|"That whole thing is the palace!"|
The Earth Kingdom Royal Palace is the home of the earth monarch and the seat of the Earth Kingdom's government. Located within the Upper Ring at the center of Ba Sing Se, the palace and surrounding grounds served as the spiritual and political center of the entire Earth Kingdom until it fell to the Fire Nation in 100 AG and later to the Red Lotus in 171 AG. The palace is a superb example of traditional Earth Kingdom architecture and its massive scale makes it unlike anything else in the world.
The palace in which the 52nd Earth King resided dates back at least four hundred years to the time of the 46th Earth King; in all likelihood, it is as old as the current city which surrounds it. It was the home of all known earth monarchs and their families until the Fire Nation coup which deposed the 52nd Earth King; after this, it became the home of Joo Dee, the city's Supreme Bureaucratic Administrator.
Some time later, a Fire Nation flag was hung over the palace to signify that it was under Fire Nation control. This flag was later destroyed by General Iroh during the liberation of Ba Sing Se, symbolizing that the palace was once again under the Earth Kingdom's control. However, after the assassination of Earth Queen Hou-Ting in 171 AG, the palace was overrun by rioters and looters.
The Earth Kingdom Royal Palace is situated over the ruins of Old Ba Sing Se, an underground city which was the site of the first settlement at Ba Sing Se.
The Royal Palace is almost certainly the largest palace compound in the world; with its myriad towers, gardens, shrines, courts, and plazas, it is very nearly a city in itself. The palace was designed so that it was located at the figurative heart of Ba Sing Se, and by extension the Earth Kingdom. It is surrounded on all sides by the Upper Ring, home to the central government ministries and the mansions of the city's wealthiest citizens, bureaucrats, and civil servants. The palace is arranged on a north–south axis which extends beyond its walls to form the central axis of the Upper Ring.
Walls and gates
The palace compound is surrounded by a vast circular wall, made of stone and covered with red-painted plaster. The wall is pierced at each cardinal direction by a gate and studded with numerous guard towers. The gates and towers are the only parts of the palace visible to the public. The palace's South Gate, its largest and most ornate, serves as the main entrance to the compound and is an iconic symbol of the Earth Kingdom and the strength of its king. Heavily fortified, the South Gate has three arches and is topped by a two-storied pavilion. Two wings support double-eaved guard towers to both sides of the gate.
The earth monarch's palace can be divided into two parts, the outer court, encompassing the important ceremonial buildings at the front and center of the palace, and the inner court, which contains the living quarters of the royal family, numerous pleasure gardens, kitchens, and servant's quarters. The most important buildings are located on the palace's north–south and east–west axes. The palace is structured around a meridian line that cuts through the center of the city, from west to east. The meridian line leads directly to the earth monarch's throne.
Directly through the south gate is an immense plaza which dominates the outer court. This plaza contains defensive positions for the king's Royal Earthbender Guards and is marked down the center by a long ceremonial lined at the end by ornamental pillars known as huabiao. At the north end of the plaza is a stream which runs east–west the entire diameter of the palace. This stream is crossed by three stone bridges.
Beyond the square lies the enormous main hall, which is both spiritually and physically the heart of the Earth Kingdom - not only is this where the earth monarch holds his or her court, the building itself is located at the very center of Ba Sing Se. By far the largest and most impressive building in Ba Sing Se, the main hall holds the king's throne room from where he directs his all-encompassing commands. Hundreds of steps lead up to its entrance. The buildings building has quadruple eaves and huge stone pillars holding up its roof. The exterior is primarily colored in shades of red and gold, while the interior is green.
The throne room is located at the center of the main hall. Eighteen large stone pillars run down the entire length of the hall, each topped with intricately painted brackets and supports a corbel from which hangs a large green lantern. Diaphanous curtains are hung throughout the hall to draw attention to the earth monarch's throne, situated on a dais near the back of the room and accessed by nine stairs. The throne is surmounted by a massive stone badgermole clutching the Earth Kingdom's emblem; behind the throne is a large screen painted with symbols of longevity such as deer, cranes, pines, and mountains on a gold leaf background. In the center of the ceiling above the throne is a large caisson, also colored in gold.
To each side of the main hall is a large square centered on a round, multi-tiered temple atop a two-tiered terrace. A gate behind the main hall leads to the inner court.
The Royal Shrine is a temple reserved for the sole use of the Earth King and his wives. All others are forbidden entry to its sacred grounds.
Set off from the rest of the palace by walls and some forested areas, the inner court of the palace is where the day-to-day life of the royal family plays out. Many buildings line the road leading to the palace's North gate. These buildings hold the living quarters of the Earth King and his family, as well as storehouses, kitchens, and servant's quarters.
The palace grounds are consist of numerous ceremonial temples, quarters to house the king's servants, intricate gardens, and the king's menagerie of rare, exotic animals. In the northeast section of the palace is a large ornamental lake with a pavilion in the center. A large part of the palace's ground is forested, and there are several groves of ornamental cherry trees.
The Tea Palace is an elegant tea room surrounded by lush gardens and is where tea is brewed and served to the earth monarchs and their honored guests. This small wooden pavilion has a light and airy design and features brightly painted beams and pillars. The earth monarch, when visiting guests, sits on a low throne on top of a raised platform, complete with a small table for holding cups and two large metal urns. The decorative screen behind the earth monarch's throne serves as a focal point for the room and features a relaxing landscape of lofty, mist-shrouded peaks and pines. One of the fanciest tea rooms in all of Ba Sing Se, the Tea Palace is catered by the earth monarch's servants and surrounded by topiary bushes that were pruned to represent Kuei's menagerie of exotic animals. He would often go there with his bear, Bosco, to enjoy a solitary cup of tea.
Ba Sing Se Prison
The palace grounds also contain the Ba Sing Se Prison, a maximum-security jail made entirely of solid metal in order to prevent earthbenders from escaping. Long Feng claimed that he built the prison as a solution to the growing crime epidemic within Ba Sing Se, stating that the criminals it holds are a direct threat to the earth monarch. However, in reality, he used the jail to imprison those who opposed him and the Dai Li, as well as to punish political prisoners for speaking the truth. Ironically, Long Feng eventually ended up in one of the prison's cells. Mako and Bolin found themselves imprisoned here after the Red Lotus surrendered them to Earth Queen Hou-Ting in exchange for Avatar Korra.
Only servants and the highest-ranking citizens of Ba Sing Se are allowed entry into the palace grounds, and even they are never permitted to enter the personal quarters of the earth monarch. Common citizens are forbidden from entering the earth monarch's walled domain, unless they receive a personal invitation from the king or queen.
The Royal Palace and the earth monarch are personally protected by the King's Guards, an elite force of guards who act as sentries against intruders; by 171 AG, they also came to be protected by the Dai Li.
- The Earth Kingdom Palace is based on the Forbidden City and other Chinese buildings and compounds. The structure and architecture of the South Gate is almost identical to the Meridian Gate that is the entrance to the Forbidden City.
- Besides the Forbidden City references, the main hall/building of the Royal Palace is also similar to that of the palace of Emperor Qin. It has the same layout of a massive palace over a terrace and a triple-eaved main building.
- The type of screen behind the earth monarch's throne is known as a "Sipjangsaengdo" ( , "Image of Ten Symbols of Longevity"), which were very common in the royal palaces of Korea. They symbolized a wish for the long life of the king.