Making Your Beijing Tour Unforgettable
In the heart of China, known for centuries as the “Middle Kingdom”, this palace was originally constructed during the early Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 CE) and is among the best preserved imperial palaces in China. It is also the world’s largest ancient palatial structure.
With thousands of rooms for 14 emperors, the Forbidden City (故宫博物院/ 紫禁城, also called the “Former Palace 故宫 today) is an important historical monument in China. It was also named a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1987.
The palace contains thousands of historical relics that date back several hundred years, including beautiful paintings, jade, ceramics and everyday items used by the imperial families.
The Forbidden City ranks as one of the most important palaces in the world and shares this coveted distinction with Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Versailles, the Kremlin, and the White House, among many other impressive structures.
Exhibitions at the Forbidden City
- Painting and Calligraphy Gallery: Hall of Literary Glory
- Ceramics Gallery: Hall of Martial Valor
- Clock Gallery: Hall of Ancestral Worship
- Stone Drum Gallery: Eastern Corridor of of the Hall of Imperial Supremacy
- Gold and Silver Gallery: Palace of Great Brilliance
- Jade Gallery: Palace of Accumulated Purity
- Bronze Gallery: Palace of Celestial Favor, Palace of Eternal Peace
- Opera Gallery: Belvedere of Pleasant Sounds, Hall for Viewing Opera
- Treasure Gallery: Hall of Imperial Supremacy, Hall of Spiritual Cultivation, Hall of Joyful Longevity, Belvedere of Well-nourished Harmony
Food-wise, we suggest you bring your own when investigating the Forbidden City as there are not too many vendors nearby. One restaurant can be found by the Archery Pavilion while another one is next to Qianqingmen Square.
A Timeless Palace and Museum in Beijing
The Forbidden City is located in the heart of ancient Beijing and was home to 24 emperors between 1368 and 1911, spanning two dynasties – the Ming and Qing.
Construction of this grand palace began in 1406 by the Yongle Emperor and ended in 1420. The next year, the capital of the Chinese Empire was moved from Nanjing to Beijing, more than 1,000 kilometers away. At the time, many believed that the emperor was regarded as the Son of Heaven, so the palace was built as a replica of the Purple Palace, where God was thought to dwell in Heaven. The Purple Star, known to us as Polaris, was thought to be in the middle of Heaven, and so should the Son of Heaven reside in the Purple Palace.
Due to the sanctity of the palace and its architecture, no one could not gain entrance without special permission from the emperor himself, which is how it became known as the Forbidden City. To further protect the palace, a 32-foot tall defensive wall was constructed around the circumference of the palace, spanning 11,253 feet. At each corner is an impressive watchtower, which was once heavily guarded. There is also a moat around the palace, which was its first line of defense against enemy attackers.
The bricks which comprise the city wall are actually made of glutinous rice and limestone, while the cement contains glutinous rice and egg whites. Believe it or not, this admixture makes the wall quite strong.
Visitors often take notice of the predominance of the color yellow in the Forbidden City. Yellow is the symbol of the royal family so the roof is covered in yellow-glazed tiles, yellow decorations adorn the inside, and the brick is yellow. Interestingly, however, the roof of the royal library, called Wenyuange, is black due to the belief that black represented water, thus “fireproofing” the roof.
Traditionally, the emperor would hold court in the southern section, the Outer Court, of the palace while in the northern section, he and his family would live in the Inner Court. In 1924, that all changed when the Qing dynasty was ended and the emperor was chased out of the Inner Court.
The Forbidden City covers an astounding 178 acres and has a floor space of more than 1,600,000 square feet. It features 90 palaces and courtyards, 8,704 rooms and 980 buildings. Surrounding the palace is also a 170-foot wide (52 meter) moat
Here are some fun facts about the Forbidden City:
- It’s the single most popular tourist attraction in China and has more than 14 million visitors annually.
- It features more than 9,999 rooms* that are brimming with ancient artifacts.
- The palace is only one of China’s astounding three ancient palaces but is the largest ancient palace in the world.
- Nearby restaurants can prepare Peking duck so visitors can dine like emperors.
- The palace museum is the world’s largest cultural museum.
- It’s three times the size of the Kremlin and twice the size of the Vatican.
- It was home to 24 Chinese emperors.
- Explore the area around the palace, including Tiananmen Square, which is within walking distance.
*Because it was said that only the God of Heaven could have a palace with 10,000, the Forbidden City was alleged to have 9,999.5 rooms. The emperor who build the Forbidden City, Chengzu, declared himself the son of the God of Heaven and thus mad his palace slightly smaller. The story of 9,999.5 rooms is considered by most to be a myth.
Hours of Operation & Ticket Price
April – October: 8:30 to 17:00; CNY 60
November – March: 8:30 to 16:30; CNY 40
*closed on Mondays