Forbidden City and Imperial Palace in Beijing, China

Uncovering the Secrets of China's Most Iconic Landmarks

The Forbidden City is a cluster of imperial palaces in the center of Beijing. Even the royal family had restricted access up until 1912, when the public was not allowed inside. In actuality, the emperor alone was permitted to enter the entire city. Being one of Beijing’s most significant tourist attractions today, the Forbidden City attracts people from all over the world. The Old Palace or the Palace Museum are the current names for the Forbidden City in China.

History of the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is situated in the heart of Beijing. The Ming Dynasty rulers gave the order to begin construction on this royal palace complex in 1406 and it was finished in 1420. Since then, the Forbidden City has been home to 14 of this dynasty’s rulers. The People’s Republic of China took over the empire in 1912, but ten rulers from previous dynasties opted to live here after the Ming Empire fell.

As a result, for a long time, the Forbidden City was regarded as the most significant structure in this nation and one of the principal royal residences. Of course, even after the People’s Republic of China took control, this complex retains its splendor and attracts tourists looking for real Chinese architecture.

History of the Forbidden City
History of the Forbidden City

Why is the Forbidden City?

Feudal Chinese emperors paid great attention to the hierarchy system. According to an ancient belief, the emperor was the son of heaven and the superior power of heaven was granted to him. The Imperial Palace, which was known as a divine place, was forbidden to the common people, hence it was called the Forbidden City.

The Architecture of the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is significant not just because of its vastness but also because of its distinctive architectural style. From the smallest details to the general plan of the former palace, they all express philosophical, religious principles and are a symbol of the emperor’s power. During the time, heaven was supposed to be the North Star, and all of the palace’s key gates and halls were erected symmetrically on the center axis of Beijing, running north to south.

The greatest and most comprehensive collection of wooden buildings in the world is found in the Forbidden City. It may be interesting to you that no nails were used in the construction of these wooden structures and the parts were connected by joints and straps. The certain colors of the Forbidden City are red and yellow. In Chinese culture, red symbolizes happiness and yellow symbolizes power. Almost all the roofs of the Forbidden City have yellow tiles.

Along the ridge of the official halls, there is a row of statues of mystical animals such as lion, phoenix and dragon. These animals have powerful meanings in Chinese culture. Stone and bronze lions are seen as symbolic guardians beside many of the gates of the Forbidden City. In Chinese culture, the lion is a symbol of power. These statues are always paired and the female lion is on the left side of the male lion.

The Architecture of the Forbidden City
The Architecture of the Forbidden City

Different parts of the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City, with an area of about 72 hectares, has 3 sections:

Defense (gates and walls):

Meridian Gate is the main gate of the former palace. This gate has three entrances and only the emperor was allowed to enter through the middle part. This part was used to issue ruling and war orders. Currently, visitors to the city enter through Meridian Gate.

Outer Court:

This part was used for ceremonial purposes. The outer court has 3 main buildings where the emperors participated in ceremonies.

    • The first building is called the Supreme Hall of Harmony. The throne of the dragon emperor is housed in this hall, which is the largest and most significant structure in the Forbidden City. In the Qing Dynasty, this hall was used for ceremonial purposes such as coronation, investment and wedding.
    • The second building is called Central Harmony Hall. The central Harmony Hall was the resting place of emperors before presiding over major events. Before entering the Temple of Heaven for the sacrifice rite, emperors used to rehearse their speeches here.
    • The name of the third building is Harmony Preservation Hall. This hall was initially used for banquets and later for imperial exams.
Different parts of the Forbidden City
Different parts of the Forbidden City

Inner court

Emperors spent the most of their time in the inner court during the Qing Dynasty. Three primary structures make up the inner court. The Palace of Heavenly Purity, which served as the emperor’s home before Emperor Yongzheng and afterwards the emperor’s audience hall, is the first structure. The second building is the Palace of Unity and Peace, where the seals of the emperor were kept. The third building is the Hall of Earthly Tranquility, this hall was the queen’s residence during the Ming Dynasty.

Treasures of the palace museum

The collections of the palace museum include exquisite works such as paintings, ceramics, seals, steel, sculptures, inscription vessels, bronze vessels, enamel objects, etc. According to the last count, this museum has 1,862,690 works of art. In addition, there is a valuable collection of rare historical books and documents inside the Imperial Library. The number of ceramic and porcelain pieces in the Forbidden City reaches 34,000 pieces. There are more than 50,000 paintings in the palace museum.

It is interesting to know that the Forbidden City has one of the largest collections of mechanical clocks of the 18th and 19th centuries. Jade ornamental stone has a unique place in Chinese culture and about 30,000 pieces of it are kept in the palace museum. Some of these works date back to the Neolithic period.

Treasures of the palace museum
Treasures of the palace museum

When is the right season to visit the Forbidden City?

Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Beijing. In these seasons, the city’s climate is moderate and nature is more beautiful.

How to go to the Forbidden City?

We suggest you use public transportation to visit the Forbidden City. The single principal entrance to the Forbidden City is through the South or Meridian Gate. The South Gate may be reached by bus or metro if you’re staying in a hotel in Beijing. To use the bus and subway, you need to go to Tiananmen East or West Station. It’s good to know that the Forbidden City is located near some of Beijing’s top amusement parks.

The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City

People’s belief about the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City, which is situated near to the Great Wall of China, is regarded by most visitors as one of the nation’s top tourist destinations. There are interesting facts about this collection that we will read about below:

  • Many people believe that the Forbidden City in China is the biggest and most comprehensive wooden structure in the world based on its design and architecture.
  • The “Meridian Gate” and the “Gate of Divine Power” are located on opposite sides of the building. In terms of architectural and design, both gates are distinctive.
  • The Forbidden City complex is built on the basis of ceremonial order and feudal system. So that the buildings are painted according to the ceremonial colors of the royal family.
  • A red wall 3400 meters long surrounds the Forbidden City.
  • The Forbidden City complex is considered a national treasure for the Chinese people.
  • The Forbidden City is three times as large as the Kremlin in Russia and twice as big as the Vatican.

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