Beijing Attractions: Forbidden City
Forbidden City 紫禁城
The Forbidden City, otherwise known as the Palace Museum, is one of the must-see sights in Beijing. With a supposedly huge total of 9999.5 rooms (because only heaven could have 10,000 rooms) and an area of over 720,000 square metres, it was the Imperial residence during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Forbidden City (Gugong) Dragon Wall, Beijing
Forbidden City at night
The Forbidden City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a powerful national symbol which appears on the official seal of the PRC.
Construction of the Palace began around 1407, during the reign of Yongle, the third Emperor of the Ming dynasty. It is thought that up to a million workers may have been coerced into working on the palace's construction. It was inhabited by more than 20 Emperors, and during that time built up an incredible collection of treasures and artwork. The palace was burnt to the ground when the Manchus stormed it in 1644, and has been comprehensively looted on several occasions in its history but there's still plenty to see.
The name "forbidden city" is a translation of one of the Chinese terms for it - 紫禁城 - Zījĭncheng, so called because ordinary folk would be punished by death if they found their way in uninvited. The Forbidden City is also referred to as 故宫 - Gugong.
Forbidden City in the snow China Mash Photos
The whole city is surrounded by a moat, and a 10m high red wall with watch towers on each corner. Come along in the morning and youill see lots of old Beijingers doing their morning tai chi exercises by the moat.
To get to the Palace, head North from Tiananmen Square and under the Mao portrait. Continue for another few hundred metres and you'll be at the Forbidden City ticket booths. There are audioguides available, or you could employ the services of a guide.
One of the best places for a view of the Forbidden City, and the Beijing cityscape is Jingshan Park (景山公园 Jĭngshān Gōngyuan), which is directly North of the Forbidden City. Formerly known as Coal Hill, it is here that the last Ming Emperor Chongzhen is believed to have died. As enemy troops stormed the palace, he fled through a back exit and hung himself from a tree. To get to the park, leave the palace through the rear exit to the North, Shenwumen.
The palace is symmetrical in layout and the main halls and gates of the Forbidden City lie on a North-South axis which runs all the way across Beijing to Yongdingmen in the South, and Zhonggulou in the North.
The main entrance to the palace is through the South Gate, known as the Meridian Gate (午门 Wu Men), so named because the emperors believed they were at the centre of the universe - on the meridian.
Beyond this is the Gate of Supreme Harmony, and then the largest of the palace's halls, the Hall of Supreme Harmony. This hall was used for official celebrations, and to receive high officials.
Beyond this are two more halls of the Outer Palace, The Hall of Central Harmony, which served as a study for the Emperor, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, which had various functions over the years, from the location for official banquets to an Emperor's walk-in wardrobe.
Next along the North-South axis are the three main halls comprising the Inner Palace, the exclusive domain of the Emperor, his concubines, and the eunuchs who served and advised them. The first is The Hall of Heavenly Purity (the Emperor's sleeping quarters). Next is The Hall of Union (or of Celestial and Terrestrial Union). The name is a metaphor for the union of the Emperor and his Empress, and the hall was used by the Empress for official engagements. Finally you arrive in The Hall of Earthly Tranquility.
The North gate is called Shenwumen, which means 'The Gate of Divine Might' (神武门 Shenwu Men).
Forbidden City Moat China Mash Photos
North of Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City is less than one minute from Tianan Men Dong Station.
The Forbidden City Details
The Forbidden City is open from 8:30 am - 5:30 pm (4:30 pm in winter). Admission to the Forbidden City costs 40 yuan in the winter, 60 yuan in the summer. Audio tours are available in many languages and cost 40 yuan to rent. Allow at least 2-3 hours to walk the grounds. For disabled, there are ramps in the central part of the grounds. However, much of it is not accessible.
Tel: 6513 2255
China Mash Photos
Book Hotel Accommodation in Beijing near the Forbidden City