Forbidden City was formerly known as the Imperial Palace, which covers an area of over 720,000 m2, has more than 9,000 buildings and construction area of 150,000 square meters. Forbidden City was the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties, is the existing China's largest and most complete ancient buildings. It was first built in 1406 and finished in 1420. In its 500 years of history, there were 24 emperors living here. Experiencing several times renovation and expansion during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Forbidden City is still remaining its original layout.
Forbidden City is known as the world's five major palaces (Forbidden City in Beijing, the Palace of Versailles in France, Buckingham Palace in UK, the White House in America, the Kremlin Palace in Russia). In 1961, the State Council announced the Forbidden City as the first batch of national key cultural relics protection units. In 1987, the Forbidden City was listed as World Cultural Heritage by the UNESCO. Juries evaluated: "The Forbidden City is the supreme power center in China over five centuries, with its landscape architecture, and huge buildings which accommodate 9,000 rooms of furniture and crafts, it has become a priceless historical witness of the Chinese civilization of Ming and Qing era.
The Forbidden City is also a treasure trove of movable cultural relics; it is the seat of the National Palace Museum. It has over 1.8 million movable cultural relics, including more than 1.68 million pieces of precious relics. In 2012, the highest single-day passenger flow volume of Forbidden City exceeded 180,000 people, and annual passenger flow volume exceed 15 million people. It can be regarded as the busiest museum in the world.
Layout of the Forbidden City
Forbidden City is surrounded by wall which is 10-meter high, 960-meter long from north to south and 753-meter wide from east to west, covering an area of 720,000 square meters which is the largest in the world. The entire construction of the Forbidden City is enclosed by two solid line of defense; the outside of this palace is a moat which is 52 meters in width, 6 meters in depth, and 3800 meters in length. The palace has 4 gates including Meridian Gate (Wumen) in the south, the Gate of Devine Might (Shenwumen) in the north, Donghua Gate (Donghuamen) in the east and Xihua Gate (Xihuamen) in the west. The four corners of the wall stands with 4 turrets which has 3-layer roof and 72 ridges, which are exquisitely carved, uniquely shaped and masterpieces of ancient Chinese architecture.
Based on its layout and function, Forbidden City is divided into two parts - the "Outer Palace" and "Inner Court". These two parts are bounded by Gate of Heavenly Purity (Qianqingmen): south is outer palace and north is inner court. The building atmosphere is very different between these two parts.
The "Outer Palace" regards Taihe Palace, Zhonghe Palace and Baohe Palace as its center, and is located in the central axis of the entire palace. Taihe Palace is generally called emperor's audience hall or "Qian Chao", where emperors held court. It is the place for emperors to exercise the powers and held festivals.
The inner court has the 3 imperial harems as its center, including the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing Palace), the Hall of Union and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunning Palace). This area also consists of Hall of Mental Cultivation, Six Eastern Palaces, Six Western Palaces, Imperial Garden, etc. These places are the places for residence and entertainment. The eastern part of the inner court is the Palace of Peace and Longevity (Ningshou Palace) which was built after the abdication of Qianlong Emperor. The western part of the inner court has Hall of Benevolent Peace (Cining Palace), Shou'an Palace, etc.
Main Highlights to See in Forbidden City
【The Meridian Gate
The Meridian Gate, the main entrance of the Forbidden City in Beijing, is located in the north-south axis of the Forbidden City. This door is centered with a sunny exposure where is the meridian, hence the name Meridian Gate. It was first built in the Ming Dynasty Yongle 18 Year (1420), rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty Shunzhi 4 Year (1647), and again repaired in the Qing Dynasty Jiaqing 6 Year (1801).
【Gate of Heavenly Purity
Gate of Heavenly Purity(Qianqing Men) is located behind Hall of Preserving Harmony in Forbidden City, Beijing. The gate was originally built in 1420 in Ming Dynasty, and then was rebuilt in 1655 in Qing Dynasty. In front of the Gate of Heavenly Purity, there is a quite long but narrow square. The square has a rectangular square. Longzong Gate is sited in the west of Gate of Heavenly Purity Square Silom sect west, and Jingyun Gate in the east. The Gate of Heavenly Purity separates the Forbidden City into the Outer and Inner Court. The northern side of the gate is called Inner Court, including the Palace of Heavenly Purity. It is the residential region inside the Forbidden City. The southern side of the gate is called Outer Court, including Hall of Central Harmony,Hall of Preserving Harmony, Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Literary Glory and Hall of Military Prowess.
【Gate of Supreme Harmony
Gate of Supreme Harmony is the main entrance the Outer Court, as well as the largest palace gate within the Forbidden City. When originally built in Ming Dynasty, it was called Fengtianmen. It is the door for the Hall of Supreme Harmony (commonly known as the Throne Room). It was a magnificent door with the highest standard in ancient China. The gate is three bays deep and seven bays wide, with a construction area of about 1300 square meters.
The gate has white marble pedestal and r paintings on wood beams and Fang. There are four bronze tripods in front of the gate, which were bronze furnishings made in the Ming Dynasty. Bronze lion one pair of columns, the left female male Right, mighty aggressive, are six pairs of bronze lion in Forbidden largest pair. There are two bronze lions on both side of the gate, which represent imiperial power. The two bronze lions are the largest pair in Forbidden City. The lion on the east side is male and on the west side female. They look mighty and aggressive in front of the gate, symbolizing a flourishing and prosperity imperial family.
【Gate of Devine Might
Gate of Devine Might (Shenwu Gate) is the north gate of the Beijing Forbidden City. It was first built in the Ming Yongle 18 Year (1420) and was called Xunwu Gate during that period. Xuanwu is one of the four ancient mythical creatures, speaking from orientation, the Green Dragon was on left, the White Tiger was on right, the Vermilion Bird was in the front, and the Xuanwu was in the back. Xuanwu represents the north, hence, most of the north gate of the imperial palaces were named "Xuanwu". The gate was built in Qing Emperor Kangxi period, and was renamed "Shenwu Gate".
【Palace of Earthly Tranquility
Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunning Palace), the internal construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing, is one of the queen's palace. Since Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty, Kunning palace was nominal main palace, but the actual use was the shamanic's ritual spaces and the emperor's wedding bridal chamber. Palace of Heavenly Purity represents masculine gender, and Kunning palace represents feminine gender, combining them means combination of masculine and feminine.
【Palace of Heavenly Purity
Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qian Qing Gong), one of three imperial harems, is the main hall of the imperial palace in Beijing Forbidden City. It is the place for the residence and the day-to-day public affairs of Ming and Qing emperors in the Forbidden City. It is the first of the three imperial harems, locate inside the Gate of Celestial Purity. "Qian" means "Heaven", and "Qing" means "Purity"; the name of this palace means: lucid sky - a symbol of national stability, also a symbol of the emperor's clear and magnanimous behaviour.
【Hall of Preserving Harmony
Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohe Hall) is one of the the three main halls in the outer palace of the Beijing Forbidden City, located behind the Hall of Central Harmony. It was built in 1420 and first named " Jinshen Hall". It was renamed " Baohe Hall" in Qing Shunzhi 2 Year, which means the single-minded consciousness and maintaining the harmony to get the happiness, longevity and peace for the country. The hall was once the place for the emperor to confer titles of nobility on the queen and the prince in the Ming Dynasty, also the living place for the Qing Emperor Shunzhi and Emperor Kangxi, the place for holding the feudal imperial examination in Qing Emperor Qianlong period.
【Hall of Supreme Harmony
The Hall of Supreme Harmony, also known as the Hall of Golden Chime, is one of the ‘three main palaces’ in Beijing Forbidden City, and it is China's existing largest wood wood structure palace. It is located in a powerful and influential position of the north-south main axis in the Forbidden City. It was first built in 1420 and through many times destroy by fire and rebuilt.
This hall is the largest mass and chief building inside the Forbidden City. It has 11 rooms outwardly and 5 rooms deeply; it is 64 meters in length, 37 meters in width and 26.92 meters in height, covering a building area of 2377 m2. In front of the hall, there is a broad platform with one sundial and grain measure, a pair of copper tortoise and a pair of copper crane as well as 18 bronze tripods.
【Hall of Clocks and Watches
Hall of Clocks and Watches (also known as Museum of Clocks and Watches) is located in the Forbidden City, Beijing, China. it is tall and spacious, with an exhibition area of 2,208 square meters. It is home to a fantastic collection of Qing Dynasty (from Eighteenth Century to Twenty Centuries) timepieces, with a total number of 182 pieces of collections. These watches and clocks are the wisdom of foreign and domestic watchmakers and of high historical, scientific and artistic value. From the watches and clocks exhibited, the glorious history of development of the watches in the world can be seen from the early 18th to 20th centuries, with the history of over 200 years.
【Hall of Central Harmony
The Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghe Hall) is one of ‘the three main palaces’ in Beijing Forbidden City. It is located between the Hall of Supreme Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony. The hall was the place for the emperor to take a rest before holding grand ceremony and accepting officials' worship in the Hall of Supreme Harmony. While holding a memorial ceremony for the heaven and earth, the emperor would review the congratulatory message the day before; also would check the seed and farm implements before the altar of the god of agriculture. Central Harmony means ‘everything should be finished in a perfect way so that the harmony comes into being'.
【Hall of Union and Peace
Hall of Union and Peace (Jiaotai Palace) honors to be one of the three primary palaces in the Inner Court of theForbidden City in Beijing. It is located between the other two main palaces, namely, the Palace of Heavenly Purity and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. It was originally built in 1420 in Ming dynasty and then was rebuilt in Qing dynasty. In 1748, Emperor Qianlong stored twenty-fifth jade seal here which symbolizes the imperial power, thus this palace became a unique place for storing the imperial seals, because every seal has a special purpose. Meanwhile, this is also a special place for the Empress in Qing Dynasty to hold ceremony and accept the gifts from the ministers. The name Union and Peace (Jiaotai) signifies the intersect of heaven and earth, meaning long-term stability of the country. The wedding of Emperor is held in this palace, so is the appointment of the queen.
Treasure Museum (Zhenbaoguan Museum) is located in the eastern part of theForbidden City in Beijing, inside Hall of Huangji, Hall of Mental Cultivation, Hall of Happiness and Longevity and Yihe Xuan Pavilion. Treasure Museum is a treasure trove with a variety of colored gemstones, sparkling gold and silver vessels, jade pearls, gold coronet, ivory and other kinds of unparalleled treasures. The most impressive treasure in the museum is a multi-layer tower, which is carved from a large jade, weighing 5000 kg. The Treasure Museum in Beijing Forbidden City was originally opened in 1958. It is one of the important exhibition halls that are open in all year around in the Palace Museum. Together with the Hall of Watches and Clocks, it shows the imperial historical relics of Qing Dynasty, mainly with paintings, ceramics, bronzes, curios, etc.
The Imperial Garden is located in the middle of Beijing Forbidden City, back of the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. It was used as a garden for resting and playing by the queen and the princess. Also, it was used to sacrifice and keep fit, collect books and read books. This garden was first built in 1420 and was expanded later but the original style has been still kept. It is 80m from south to north, 140m from east to west, covering an area of 12000m2. The main building along with the surrounding pavilions, terraces and open halls, fresh and green pines, cypresses and bamboo, form an evergreen garden landscape. The arrangement of the garden is symmetrical but not rigid, the rare stone; luxuriantly green trees especially some old trees, adorn the garden and make it full of interest; the colorful path is primitive and special.
How to Get to Forbidden City
Visitors may take Subway Line 1 to get off at Tiananmen East Station or Tiananmen West Station, and then walk to the entrance of it. It is recommended to spend 2.5 to 3 hours to visit inside.