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Key Buildings from Prehistory to the Present by Andrew Ballantyne

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Forbidden City

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Beijing, China; 1406–20

It seems implausible that a building complex as large as the Forbidden City took only 15 years to construct, without the help of industrial machinery and earth-moving equipment – until it becomes clear that about one million people were involved in the enterprise. It is also hard to imagine how it was possible to unite a million workers to produce a set of buildings reflecting a unified vision. Evidently it was done, as the structures themselves bear witness. China’s great power rests in its ability to harness a collective will in order to accomplish things that would be unimaginable for an individual and ...

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