The Forbidden City was initiated by the Ming Dynasty’s founding emperor, Zhu Di, during his reign. Construction began in the fourth year of the Yongle era (1406 AD) and was completed in the eighteenth year of the Yongle era (1420 AD). Originally, Zhu Di was the Prince of Yan, with his fiefdom located in Beijing. After the Jingnan Campaign, he seized the throne from his nephew, Emperor Jianwen Zhu Yunwen, who had rightful ownership but mysteriously disappeared during a great fire in Nanjing, leaving his fate uncertain.
Many historians speculate that the person buried at that time was not Emperor Jianwen himself, suggesting that the true Emperor Jianwen might have escaped. This uncertainty weighed heavily on Zhu Di’s conscience. Moreover, Zhu Di faced threats to his rule and even narrowly survived an assassination attempt by the Chief Censor, Jing Qing.
Haunted by nightmares and a growing longing for his hometown of Beijing, Zhu Di secretly plotted the relocation of the capital. Initially, his proposal to move the capital faced fierce opposition from his ministers. However, he began meticulous and covert preparations for the relocation, ultimately realizing his plan to move the capital to Beijing.