The Forbidden City Beijing

The Forbidden City Beijing, otherwise known as the Imperial Palace or the Purple Forbidden City, is located at the center of the ancient city of Beijing, was home to 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is the largest, the most intact and well-protected palace complex in China and in the world as well. The Forbidden City is located directly to the north of Tian'AnMen Square and is accessible from the square via Tian'AnMen Gate.

The Forbidden City BeijingThe Forbidden City History
The Forbidden City was constructed in accordance with ancient rules of spatial design, first used during the Han dynasty in building the city of Chang'An (modern XiAn), between 206 BC and AD 220 . Among other things, these rules specified that the principal buildings should be aligned along a straight axis from south to north, flanked by a symmetrical arrangement of minor structures on parallel axes. This architectural convention was favourable to YungLo's claim that his city had symbolic importance. He believed that a centralized configuration of buildings would also serve as a reflection of the ordered heavens.

In the early 1400s, the third Ming Emperor, YongLe, moved the capital of China to Beijing. In 1406, he began construction of a new 'Forbidden City' that would include the imperial palace complex. The construction took 14 years - and an estimated one million workers, including 100,000 artisans, were involved.

Stones needed were quarried from FangShan, a suburb of Beijing. It is said that a well was dug every 50 meters in order to pour water onto the road in winter to slide the huge stones along ice into the city. In the summer, logs were used to roll the rocks along.

Huge amounts of timbers and other materials were also freighted in, many from faraway provinces.

From its completion in 1420 to 1644, when a peasant revolt invaded it, the Forbidden City served as the seat of the Ming Dynasty. The following Qing Dynasty also resided in the Forbidden City. By the end of the eighteenth century, some 9000 people were estimated to reside there.

During the past 500 years since its completion in 1420, it had been used by the two feudal dynasties of Ming and Qing with 24 emperors to rule over the country from here. The revolution of 1911 led by Dr Sun Yat-sen put an end to the feudal rule of the Qing in China. The Forbidden City was opened to visitors in 1925. After 1949, the Imperial Palace has undergone renovations part by part, thereby presenting a completely new feature. The Forbidden City Beijing

Having been the imperial palace for some five centuries, it houses numerous rare treasures and curiosities. In 1947, after they had been moved from one location to another inside mainland China for many years (most recently to be hidden from the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese war), Chiang Kai-Shek ordered many of the artifacts within the Forbidden City to be moved to Taiwan where they later formed the core of the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

Just a few of the many golden yellow rooftops, with the White Pagoda in Beihai park visible in the distance.

This action has been extremely controversial, with some regarding it as looting with others regarding it as safekeeping, especially given the events of the Cultural Revolution on the mainland. However, many treasures (about 1 million) are now housed within the Forbidden City - and many of these are on display to visitors, including gifts of state, military campaign treasures, and the furnishings and possessions of members of the imperial household. Many others (about 650,000 objects) remain in the National Museum in Taipei, Taiwan.

Now officially renamed as the 'Palace Museum' ('GuGong' in chinese, meaning simply 'old palace'). Indeed, the Forbidden City is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world, and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.

The Forbidden City Features
Covering an area of 72 hectares (about 180 acres) the Forbidden City consists of 9 999 rooms surrounded by a 10-meter high city wall which measures 960 meters long from south to north and 750 meters wide from east to west. Outside the wall is a 52-meter-wide moat. It is indeed a city within a city.

The Forbidden City BeijingMost of the structures in the Forbidden City are wooden with white stone foundations yellow glazed tiles and colorful wall paintings. A south-to-north axis line divides the complex by half. The whole complex looks imposing and stately.

TheForbidden City can be divided into the Outer Court and inner Court. The Outer Court consists mainly of the Hall of Supreme Harmony the Hall of Middle Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony. The Hall of Supreme Harmony was where the emperor held grand ceremonies.

The inner Court is composed of the Palace of Heavenly Purity the Hall of Union and Peace and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility with three palaces on either side. Here the emperor used to handle daily state affairs and the empress and concubines used to live. In the Ming Dynasty the height of its decadent history about 10 000 concubines lived here together with the 70 000 eunuchs who were there to cater for the ladies' (almost) every whim.

Much of the Forbidden City later fell into disrepair but the restoration work has been superb. The complex once again is the actual and spiritual heart of Beijing and it is certainly worth more than one viewing. On your first visit you can hire one of the informative taped audio guides available at the entrance (the voice on the English tape belongs to ex-James Bond Roger Moore). The tape provides ample historical background. After the tutored walk-through you can retrace your steps without the audio guide so you can take in the magnificence of the buildings.

Amble through the seemingly endless courtyards and halls and occasionally close your eyes and dream - this place is so atmospheric you can almost smell the history.

How to get there
The Forbidden City is located between WanFuJing and XiDan. the subway loop line (line 2) follows the path of the old city wall and that the second ring road follows it too - following the extended city wall to the south. The old city walls are shown in red.

  • Beijing The          forbidden city
  • The forbidden City Beijing
  • The forbidden City Beijing
  • The forbidden City Beijing
  • The forbidden City Beijing
  • The forbidden City Beijing