter and darker according to the phase of the moon.

The 96 columns in the main prayer hall are clad with marble and inlaid with mother of pearl, one of the few places where you will see this craftsmanship.

The 99 names (qualities or attributes) of God (Allah) are featured on the Qibla wall in traditional Kufic calligraphy, designed by the prominent UAE calligrapher — Mohammed Mandi Al Tamimi. The Qibla wall also features subtle fibre-optic lighting, which is integrated as part of the organic design.

In total, three calligraphy styles — Naskhi, Thuluth and Kufic — are used throughout the mosque and were drafted by Mohammed Mandi Al Tamimi of the UAE, Farouk Haddad of Syria and Mohammed Allam of Jordan.

Rihanna Controversy

In 2013, United States-based singer Rihanna received negative criticism for taking photographs, with the Mosque in the background, during a private visit. During the incident, she was reported to have posed in a manner deemed offensive and provocative. Staff asked her to leave following the incident.


Front and entrance of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Front and entrance of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Water mirror and columns

Water mirror and columns

Inner Court Yard with Minaret

Inner Court Yard with Minaret

Inner Court Yard with storm clouds brewing

Inner Court Yard with storm clouds brewing

Source: Wikipedia

Decorative Stones of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

After sharing my mangrove kayaking pictures for this week’s “Monday Geology Picture” post, I thought I would share some more pictures from my January 2012 trip to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The day after kayaking, my friend Karima and I visited the stunningly beautiful and elaborate Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This impressive mosque was built for an estimated $545 million USD, is the size of 5 football fields, and can accommodate 40,000 worshipers. The mosque was built over many years and opened in 2007. The mosque welcomes tourists as well as Islamic worshipers. For our visit to the mosque, Karima and I donned conservative, respectful clothing (long skirts, long sleeves, and headscarves) and joined a tour group. The mosque is breath-taking– it was hard to believe, sometimes, that it was real. At times, I felt as if we had stepped into a magical world. I greatly enjoyed my visit to the mosque and highly recommend the tour to anyone visiting Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

During the tour, I spent much of my time admiring the decorative building stones, which come in all colors, shapes, and lithologies and were likely sourced from all over the world. The primary building stone used in the mosque is a stunning white marble. I tried to identify the other decorative stones when I could. How many stones can you identify? Where do you think the stones might be from? Leave a comment below!

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Shoes are left outside the mosque in the courtyard.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Shoes are left outside the mosque in the courtyard.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. More shoes in the courtyard.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. More shoes in the courtyard.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. An incredibel courtyard floor!

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. An incredibel courtyard floor!

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Detail of a leaf.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Detail of a leaf.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Intricate stone flowers on the wall of the mosque.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Intricate stone flowers on the wall of the mosque.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. More intricate stone flowers. How many different lithologies can you spot?

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. More intricate stone flowers. How many different lithologies can you spot?

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Stone flowers everywhere!

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Stone flowers everywhere!

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. A stunning chandelier.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. A stunning chandelier.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Awestruck inside the mosque.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Awestruck inside the mosque.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Karima and I inside the mosque. The wall behind us features the 99 names of God in Islam.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Karima and I inside the mosque. The wall behind us features the 99 names of God in Islam.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The carpet inside the mosque is incredible- intricate and very, very beautiful. And also one of the largest carpets in the world!

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The carpet inside the mosque is incredible- intricate and very, very beautiful. And also one of the largest carpets in the world!

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Another view of the amazing carpet.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Beautifully carved stone.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Beautifully carved stone.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Decorative tilework in one of the courtyards.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Decorative tilework in one of the courtyards.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Yours truly posing with some beautiful tilework.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Yours truly posing with some beautiful tilework.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. More decorative stones (outside the main courtyard areas) with shoe for scale.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. More decorative stones (outside the main courtyard areas) with shoe for scale.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The list of many of the marbles and semi-precious stones that were used in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque construction.

The different types of Major Marble supplied on site:

  • SIVEC Supplier FHL Country of Origin Greece/Macedonia
  • LASA Supplier Lasa Quarry Country of Origin Italy
  • MAKARANA Supplier Country of Origin India
  • AQUABIANCA Country of Origin Italy
  • BIANCO P Supplier Carrara Country of Origin Italy
  • MING GREEN Supplier UMGG Country of Origin China
  • EAST WHITE Supplier UMGG Country of Origin China

The External Columns the stones used are:

  1. Dark Lapis lazuli
  2. Light Lapis lazuli
  3. Red Agate
  4. Dark Amethyst
  5. Light Amethyst
  6. Dark Green Adventure
  7. Light Green Adventure
  8. Moss Agate
  9. Pink Adventure
  10. Dark Red Adventure
  11. Light Red Adventure
  12. Abalone Shell
  13. White Mother of Pearl
  14. Fancy Jasper
  15. Sodalite
  16. Haqiq Red
  17. All Veins in Leaves: White Jambu
  18. Mehndi Pfizer

Detail of many Stones being used by Sheikh Zayed Mosque

1. Marble

Marble is a non-foliated metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite. Geologists use the term “marble” to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however, stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone. Marble is commonly used for sculpture and as a building material.

A block of marble

A block of marble

Folded and weathered marble at General Carrera Lake, Chile

Folded and weathered marble at General Carrera Lake, Chile


The Taj Mahal is entirely clad in marble.

The Taj Mahal is entirely clad in marble.

The word “marble” derives from the Greek μάρμαρον (mármaron),from μάρμαρος (mármaros), “crystalline rock, shining stone”, perhaps from the verb μαρμαίρω (marmaírō), “to flash, sparkle, gleam”; R. S. P. Beekes has suggested that a “Pre-Greek origin is probable.”

This stem is also the basis for the English word marmoreal, meaning “marble-like.” While the English term resembles the French marbre, most other European languages (e.g. Spanish mármol, Italian marmo, Portuguese mármore,Welsh marmor, German, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish marmor, Persian and Irish marmar, Dutch marmer,Slovenian marmor, Polish marmur, Turkish mermer, Czech mramor and Russian мрáмор) follow the original Greek.

Physical Origins

Natural patterns on the polished surface of Breccia or

Natural patterns on the polished surface of Breccia or “landscape marble” can resemble a city skyline or even trees, and were used as inlays for furniture, etc.

Marble is a rock resulting from metamorphism of sedimentary carbonate rocks, most commonly limestone or dolomite rock. Metamorphism causes variable recrystallization of the original carbonate mineral grains. The resulting marble rock is typically composed of an interlocking mosaic of carbonate crystals. Primary sedimentary textures and structures of the original carbonate rock (protolith) have typically been modified or destroyed.

Pure white marble is the result of metamorphism of a very pure (silicate-poor) limestone or dolomite protolith. The characteristic swirls and veins of many colored marble varieties are usually due to various mineral impurities such as clay, silt, sand, iron oxides, or chert which were originally present as grains or layers in the limestone. Green coloration is often due to serpentine resulting from originally high magnesium limestone or dolostone with silica impurities. These various impurities have been mobilized and recrystallized by the intense pressure and heat of the metamorphism.


Examples of historically notable marble varieties and locations:
Marble Color Location Country
Carrara marble white or blue-gray Carrara Italy
Al-Andalus marble Red Malaga Spain
Black marble Black, white veins Tongshan County, Hubei China
Costa Sol marble Bronze Malaga Spain
San Cristobal Ivory Cream Beige Teba Spain
Connemara marble green Connemara Ireland
Creole marble white and blue/black Pickens County, Georgia United States
Etowah marble pink, salmon, rose Pickens County, Georgia United States
Murphy marble white Pickens and Gilmer Counties, Georgia United States
Parian marble pure-white, fine-grained Island of Paros Greece
Pentelic marble pure-white, fine-grained semitranslucent Penteliko Mountain, Athens Greece
Purbeck marble Gray/brown Isle of Purbeck United Kingdom
Ruskeala marble white near Ruskeala, Karelia Russia
Rușchița marble white, pinkish, reddish Rușchița, Caraș-Severin County, Poiana Rusca Mountains Romania
Sienna marble yellow with violet, red, blue or white veins near Siena, Tuscany Italy
Bianco Sivec white near Prilep Republic of Macedonia
Swedish green marble green near Kolmården, Södermanland Sweden
Sylacauga marble white Talladega County, Alabama United States
Vermont marble white Proctor, Vermont United States
Yule marble uniform pure white near Marble, Colorado United States
Wunsiedel marble white Wunsiedel, Bavaria Germany



Ritual amphora of veined marble from Zakros. New palace period (1500-1450 BC), Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete.

Ritual amphora of veined marble from Zakros. New palace period (1500-1450 BC), Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete.

White marble has been prized for its use in sculptures since classical times. This preference has to do with its softness, which made it easier to carve, relative isotropy and homogeneity, and a relative resistance to shattering. Also, the low index of refraction of calcite allows light to penetrate several millimeters into the stone before being scattered out, resulting in the characteristic waxy look which gives “life” to marble sculptures of any kind, which is why many sculptors preferred and still prefer marble for sculpting.

Construction Marble

Construction marble is a stone which is composed of calcite, dolomite or serpentine which is capable of taking a polish. More generally in construction, specifically the dimension stone trade, the term “marble” is used for any crystalline calcitic rock (and some non-calcitic rocks) useful as building stone. For example, Tennessee marble is really a dense granular fossiliferous gray to pink to maroon Ordovician limestone that geologists call the Holston Formation.

In 2013, the Ashgabat city was included in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s highest concentration of white marble buildings.


Marble Products in Romblon, Philippines.

Marble Products in Romblon, Philippines.

According to the United States Geological Survey, U.S. domestic marble production in 2006 was 46,400 tons valued at $18.1 million, compared to 72,300 tons valued at $18.9 million in 2005. Crushed marble production (for aggregate and industrial uses) in 2006 was 11.8 million tons valued at $116 million, of which 6.5 million tons was finely ground calcium carbonate and the rest was construction aggregate. For comparison, 2005 crushed marble production was 7.76 million tons valued at $58.7 million, of which 4.8 million tons was finely ground calcium carbonate and the rest was construction aggregate. U.S. dimension marble demand is about 1.3 million tons. The DSAN World Demand for (finished) Marble Index has shown a growth of 12% annually for the 2000–2006 period, compared to 10.5% annually for the 2000–2005 period. The largest dimension marble application is tile.

Marble production is dominated by 4 countries that account for almost half of world production of marble and decorative stone. Italy is the world leader in marble production, with 20% share in global marble production followed by China with 16% of world production. India is third ranking with 10% of world production, followed by Spain in fourth ranking position with 6% of world production. The other marble producing countries of the world represent the remaining other half of world marble production.

Microbial Degradation

The haloalkaliphilic methylotrophic bacterium Methylophaga murata was isolated from deteriorating marble in the Kremlin.Bacterial and fungal degradation was detected in four samples of marble from Milan cathedral; black Cladosporium attacked dried acrylic resin using melanin.

Cultural Associations

As the favorite medium for Greek and Roman sculptors and architects (see classical sculpture), marble has become a cultural symbol of tradition and refined taste. Its extremely varied and colorful patterns make it a favorite decorative material, and it is often imitated in background patterns for computer displays, etc.

Jadwiga of Poland's sarcophagus by Antoni Madeyski, Wawel Cathedral, Cracow

Jadwiga of Poland’s sarcophagus by Antoni Madeyski, Wawel Cathedral, Cracow

Places named after the stone include Marblehead, Ohio; Marblehead, Massachusetts; Marble Arch, London; the Sea of Marmara; India’s Marble Rocks; and the towns of Marble, Minnesota; Marble, Colorado; Marble Falls, Texas, andMarble Hill, Manhattan, New York. The Elgin Marbles are marble sculptures from the Parthenon that are on display in the British Museum. They were brought to Britain by the Earl of Elgin.

Artificial Marble

Marble dust is combined with cement or synthetic resins to make reconstituted or cultured marble. The appearance of marble can be simulated with faux marbling, a painting technique that imitates the stone’s color patterns.

Source: Wikipedia

2. Lapis Lazuli

Lapis lazuli /ˈlæpɪs ləˈzl/ or /ˈlæʒl/ (sometimes abbreviated to lapis) is a deep blue semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense color.

Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan in its natural state

Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan in its natural state

Lapis lazuli was being mined in the Sar-i Sang mines and in other mines in the Badakhshan province in northeast Afghanistan as early as the 7th millennium BC,Lapis beads have been found at neolithic burials inMehrgarh, the Caucasus, and even as far from Afghanistan as Mauritania. It was used for the eyebrows on the funeral mask of King Tutankhamun (1341–1323 BC).

At the end of the Middle Ages, lapis lazuli began to be exported to Europe, where it was ground into powder and made into ultramarine, the finest and most expensive of all blue pigments. It was used by the most important artists of the Renaissance and Baroque, including Masaccio, Perugino, Titian and Vermeer, and was often reserved for the clothing of the central figure of the painting, especially the Virgin Mary.

Today mines in northeast Afghanistan are still the major source of lapis lazuli. Important amounts are also produced from mines west of Lake Baikal in Russia, and in the Andes mountains in Chile. Smaller quantities are mined in Italy, Mongolia, the United States and Canada


Lapis is the Latin word for “stone” and lazuli is the genitive form of the Medieval Latin lazulum, which is taken from the Arabic لازورد lāzaward, itself from the Persian لاژورد lāžaward, which is the name of the stone in Persian and also of a place where lapis lazuli was mined.

The name of the stone came to be associated with its color. The English word azure, French azur, the Italian azzurro, the Polish lazur, Romanian azur andazuriu, and the Portuguese and Spanish azul, Hungarian azúr all come from the name and color of lapis lazuli.

Science and Uses

A sample from the Sar-i Sang mine in Afghanistan, where lapis lazuli has been mined since the 7th Millennium BC.

A sample from the Sar-i Sang mine in Afghanistan, where lapis lazuli has been mined since the 7th Millennium BC.

A polished block of lapis lazuli

A polished block of lapis lazuli

Natural ultramarine pigment made from ground lapis lazuli. This was the most expensive blue pigment during the Renaissance, often reserved for depicting the robes of Angels or the Virgin Mary.

Natural ultramarine pigment made from ground lapis lazuli. This was the most expensive blue pigment during the Renaissance, often reserved for depicting the robes of Angels or the Virgin Mary.


Lapis lazuli is a rock whose most important mineral component is lazurite (25% to 40%), a feldspathoid silicate mineral with the formula (Na,Ca)8(AlSiO4)6(S,SO4,Cl)1-2. Most lapis lazuli also contains calcite (white), sodalite (blue), and pyrite (metallic yellow). Other possible constituents:augite; diopside; enstatite; mica; hauynite; hornblende, and nosean. Some lapis lazuli contains trace amounts of the sulfur-rich löllingite variety geyerite.

Lapis lazuli usually occurs in crystalline marble as a result of contact metamorphism.


The intense blue color is due to the presence of the S3 radical anion in the crystal. An electronic excitation of one electron from the highest doubly filledmolecular orbital (No. 24) into the lowest singly occupied orbital (No. 25) results in a very intense absorption line at λmax ~617 nm.


Lapis lazuli is found in limestone in the Kokcha River valley of Badakhshan province in northeastern Afghanistan, where the Sar-e-Sang mine deposits have been worked for more than 6,000 years. Afghanistan was the source of lapis for the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, as well as the later Greeks and Romans. Ancient Egyptians obtained this material through trade from Afghanistan. During the height of the Indus valley civilization about 2000 BC, the Harappan colony now known as Shortugai was established near the lapis mines.

In addition to the Afghan deposits, lapis is also extracted in the Andes (near Ovalle, Chile); and to the west of Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia, at the Tultui Lazurite deposit. It is mined in smaller amounts Angola; Argentina; Burma; Pakistan; Canada; Italy, India; and in the USA in California and Colorado.


Lapis lazuli is commercially synthesized or simulated by the Gilson process, which is used to make artificial ultramarine and hydrous zinc phosphates.[14] It may also be substituted by spinel or sodalite, or by dyed jasper or howlite.


Lapis takes an excellent polish and can be made into jewelry, carvings, boxes, mosaics, ornaments, and vases. It was also ground and processed to make thepigment ultramarine, widely used during the Renaissance in frescoes and oil painting. Its usage as a pigment in oil paint largely ended in the early 19th century when a chemically identical synthetic variety became available.

History and Art

A Mesopotamian lapis lazuli pendant circa 2900 BC.

A Mesopotamian lapis lazuli pendant circa 2900 BC.

A lapis lazuli bowl from Iran (End of 3rd, beginning 2nd millennium BC)

A lapis lazuli bowl from Iran (End of 3rd, beginning 2nd millennium BC)

Close-up of the lapis lazuli inlays in the 25th-century BC Statue of Ebih-Il

Close-up of the lapis lazuli inlays in the 25th-century BC Statue of Ebih-Il

In the funeral mask of Tutankhamun (1341-1323 BC), lapis lazuli was used for the eyebrows of the young Pharaoh.

In the funeral mask of Tutankhamun (1341-1323 BC), lapis lazuli was used for the eyebrows of the young Pharaoh.

An elephant carving on high-quality lapis lazuli, that includes gold-colored pyrite, is a rare example of Mughal inspired art. (length: 8 cm (3.1 in))

An elephant carving on high-quality lapis lazuli, that includes gold-colored pyrite, is a rare example of Mughal inspired art. (length: 8 cm (3.1 in))

Carved lapis lazuli mountain scene, from the Chinese Qing Dynasty (1644–1912).

Carved lapis lazuli mountain scene, from the Chinese Qing Dynasty (1644–1912).

Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665) by Johannes Vermeer is painted with ultramarine, a natural pigment made from lapis lazuli.

Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665) by Johannes Vermeer is painted with ultramarine, a natural pigment made from lapis lazuli.

A lapis lazuli urn two meters high from the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia (19th century).

A lapis lazuli urn two meters high from the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia (19th century).

In the Ancient World

Lapis lazuli has been mined in Afghanistan and exported to the Mediterranean world and South Asia since the Neolithic age. Lapis lazuli beads have been found at Mehrgarh, a neolithic site near Quetta in Pakistan, on the ancient trade route between Afghanistan and the Indus Valley, dating to the 7th millennium. Quantities of these beads have also been found at 4th millennium BC settlements in Northern Mesopotamia, and at the Bronze Age site of Shahr-e Sukhteh in southeast Iran (3rd millennium BC). A dagger handle with a lapis handle, a bowl inlaid with lapis, and amulets, beads, and inlays representing eyebrows and beards, were found in the Royal Tombs of the Sumerian city-state of Ur from the 3rd Millennium BC.

Lapis was also used in ancient Mesopotamia by the Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians for seals and jewelry. In the Mesopotamian poem, the Epic of Gilgamesh (17th-18th Century BC); one of the oldest known works of literature, lapis lazuli is mentioned several times. The Statue of Ebih-Il, a 3rd millennium BC statue found in the ancient city-state of Mari in modern-day Syria, now in the Louvre, uses lapis lazuli inlays for the irises of the eyes.

Lapis lazuli also made its way across the Mediterranean to ancient Egypt, where it was a favorite stone for amulets and ornaments such as scarabs; Lapis jewelry has been found at excavations of the Predynastic Egyptian site Naqada (3300–3100 BC). At Karnak, the relief carvings of Thutmose III (1479-1429 BC) show fragments and barrel-shaped pieces lapis lazuli being delivered to him as tribute. Powdered lapis was used as eyeshadow by Cleopatra.

In late classical times and as late as the Middle Ages, lapis lazuli was often called sapphire (sapphirus in Latin, sappir in Hebrew), though it had little to do with the stone today known as the blue corundum variety sapphire. In his book on stones, the Greek scientist Theophrastus described “the sapphirus, which is speckled with gold,” a description which matches lapis lazuli.

There are many references to sapphires in the Old Testament, but most scholars agree that, since sapphires were not known before the Roman Empire, they most likely are references to lapis lazuli. For instance, Exodus 24:10: “As they saw the God of Israel, and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone..” (KJV). The term used in the Latin Vulgate Bible in this citation is “lapidus sapphiri,” the term for lapis lazuli. In modern translations of the Bible, such as the New Living Translation Second Edition, references a surface like brilliant blue lapis lazuli as clear as the sky as being under God’s feet.

Source: Wikipedia

3. Agate

Agate /ˈæɡət/ is a cryptocrystalline variety of silica, chiefly chalcedony, characterised by its fineness of grain and brightness of color. Although agates may be found in various kinds of rock, they are classically associated with volcanic rocks and can be common in certain metamorphic rocks.

Banded agate (agate-like onyx); the specimen is 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide

Banded agate (agate-like onyx); the specimen is 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide

Etymology and History

The stone was given its name by Theophrastus, a Greek philosopher and naturalist, who discovered the stone along the shore line of the river Achates (Greek: Ἀχάτης) sometime between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.Colorful agates and other chalcedonies were obtained over 3,000 years ago from the Achates River, now calledDirillo, in Sicily.

Ancient Use

Agate is one of the most common materials used in the art of hardstone carving, and has been recovered at a number of ancient sites, indicating its widespread use in the ancient world; for example, archaeological recovery at the Knossos site on Crete illustrates its role in Bronze Age Minoan culture.

Formation and Characteristics

Botswana agate

Botswana agate

Most agates occur as nodules in volcanic rocks or ancient lavas, in former cavities produced by volatiles in the original molten mass, which were then filled, wholly or partially, by siliceous matter deposited in regular layers upon the walls. Agate has also been known to fill veins or cracks in volcanic or altered rock underlain by granitic intrusive masses. Such agates, when cut transversely, exhibit a succession of parallel lines, often of extreme tenuity, giving a banded appearance to the section. Such stones are known as banded agate, riband agate andstriped agate.

In the formation of an ordinary agate, it is probable that waters containing silica in solution—derived, perhaps, from the decomposition of some of the silicates in the lava itself—percolated through the rock and deposited a siliceous coating on the interior of the vesicles. Variations in the character of the solution or in the conditions of deposition may cause a corresponding variation in the successive layers, so that bands of chalcedony often alternate with layers of crystalline quartz. Several vapour-vesicles may unite while the rock is still viscous, and thus form a large cavity which may become the home of an agate of exceptional size; thus a Brazilian geode lined with amethyst and weighing 35 tons was exhibited at the Düsseldorf Exhibition of 1902. Perhaps the most comprehensive review of agate chemistry is a recent text by Moxon cited below.

The first deposit on the wall of a cavity, forming the “skin” of the agate, is generally a dark greenish mineral substance, like celadonite, delessite or “green earth”, which are rich in iron probably derived from the decomposition of the augite in the enclosing volcanic rock. This green silicate may give rise by alteration to a brown iron oxide (limonite), producing a rusty appearance on the outside of the agate-nodule. The outer surface of an agate, freed from its matrix, is often pitted and rough, apparently in consequence of the removal of the original coating. The first layer spread over the wall of the cavity has been called the “priming”, and upon this base, zeolitic minerals may be deposited.

Many agates are hollow, since deposition has not proceeded far enough to fill the cavity, and in such cases the last deposit commonly consists of drusy quartz, sometimes amethystine, having the apices of the crystals directed towards the free space so as to form a crystal-lined cavity or geode.

When the matrix in which the agates are embedded disintegrates, they are set free. The agates are extremely resistant to weathering and remain as nodules in the soil, or are deposited as gravel in streams and along shorelines.

Types of Agate

Agatized Coral

Agatized Coral

A Mexican agate, showing only a single eye, has received the name of cyclops agate. Included matter of a green, golden, red, black or other color or combinations embedded in the chalcedony and disposed in filaments and other forms suggestive of vegetable growth, gives rise to dendritic or moss agate. Dendritic agates have fern like patterns in them formed due to the presence of manganese and iron oxides. Other types of included matter deposited during agate-building include sagenitic growths (radial mineral crystals) and chunks of entrapped detritus (such as sand, ash, or mud). Occasionally agate fills a void left by decomposed vegetative material such as a tree limb or root and is called limb cast agate due to its appearance. Enhydro agate contains tiny inclusions of water, sometimes with air bubbles.

Turritella agate is formed from silicified fossil Elimia tenera (erroneously considered Turritella) shells. E. tenera are spiral freshwater gastropodshaving elongated, spiral shells composed of many whorls. Similarly, coral, petrified wood and other organic remains or porous rocks can also become agatized. Agatized coral is often referred to as Petoskey stone or agate.

“Turritella agate” (Elimia tenera) from Green River Formation, Wyoming

Greek agate is a name given to pale white to tan colored agate found in Sicily back to 400 B.C. The Greeks used it for making jewelry and beads. Even though the stone had been around centuries and was known to both the Sumerians and the Egyptians, both who used the gem for decoration and for playing important parts in their religious ceremonies, any agate of this color from Sicily, once an ancient Greek colony, is called Greek agate.

Another type of agate is Brazilian agate, which is found as sizable geodes of layered nodules. These occur in brownish tones interlayered with white and gray. Quartz forms within these nodules, creating a striking specimen when cut opposite the layered growth axis. It is often dyed in various colors for ornamental purposes.

Certain stones, when examined in thin sections by transmitted light, show a diffraction spectrum due to the extreme delicacy of the successive bands, whence they are termed rainbow agates. Often agate coexists with layers or masses of opal, jasper or crystalline quartz due to ambient variations during the formation process.

Other forms of agate include Lake Superior agate; carnelian agate (has reddish hues); Botswana agate; blue lace agate; plume agate; condor agate, tube agate (with visible flow channels or pinhole-sized “tubes”); fortification agate (with contrasting concentric banding reminiscent of defensive ditches and walls around ancient forts); fire agate (showing internal flash or “fire”, the result of a layer of clear agate over a layer of hydrothermally deposited hematite); and Mexican crazy-lace agate, which often exhibits a brightly colored, complexly banded pattern (also called Rodeo Agate and Rosetta Stone depending on who owned the mine at the time).

Uses in Industry and Art

541px-Byzantine_-_The_-Rubens_Vase-_-_Walters_42562Industry uses agates chiefly to make ornaments such as pins, brooches or other types of jewelry, paper knives, inkstands, marbles and seals. Agate is also still used today for decorative displays, cabochons, beads, carvings and Intarsia art as well as face-polished and tumble-polished specimens of varying size and origin. Because of its hardness and ability to resist acids, agate is used to make mortars and pestles to crush and mix chemicals. Because of the high polish possible with agate it has been used for centuries for leather burnishing tools. Idar-Oberstein was one of the centers which made use of agate on an industrial scale. Where in the beginning locally found agates were used to make all types of objects for the European market, this became a globalized business around the turn of the 20th century: Idar-Oberstein imported large quantities of agate from Brazil, as ship’s ballast. Making use of a variety of proprietary chemical processes, they produced colored beads that were sold around the globe. Agates have long been used in arts and crafts. The sanctuary of a Presbyterian church in Yachats, Oregon, has six windows with panes made of agates collected from the local beaches.

Health Impact

A 15 pound (6.8 kg) tumbler barrel full of glistening tumble-polished agate and jasper.

A 15 pound (6.8 kg) tumbler barrel full of glistening tumble-polished agate and jasper.

Respiratory diseases such as Silicosis and higher incidence of Tuberculosis among workers involved in the agate industry has been reported from India and China.

Source: Wikipedia

4. Amethyst

Amethyst is a violet variety of quartz often used in jewelry. The name comes from the Ancient Greek a- (“not”) and μέθυστος methustos (“intoxicated”), a reference to the belief that the stone protected its owner fromdrunkenness. The ancient Greeks and Romans wore amethyst and made drinking vessels of it in the belief that it would prevent intoxication. It is one of several forms of quartz. Amethyst is a semiprecious stone and is the traditional birthstone for February.

Amethyst cluster from Magaliesburg, South Africa.

Amethyst cluster from Magaliesburg, South Africa.


Amethyst is a purple variety of quartz (SiO2) and owes its violet color to irradiation, iron impurities (in some cases in conjunction with transition element impurities), and the presence of trace elements, which result in complex crystal lattice substitutions. The hardness of the mineral is the same as quartz, thus it is suitable for use in jewelry.

Hue and Tone

Faceted amethyst

Faceted amethyst

Amethyst occurs in primary hues from a light pinkish violet to a deep purple. Amethyst may exhibit one or both secondary hues, red and blue. The best varieties of Amethysts can be found in Siberia, Sri Lanka, Brazil and the far East. The ideal grade is called “Deep Siberian” and has a primary purple hue of around 75–80%, with 15–20% blue and (depending on the light source) red secondary hues. Green quartz is sometimes incorrectly called green amethyst, which is a misnomer and not an appropriate name for the material, the proper terminology being Prasiolite. Other names for green quartz are vermarine or lime citrine.

Of very variable intensity, the color of amethyst is often laid out in stripes parallel to the final faces of the crystal. One aspect in the art of lapidaryinvolves correctly cutting the stone to place the color in a way that makes the tone of the finished gem homogeneous. Often, the fact that sometimes only a thin surface layer of violet color is present in the stone or that the color is not homogeneous makes for a difficult cutting.

Emerald cut amethyst

Emerald cut amethyst

The color of amethyst has been demonstrated to result from substitution by irradiation of trivalent iron (Fe3+) for silicon in the structure, in the presence of trace elements of large ionic radius, and, to a certain extent, the amethyst color can naturally result from displacement of transition elements even if the iron concentration is low. Natural amethyst is dichroic in reddish violet and bluish violet, but when heated, turns yellow-orange, yellow-brown, or dark brownish and may resemble citrine, but loses its dichroism, unlike genuine citrine. When partially heated, amethyst can result in ametrine.

Amethyst can fade in tone if overexposed to light sources and can be artificially darkened with adequate irradiation.


Roman intaglio engraved gem of Caracalla in amethyst, once in the Treasury of Sainte-Chapelle.

Roman intaglio engraved gem of Caracalla in amethyst, once in the Treasury of Sainte-Chapelle.

Amethyst was used as a gemstone by the ancient Egyptians and was largely employed in antiquity for intaglio engraved gems.

The Greeks believed amethyst gems could prevent intoxication, while medieval European soldiers wore amethyst amulets as protection in battle in the belief that amethysts heal people and keep them cool-headed. Beads of amethyst were found in Anglo-Saxon graves in England.

A large geode, or “amethyst-grotto”, from near Santa Cruz in southern Brazil was presented at the 1902 exhibition inDüsseldorf, Germany.

In the 19th century, the color of amethyst was attributed to the presence of manganese. However, since it is capable of being greatly altered and even discharged by heat, the color was believed by some authorities to be from an organic source. Ferric thiocyanate has been suggested, and sulfur was said to have been detected in the mineral.

Synthetic Amethyst

Synthetic amethyst is produced by gamma-ray, x-ray or electron beam irradiation of clear quartz which has been first doped with ferric impurities. On exposure to heat, the irradiation effects can be partially cancelled and amethyst generally becomes yellow or even green, and much of the citrine, cairngorm, or yellow quartz of jewelry is said to be merely “burnt amethyst”.

Synthetic amethyst is made to imitate the best quality amethyst. Its chemical and physical properties are so similar to that of natural amethyst that it can not be differentiated with absolute certainty without advanced gemnological testing (which is often cost-prohibitive). There is one test based on “Brazil law twinning” (a form of quartz twinning where right and left hand quartz structures are combined in a single crystal) which can be used to identify synthetic amethyst rather easily. It is possible to synthesize twinned amethyst, but this type is not available in large quantities in the market.


The Greek word “amethystos” may be translated as “not drunken”, from Greek a-, “not” + methustos, “intoxicated”. Amethyst was considered to be a strong antidote against drunkenness, which is why wine goblets were often carved from it. In his poem “L’Amethyste, ou les Amours de Bacchus et d’Amethyste” (Amethyst or the loves of Bacchus and Amethyste), the French poet Remy Belleau (1528–1577) invented a myth in which Bacchus, the god of intoxication, of wine, and grapes was pursuing a maiden named Amethyste, who refused his affections. Amethyste prayed to the gods to remain chaste, a prayer which the chaste goddess Diana answered, transforming her into a white stone. Humbled by Amethyste’s desire to remain chaste, Bacchus poured wine over the stone as an offering, dyeing the crystals purple.

Variations of the story include that Dionysus had been insulted by a mortal and swore to slay the next mortal who crossed his path, creating fierce tigers to carry out his wrath. The mortal turned out to be a beautiful young woman, Amethystos, who was on her way to pay tribute to Artemis. Her life was spared by Artemis, who transformed the maiden into a statue of pure crystalline quartz to protect her from the brutal claws. Dionysus wept tears of wine in remorse for his action at the sight of the beautiful statue. The god’s tears then stained the quartz purple.

This myth and its variations are not found in classical sources. Although the titan Rhea does present Dionysus with an amethyst stone to preserve the wine-drinker’s sanity in historical text.

Geographic Distribution

Amethyst is produced in abundance from the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil where it occurs in large geodes within volcanic rocks. Many of the hollow agates of southwestern Brazil and Uruguay contain a crop of amethyst crystals in the interior. Artigas, Uruguay and neighboring Brazilian state Rio Grande do Sul are large world producers exceeding in quantity Minas Gerais, as well as Mato Grosso, Espirito Santo, Bahia, and Ceará states, all amethyst producers of importance in Brazil.

An amethyst geode that formed when large crystals grew in open spaces inside the rock.

An amethyst geode that formed when large crystals grew in open spaces inside the rock.

It is also found and mined in South Korea. The largest opencast amethyst vein in the world is in Maissau, Lower Austria. Much fine amethyst comes fromRussia, especially from near Mursinka in the Ekaterinburg district, where it occurs in drusy cavities in granitic rocks. Many localities in south India yield amethyst. One of the largest global amethyst producers is Zambia in southern Africa with an annual production of about 1000 tonnes.

Amethyst occurs at many localities in the United States. Among these may be mentioned: the Mazatzal Mountain region in Gila and Maricopa Counties,Arizona; Red Feather Lakes, near Ft Collins, Colorado; Amethyst Mountain, Texas; Yellowstone National Park; Delaware County, Pennsylvania; Haywood County, North Carolina; Deer Hill and Stow, Maine and in the Lake Superior region of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Amethyst is relatively common in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia. The largest amethyst mine in North America is located in Thunder Bay, Ontario.


Up until the 18th century, amethyst was included in the cardinal, or most valuable, gemstones (along with diamond, sapphire, ruby, and emerald). However, since the discovery of extensive deposits in locations such as Brazil, it has lost most of its value.

Collectors look for depth of color, possibly with red flashes if cut conventionally.As amethyst is readily available in large structures the value of the gem is not primarily defined by carat weight; this is different to most gemstones where the carat weight exponentially increases the value of the stone. The biggest factor in the value of amethyst is the colour displayed.

The highest grade amethyst (called “Deep Russian”) is exceptionally rare and therefore, when one is found, its value is dependent on the demand of collectors. It is, however, still orders of magnitude lower than the highest grade sapphires or rubies (padparadscha sapphire or “pigeon’s blood” ruby).

 5. Jasper

Jasper, a form of chalcedony, is an opaque, impure variety of silica, usually red, yellow, brown or green in color; and rarely blue. The common red color is due to iron(III) inclusions in what is basically a chert. The mineral breaks with a smooth surface, and is used for ornamentation or as a gemstone. It can be highly polished and is used for vases,seals, and snuff boxes. The specific gravity of jasper is typically 2.5 to 2.9.[3] Along with Heliotrope (bloodstone), jasper is one of the traditional birthstones for March. Jaspilite is a banded iron formation rock that often has distinctive bands of jasper.

Jasper outcrop, Bucegi Mountains, Romania

Jasper outcrop, Bucegi Mountains, Romania

Etymology and History

Moveable ring from 664 to 322 BC (Late Period). Green jasper and gold.[4] The Walters Art Museum

Moveable ring from 664 to 322 BC (Late Period). Green jasper and gold.[4] The Walters Art Museum

The name means “spotted or speckled stone”, and is derived via Old French jaspre (variant of Anglo-Norman jaspe) and Latiniaspidem (nom. iaspis)) from Greek ἴασπις iaspis, (feminine noun) from a Semitic language (cf. Hebrew יושפה yushphah,Akkadian yashupu).

Green jasper was used to make bow drills in Mehrgarh between 4th and 5th millennium BC. Jasper is known to have been a favorite gem in the ancient world; its name can be traced back in Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Assyrian, Greek and Latin. OnMinoan Crete, jasper was carved to produce seals circa 1800 BC, as evidenced by archaeological recoveries at the palace ofKnossos.

Although the term jasper is now restricted to opaque quartz, the ancient iaspis was a stone of considerable translucency. The jasper of antiquity was in many cases distinctly green, for it is often compared to the emerald and other green objects. Jasper is referred to in the Niebelungenlied as being clear and green. Probably the jasper of the ancients included stones which would now be classed as chalcedony, and the emerald-like jasper may have been akin to the modern chrysoprase. The Hebrew word yushphah may have designated a green jasper. Flinders Petrie suggested that the odem, the first stone on the High Priest’s breastplate, was a red jasper, whilst tarshish, the tenth stone, may have been a yellow jasper.


Goat-headed basket carved from red jasper. Russian, late 19th century, Kremlin Armoury

Goat-headed basket carved from red jasper. Russian, late 19th century, Kremlin Armoury

Jasper is an opaque rock of virtually any color stemming from the mineral content of the original sediments or ash. Patterns arise during the consolidation process forming flow and depositional patterns in the original silica richsediment or volcanic ash. Hydrothermal circulation is generally thought to be required in the formation of jasper.

Jasper can be modified by the diffusion of minerals along discontinuities providing the appearance of vegetative growth, i.e., dendritic. The original materials are often fractured and/or distorted, after deposition, into myriad beautiful patterns which are to be later filled with other colorful minerals. Weathering, with time, will create intensely colored superficial rinds.

The classification and naming of jasper presents a challenge. Terms attributed to various well-defined materials includes the geographic locality where it is found, sometimes quite restricted such as “Bruneau” (a canyon) and “Lahontan” (a lake), rivers and even individual mountains, many are fanciful such as “Forest Fire” or “Rainbow”, while others are descriptive such as “Autumn”, “Porcelain” or “Dalmatian”. A few are designated by the country of origin such as a Brown Egyptian or Red African leaving tremendous latitude as to what is called what.

Picture jaspers exhibit combinations of patterns (such as banding from flow or depositional patterns (from water or wind), dendritic or color variations) resulting in what appear to be scenes or images, on a cut section. Diffusion from a center produces a distinctive orbicular appearance, i.e., Leopard Skin Jasper, or linear banding from a fracture as seen in Leisegang Jasper. Healed, fragmented rock produces brecciated (broken) jasper. Examples of this can be seen at Llanddwyn Island in Wales.

The term basanite has occasionally been used to refer to a variety of jasper, for example a black flinty or cherty jasper found in several New England states of the USA. Such varieties of jasper are also informally known as Lydian stone or lydite and have been used as touchstones in testing the purity of precious metal alloys.


Brecciated red jasper tumbled smooth, 1 in (2.5 cm)

Brecciated red jasper tumbled smooth, 1 in (2.5 cm)

Brecciated yellow jasper, cut and oiled

Brecciated yellow jasper, cut and oiled

Dalmatian jasper, Pune, India

Dalmatian jasper, Pune, India

Green jasper rough, Montjuïc, Barcelona

Green jasper rough, Montjuïc, Barcelona

Orbicular jasper, 5 cm (2.0 in), Madagascar

Orbicular jasper, 5 cm (2.0 in), Madagascar

Picture jasper, Bruneau, Idaho. A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum

Picture jasper, Bruneau, Idaho. A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum

Source: Wikipedia

6. Carnelian

Polished carnelian/sard pebbles. Scale is in millimeters.

Polished carnelian/sard pebbles. Scale is in millimeters.

Carnelian (also spelled cornelian) is a brownish-red mineral which is commonly used as a semi-precious gemstone. Similar to carnelian is sard, which is generally harder and darker (the difference is not rigidly defined, and the two names are often used interchangeably). Both carnelian and sard are varieties of the silica mineral chalcedony colored by impurities of iron oxide. The color can vary greatly, ranging from pale orange to an intense almost-black coloration. It is most commonly found in Brazil, India, Siberia, and Germany.


Carnelian intaglio with a Ptolemaic queen, Hellenistic artwork, Cabinet des Médailles

Carnelian intaglio with a Ptolemaic queen, Hellenistic artwork, Cabinet des Médailles

The bow drill was used to drill holes into carnelian in Mehrgarh between 4th-5th millennium BC. Carnelian was recovered from Bronze AgeMinoan layers at Knossos on Crete in a form that demonstrated its use in decorative arts; this use dates to approximately 1800 BC. Carnelian was used widely during Roman times to make engraved gems for signet or seal rings for imprinting a seal with wax on correspondence or other important documents. Hot wax does not stick to carnelian. Sard was used for Assyrian cylinder seals, Egyptian andPhoenician scarabs, and early Greek and Etruscan gems. TheHebrew odem (translated sardius), the first stone in the High Priest’s breastplate, was a red stone, probably sard but perhaps red jasper.


Polish signet ring in light-orange Carnelian intaglio showing Korwin coat of arms

Polish signet ring in light-orange Carnelian intaglio showing Korwin coat of arms

Necklace with gold beads and carnelian beads, Cypriot artwork with Mycenaean inspiration, ca. 1400–1200 BC. From Enkomi. British Museum

Necklace with gold beads and carnelian beads, Cypriot artwork with Mycenaean inspiration, ca. 1400–1200 BC. From Enkomi. British Museum

Although now the more common term, “carnelian” is a 16th-century corruption of the 14th-century word “cornelian” (and its associated orthographies corneline and cornalyn). Cornelian, cognate with similar words in several Romance languages, comes from the Mediaeval Latin corneolus, itself derived from the Latin wordcornum, the cornel cherry,whose translucent red fruits resemble the stone. TheOxford English Dictionary calls “carnelian” a perversion of “cornelian”, by subsequent analogy with the Latin word caro, carnis, flesh. According to Pliny the Elder, sard derives its name from the city of Sardis in Lydia, but it more likely comes from the Persian word سرد sered, meaning yellowish-red.

Distinction between Carnelian and Sard

This Egyptian necklace consists of biconical carnelian beads, beads of rolled strips of sheet gold, and ten amulets.[6] The Walters Art Museum.

This Egyptian necklace consists of biconical carnelian beads, beads of rolled strips of sheet gold, and ten amulets.[6] The Walters Art Museum.

The names carnelian and sard are often used interchangeably, but they can also be used to describe distinct subvarieties. The general differences are as follows:

  Carnelian Sard
Color Lighter, with shades ranging from orange to reddish-brown. Darker, with shades ranging from a deep reddish-brown to almost black.
Hardness Softer Harder and tougher.
Fracture Uneven, splintery and conchoidal Like carnelian, but duller and more hackly (having the appearance of something that has been hacked, i.e. jagged).

All of these properties vary across a continuum, and so the boundary between carnelian and sard is inevitably blurred.

Source: Wikipedia

7. Serpentine Group

The serpentine group are greenish, brownish, or spotted minerals commonly found in serpentinite rocks. They are used as a source of magnesium and asbestos, and as a decorative stone. The name is thought to come from the greenish color being that of a serpent.



The serpentine group describes a group of common rock-forming hydrous magnesium iron phyllosilicate ((Mg,Fe)3Si2O5(OH)4) minerals; they may contain minor amounts of other elements including chromium, manganese,cobalt or nickel. In mineralogy and gemology, serpentine may refer to any of 20 varieties belonging to the serpentine group. Owing to admixture, these varieties are not always easy to individualize, and distinctions are not usually made. There are three important mineral polymorphs of serpentine: antigorite, chrysotile and lizardite.

Dish of serpentine with inlaid gold fish, 1st century BCE or CE, with 9th century mounts

Dish of serpentine with inlaid gold fish, 1st century BCE or CE, with 9th century mounts

The chrysotile group of minerals are polymorphous, meaning that they have the same chemical formulae, but the molecules are arranged into different structures, or crystal lattices. Chrysotile with a fiberous habit is one type ofasbestos. Other minerals in the chrysotile group may have a platy habit.

Many types of serpentine have been used for jewellery and hardstone carving, sometimes under the name false jade or Teton jade.


Their olive green color and smooth or scaly appearance is the basis of the name from the Latin serpentinus, meaning “serpent rock,” according to Best (2003). They have their origins in metamorphic alterations of peridotite andpyroxene. Serpentines may also pseudomorphously replace other magnesium silicates. Alterations may be incomplete, causing physical properties of serpentines to vary widely. Where they form a significant part of the land surface, the soil is unusually high in clay.

Necklace and earring set made from semiprecious stones. The spherical green beads are Russian serpentine. Also used are jasper (red) and fluorite (blue)

Necklace and earring set made from semiprecious stones. The spherical green beads are Russian serpentine. Also used are jasper (red) and fluorite (blue)

Antigorite is the polymorph of serpentine that most commonly forms during metamorphism of wet ultramafic rocks and is stable at the highest temperatures—to over 600 °C at depths of 60 km or so. In contrast, lizardite and chrysotile typically form near the Earth’s surface and break down at relatively low temperatures, probably well below 400 °C. It has been suggested that chrysotile is never stable relative to either of the other two serpentine polymorphs.

Samples of the oceanic crust and uppermost mantle from ocean basins document that ultramafic rocks there commonly contain abundant serpentine. Antigorite contains water in its structure, about 13 percent by weight. Hence, antigorite may play an important role in the transport of water into the earth in subduction zones and in the subsequent release of water to create magmas in island arcs, and some of the water may be carried to yet greater depths.

Soils derived from serpentine are toxic to many plants, because of high levels of nickel, chromium, and cobalt; growth of many plants is also inhibited by low levels of potassium and phosphorus and a low ratio of calcium/magnesium. The flora is generally very distinctive, with specialised, slow-growing species. Areas of serpentine-derived soil will show as strips ofshrubland and open, scattered small trees (often conifers) within otherwise forested areas; these areas are called serpentine barrens.

Most serpentines are opaque to translucent, light (specific gravity between 2.2–2.9), soft (hardness 2.5–4), infusible and susceptible to acids. All are microcrystalline and massive in habit, never being found as single crystals. Luster may be vitreous, greasy or silky. Colours range from white to grey, yellow to green, and brown to black, and are often splotchy or veined. Many are intergrown with other minerals, such as calcite and dolomite. Occurrence is worldwide; New Caledonia, Canada (Quebec), USA (northernCalifornia, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland and southern Pennsylvania), Afghanistan, Britain (Cornwall and Ireland), Greece(Thessaly), China, Ural Mountains (Russia), France, Korea, Austria (Styria and Carinthia), India (Assam, and Manipur), Myanmar (Burma), New Zealand,Norway and Italy are notable localities.

Serpentines find use in industry for a number of purposes, such as railway ballasts, building materials, and the asbestiform types find use as thermal and electrical insulation (chrysotile asbestos). The asbestos content can be released to the air when serpentine is excavated and if it is used as a road surface, forming a long term health hazard by breathing. Asbestos from serpentine can also appear at low levels in water supplies through normal weathering processes, but there is as yet no identified health hazard associated with use or ingestion. In its natural state, some forms of serpentine react with carbon dioxide and re-release oxygen into the atmosphere.

The more attractive and durable varieties (all of antigorite) are termed “noble” or “precious” serpentine and are used extensively as gems and in ornamental carvings. The town of Bhera in the historic Punjab province of the Indian subcontinent was known for centuries for finishing a relatively pure form of green serpentine obtained from quarries in Afghanistan into lapidary work, cups, ornamental sword hilts, and dagger handles. This high-grade serpentine ore was known as sang-i-yashm or to the English, false jade, and was used for generations by Indian craftsmen for lapidary work. It is easily carved, taking a good polish, and is said to have a pleasingly greasy feel. Less valuable serpentine ores of varying hardness and clarity are also sometimes dyed to imitatejade. Misleading synonyms for this material include “Suzhou jade”, “Styrian jade”, and “New jade”.

New Caledonian serpentine is particularly rich in nickel. The Māori of New Zealand once carved beautiful objects from local serpentine, which they called tangiwai, meaning “tears”.

The lapis atracius of the Romans, now known as verde antique, or verde antico, is a serpentinite brecciapopular as a decorative facing stone. In classical times it was mined at Casambala, Thessaly, Greece. Serpentinite marbles are also widely used: Green Connemara marble (or Irish green marble) fromConnemara, Ireland (and many other sources), and red Rosso di Levanto marble from Italy. Use is limited to indoor settings as serpentinites do not weather well.

Polished slab of bowenite serpentine, a variety of antigorite. Typical cloudy patches and veining are apparent.

Polished slab of bowenite serpentine, a variety of antigorite. Typical cloudy patches and veining are apparent.


Lamellated antigorite occurs in tough, pleated masses. It is usually dark green in colour, but may also be yellowish, gray, brown or black. It has a hardness of 3.5–4 and its lustre is greasy. The monoclinic crystals show micaceous cleavage and fuse with difficulty. Antigorite is named after its type locality, the Geisspfad serpentinite, Valle Antigorio in border region Italy/ Switzerland.

Bowenite is an especially hard serpentine (5.5) of a light to dark apple green colour, often mottled with cloudy white patches and darker veining. It is the serpentine most frequently encountered in carving and jewellery. The name retinalite is sometimes applied to yellow bowenite. The New Zealand material is called tangiwai.

Although not an official species, bowenite is the state mineral of Rhode Island: this is also the variety’s type locality. A bowenite cabochon featured as part of the “Our Mineral Heritage Brooch”, was presented to First Lady Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson in 1967.

Williamsite is a local varietal name for antigorite that is oil-green with black crystals of chromite or magnetite often included. Somewhat resembling fine jade, williamsite is cut into cabochons and beads. It is found mainly in Maryland and Pennsylvania, USA.

Gymnite is an amorphous form of antigorite.] It was originally found in the Bare Hills, Maryland, and is named from the Greek, gymnos meaning bare or naked.

State Emblem

In 1965 the California Legislature designated serpentine (the mineral) as “the official State Rock and lithologic emblem.”

Source: Wikipedia

8. Aventurine

Aventurine is a form of quartz, characterised by its translucency and the presence of platy mineral inclusionsthat give a shimmering or glistening effect termed aventurescence.

Aventurine is used for a number of applications, including landscape stone, building stone, aquaria, monuments, and jewelry. (Unknown scale)

Aventurine is used for a number of applications, including landscape stone, building stone, aquaria, monuments, and jewelry. (Unknown scale)

The most common colour of aventurine is green, but it may also be orange, brown, yellow, blue, or gray. Chrome-bearing fuchsite (a variety of muscovite mica) is the classic inclusion, and gives a silvery green or blue sheen. Oranges and browns are attributed to hematite or goethite. Because aventurine is a rock, its physical properties vary: its specific gravity may lie between 2.64-2.69 and its hardness is somewhat lower than single-crystal quartz at around 6.5.

Aventurine feldspar or sunstone can be confused with orange and red aventurine quartzite, although the former is generally of a higher transparency. Aventurine is often banded and an overabundance of fuchsite may render it opaque, in which case it may be mistaken for malachite at first glance.

Aventurine (unknown scale)

Aventurine (unknown scale)

The name aventurine derives from the Italian “a ventura” meaning “by chance”. This is an allusion to the lucky discovery of aventurine glass or goldstone at some point in the 18th century. Although it was known first, goldstone is now a common imitation of aventurine and sunstone. Goldstone is distinguished visually from the latter two minerals by its coarse flecks of copper, dispersed within the glass in an unnaturally uniform manner. It is usually a golden brown, but may also be found in blue or green.

The majority of green and blue-green aventurine originates in India (particularly in the vicinity of Mysore and Madras) where it is employed by prolific artisans. Creamy white, gray and orange material is found in Chile, Spain and Russia. Most material is carved into beads and figurines with only the finer examples fashioned into cabochons, later being set into jewellery.

Source: Wikipedia

9. Sodalite

Sodalite is a rich royal blue mineral widely enjoyed as an ornamental gemstone. Although massive sodalite samples are opaque, crystals are usually transparent to translucent. Sodalite is a member of the sodalite group with hauyne, nosean, lazurite and tugtupite.

A sample of sodalite

A sample of sodalite

Discovered in 1811 in the Ilimaussaq intrusive complex in Greenland, sodalite did not become important as an ornamental stone until 1891 when vast deposits of fine material were discovered in Ontario, Canada.


A light, relatively hard yet fragile mineral, sodalite is named after itssodium content; in mineralogy it may be classed as a feldspathoid. Well known for its blue color, sodalite may also be grey, yellow, green, or pink and is often mottled with white veins or patches. The more uniformly blue material is used in jewellery, where it is fashioned into cabochons andbeads. Lesser material is more often seen as facing or inlay in various applications.

A sample of sodalite-carbonate pegmatite from Bolivia, with a polished rock surface.

A sample of sodalite-carbonate pegmatite from Bolivia, with a polished rock surface.

Although somewhat similar to lazurite and lapis lazuli, sodalite rarely contains pyrite (a common inclusion in lapis) and its blue color is more like traditional royal blue rather than ultramarine. It is further distinguished from similar minerals by its white (rather than blue) streak. Sodalite’s six directions of poor cleavage may be seen as incipient cracks running through the stone.


Hackmanite dodecahedron from the Koksha Valley, Afghanistan

Hackmanite dodecahedron from the Koksha Valley, Afghanistan

Hackmanite is an important variety of sodalite exhibiting tenebrescence. When hackmanite from Mont Saint-Hilaire (Quebec) or Ilímaussaq (Greenland) is freshly quarried, it is generally pale to deep violet but the colour fades quickly to greyish or greenish white. Conversely, hackmanite from Afghanistan and the Myanmar Republic (Burma) starts off creamy white but develops a violet to pink-red colour in sunlight. If left in a dark environment for some time, the violet will fade again. Tenebrescence is accelerated by the use of longwave or, particularly, shortwave ultraviolet light. Much sodalite will also fluoresce a patchy orange under UV light.


Sodalite was first described in 1811 for the occurrence in its type locality in the Ilimaussaq complex, Narsaq,West Greenland.

Occurring typically in massive form, sodalite is found as vein fillings in plutonic igneous rocks such as nepheline syenites. It is associated with other minerals typical of undersaturated environments, namely leucite, cancriniteand natrolite. Other associated minerals include nepheline, titanian andradite, aegirine, microcline, sanidine,albite, calcite, fluorite, ankerite and baryte.

Significant deposits of fine material are restricted to but a few locales: Bancroft, Ontario, and Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, in Canada; and Litchfield, Maine, and Magnet Cove, Arkansas, in the USA. The Ice River complex, near Golden, British Columbia, contains sodalite. Smaller deposits are found in South America (Brazil and Bolivia),Portugal, Romania, Burma and Russia. Hackmanite is found principally in Mont-Saint-Hilaire and Greenland.

Euhedral, transparent crystals are found in northern Namibia and in the lavas of Vesuvius, Italy.

Source: Wikipedia