Located at the center of downtown Beijing, The Forbidden City was the imperial palace for both the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is the existing ancient palace and architectural complex with the largest scale, greatest magnificence, and best conservation in the world. It was first built in the 4th Year of Yongle Emperor’s Reign (1406 AD) and completed in the 18th
Year of Yongle Emperor’s Reign (1420). It took 14 years for the entire palace to be completed. The palace went through a series of reconstructions and renovations in the Ming and Qing dynasties, but it has kept its original layout. The palace has a history of nearly 580 years. Twenty-four emperors have assumed the throne in the palace and ruled the country here. In 1987, the Forbidden City was listed as a World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
The Forbidden City has a grand scale. The width of it from east to west is 753m, and the length from south to north is 961m. It encompasses an area of 720,000 square meters. The entire palace consists of several dozen courtyards. The total construction area of the palace is approximately 160,000 square meters. It is said that there are 9,999 and a half rooms in the palace. Around the palace, there is a vermilion wall with a height of 10m and a length of 3.5km. In each of the four sides of the palace walls, there are tall gates. In the south stands the Meridian Gate, the main entrance to the palace. The north gate is Shenwu Gate (Gate of Divine Might). The gate in the east is Donghua Gate (Gate of East Prosperity), and the one in the west is Xihua Gate (Gate of West Prosperity). At each of the four corners of the palace walls, there is a watchtower with a unique style and an exquisite design. There is a 52 meter wide moat surrounding the palace walls, making the palace in Beijing a heavily fortified castle.
The Forbidden City is huge and complex. Try to plan the best itinerary based on your time and needs. Usually it takes at least 3 to 4 hours to visit.
If you have a tight schedule, you could spend 3 hours having a tour along the middle axis. You could enter the palace at Meridian Gate to tour the major halls (Gate of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Central Harmony, Hall of Preserving Harmony, Palace of Heavenly Purity, Palace of Earthly Tranquility, and Imperial Garden), and then exit from the Gate of Divine Prowess.
If you have enough time, you could even spend an entire day touring around the palace. Beside the middle axis, you could also choose to see the east and west wings of the palace.
Attention: You are only allowed to enter the palace from Meridian Gate and exit via the Gate of Divine Prowess or East Prosperity Gate.
Most travelers who visit Beijing for the first time would consider the Forbidden City as a must-visit. The Forbidden City is an ancient wooden architectural complex with the best conservation and the largest scale in China and the world. It is known as one of the top 5 palaces in the world. The buildings of the palace consist of two parts, the Outer Court and the Inner Court. The palace is divided by Gate of Heavenly Purity into two halves. The half to the south of the Gate of Heavenly Purity is the Outer Court, and the northern half is the Inner Court.
The Outer Court is also known as the Front Court. With the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Middle Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony as the central part, the Outer Court is the place where the emperor exercised his power and held ceremonies. The Hall of Supreme Harmony was the “golden hall” which is usually mentioned on TV and in movies. It is the absolute center of the entire palace, and it is a place that you should never miss.
The center of the Inner Court consists of three halls, including the Hall of Heavenly Purity, the Hall of Union, and the Hall of Earthly Tranquility, as well as the six eastern palaces and six western palaces, which were the residences for the emperor and his wives. These halls and palaces are known as the “three palaces and six courtyards”.
There is a huge collection of cultural relics in the Forbidden City. According to statistics, there are about one million relics. There are various exhibition halls for the cultural relics based on their categories. Among the exhibition halls, the Hall of Treasures and the Hall of Timepieces are the most popular ones. The Hall of Timepieces holds a demonstration of timepieces each day from 11:00 to 14:00, and the show would definitely be an eye-opening experience for you.
The Treasure House is located in the area of the Palace of Peace and Longevity. The hall boasts a rich collection of treasures, including Buddhist items, accessories, daily wares, and ornaments. Among the relics, the 14cm tall lion statue made of red coral, the 137cm long bead-bracelet made of pearls from the East Sea, and the 17.5cm tall golden imperial seal with the characters reading Feng Tian Zhi Bao (meaning Seal Gifted by the Heaven), are all extremely rare items.
The Hall of Clocks is in the area of the Hall of Ancestral Worship. The clocks displayed are mostly British products, and there are also products from France, Switzerland and other western countries. Besides the function of timing, the timepieces are also decorated with figures of people, animals and flowers, all of which can make different motions. All the timepieces boast delicate workmanship. The 231cm tall gilded copper writing-man clock, the 87cm tall gilded copper clock with a gold-embedded enamel gourd top and the Yuqiaogengdu pattern, and the gilded copper running man and rhino watch are the most valuable and exotic items.