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  Home China Blog Articles ► Forbidden City Palace Museum In Beijing

beijing forbidden city


One place certain to be on anyone’s “To-do” list on their first trip to Beijing is the Forbidden City. China tours will always have this, along with the Great Wall, at the centre of the Beijing section of the holiday. Along with the Great Wall and Xian’s Terra-cotta Army they form the 3 most famous of China’s tourist attractions.

It was an imperial palace for 500 years throughout the Qing and Ming Dynasties and housed 24 different emperors during that time. It was constructed between 1406 and 1420 and has 980 buildings that cover 720,000 square metres making it the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures anywhere in the world.

It is known as “Forbidden” due to the fact that no one was allow to enter or leave without the permission of the emperor.  and the Chinese refer to it as “Gugong” meaning “former palace”. It was initially named the Purple Forbidden City in a reference to the North Star which is known in China by the name Purple Star. The area around the outside of the North star was where the Celestial emperor and his family resided and the Forbidden City on Earth was meant to reflect this.

A museum to show artifacts from the Qing and Ming Dynasties

Sine 1925 it has been under the care of Beijing’s Palace Museum which displays artifacts from the Qing and Ming Dynasties. The collection is split between Beijing and Taipei after the Chinese Civil War. It took over a million workers to construct with materials coming from all over China including special golden bricks that were baked in Suzhou as well as marble that had been locally sourced just outside of Beijing and trees from the far South Western forests of China.

It is made up of an Outer Court and an Inner Court. The Outer Court is where the emperor would have taken court and is made up of several halls, most notably the Hall of Supreme Harmony which would have been the ceremonial centre of imperial government. During the Qing Dynasty Imperial weddings were held here and it is the largest wooden structure that has survived in China.The Inner Court was where the emperor and his family lived and the emperor would have spent the majority of his life in here only leaving for ceremonial reasons.

All in all the Forbidden City is a historical icon and a UNESCO recognised site that you will need to take several hours out to see. Whatever you do, do not visit it during the National Day (October) Holiday. It is so engulfed with visitors at that time of year that you will not get a chance to see very much except other tourists!

Article posted by Phil Stanley: 23rd November 2013

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