Surrounded by 3.5 km of walls in the heart of Beijing, the UNESCO-listed Forbidden City is China’s largest and best-preserved collection of ancient buildings and attracts 16 million visitors each year. Large enough to accommodate comfortably. This otherworldly palace was steeped in despicable rituals and shared more than 900 buildings with eunuchs, servants, and concubine entourages until the republic overthrew the last Qing emperor in 1911. It was the secluded home of his two dynasties of imperial rule.
2020 marks his 600th anniversary in the Forbidden City. The palace aims to celebrate the Forbidden City by ensuring that the most part of its history as a tourist attraction is open to visitors. The Forbidden City, Gùgōng Bówùguǎn, officially known as the Forbidden City, first opened in 1925, just one year after the deposed “last emperor” Puyi was expelled from the empire. That’s it. courtyard.
Built by the Ming Yongle Emperor between 1406 and 1420, the construction of the Forbidden City was a huge undertaking, hiring battalions of workers and craftsmen. Pillars of precious southern wood were transported from the jungles of southwestern China to the capital, and blocks of quarried stone were transported to the palace through intricate ice roads in winter. The Forbidden City, once built, was governed by a silly code of rules, protocols and superstitions. His 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties ruled China from a closed world, often unexpectedly and haphazardly, until a revolution wiped them out a century ago. did. Despite its age, most of the buildings you see are his post-18th-century Qing Dynasty constructions and renovations. Fire was a constant danger, so huge brass water barrels were everywhere.
Plan Your Visit
The Forbidden City can be explored in a few hours, but a full day will be busy and enthusiasts will take several excursions. Most visitors focus their energies on the representative State He Room and Parade Ground, which occupy the central axis of the complex’s outer courtyard (southern half). But the real thrill is exploring the labyrinth of courtyards and halls on either side of a central axis on a more human scale, or parading over 10m-high walls to see the palace from above.
Enter the Forbidden City
In Imperial times, the penalties for uninvited entry were severe, but mere mortals couldn’t even get close. The Imperial City surrounded the Forbidden City with another series of massive walls and was separated by four heavily guarded gates, including the Gate of Heaven’s Peace, where a portrait of Mao Zedong hangs. , enter the Meridian Gate, a huge U-shaped entrance at the south end of the complex. It was once reserved for the emperor. Gongs and bells sounded the emperor’s entry and exit, while lesser mortals used small gates:
Troops used the west gate, civilians the east gate, and servants the north gate. The emperor also reviewed his army from the Meridian Gate, judged prisoners, proclaimed the New Year’s calendar, and oversaw the flogging of troublesome ministers.
Passing through the Meridian Gate, you enter a spacious courtyard, which resembles a Tatar arch and crosses the Golden He Stream (Jīn Shuǐ), which is crossed by five marble bridges. Head to the gate. The court could accommodate his 100,000 imperial audience.
Mounting the Wall
As of 2018, visitors can zoom in on the walls of the Forbidden City just inside and east of the Meridian Gate, then follow it east to the Corner Pagoda and north to the East Prosperity Gate. The route includes the historic building gallery with corner tower exhibition space and the magnificent East He Prosperity Gate. A total of about three quarters of the 3.4 km long wall can now be climbed. A great opportunity to get away from the crowds and take great photos.
First Side Gallery
Turn west in the vast courtyard to visit the Hall of Valor, where the emperor received his ministers, before passing through the Gate of Supreme Harmony to reach the Forbidden City’s main attraction. It houses changing exhibits. Just south is the furniture gallery in the area known as the Southern Storehouse, which first opened in 2018.
East of Meridian Gate, the Museum of Literature was once the residence of the Crown Prince. It was rebuilt in 1683 after a fire. The exhibits are also changed throughout the year, but there are times when the museum is closed from November to March.
Three Major Halls
Depicting the Chinese characters for King (王; wáng), his three-story marble terrace houses his three Great Halls (三大殿; Sān Dàdiàn), the glorious heart of the Forbidden City. The Supreme Harmony Hall is the Forbidden City’s most important and largest structure, and was once the tallest building in the capital. It was used for national events such as the emperor’s birthday, coronation, and the appointment of military leaders. The Hall of Supreme Harmony contained the ornate Dragon Throne (Lóngyǐ), from which the emperor presided over quivering officials. The entire court had to touch the ground nine times before the emperor (a practice known as koutoeing). The back of the throne is carved with Xumishan, the Buddhist paradise that symbolizes the supremacy of the throne. Currently, it can only be seen from the outside, and you can actually see it using a rugby scrum.
Behind the Yamatoden is the Chuowaden, which was used as a passageway for the emperor. Here he made last-minute arrangements, rehearsed speeches, and had a pastor. On display are his two palanquins from the Qing Dynasty, which were the emperor’s means of transportation in the Forbidden City. Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing dynasty, used bicycles and modified parts of the palace grounds to make it easier to navigate.
His third of the great halls is the Hall of Preservation of Harmony, used for feasts and later for imperial exams. The hall is devoid of buttresses, and behind it is a 250-ton marble imperial pavement carved with dragons and clouds. It was towed into town along an elaborate ice route. I had to wait until winter. The surrounding buildings surrounding the Three Great Halls were used to store gold, silver, silk, carpets, and other treasures, and now house museum exhibits.
Small Central Hall
The basic composition of the Three Great Halls is reflected in the following group of buildings reached through the Gates of Heavenly Purity. Traditionally, this gate was the demarcation line between the outer ceremonial court and the north inner court, where the emperor and his entourage actually lived and worked. Smaller in scale, these buildings were traditionally more important in terms of strength at the back door of China. The first building is Tianjing Palace, the residence of the emperors in the early Ming and early Qing dynasties, and later an audience hall for receiving foreign envoys and dignitaries.
Immediately behind is the Union Hall, where there is a clepsidra (water clock from 1745) and his five bronze vessels and graduated dials. You’ll also find a collection of mechanical watches and imperial jade seals dating back to 1797. The Palace of Serenity on Earth was the wedding chamber of the imperial couple and the center of operations for the palace harem.
At the northern end of the Forbidden City, the Imperial Garden is a classical Chinese garden of 7,000 square meters of intricately landscaped rock gardens, walkways, pavilions and ancient carbuncle cypresses. At its center is the twin-tower Imperial Peace Hall. Near a retreat lodge, British tutor Sir Reginald Johnston gave English lessons to the deposed “last emperor” Pu Yi.
The northeastern end of the complex has the feel of a small Forbidden City. This is Níng Shòu Gōng, built around 1771 for the Qianlong emperor’s retirement. Today it houses one of the most important collections of ornaments in the palace, the Treasury Gallery. Made of gold, silver, jade, emerald, pearl and other precious and semi-precious stones.
The complex is entered from the south – not far from the unmissable clock gallery. Just inside the entrance is a beautiful glass-enclosed Kowloon screen that mimics the Kowloon screen in Beihai Park.
From there, head north to explore the various halls and courtyards before disembarking at the northern end of the Forbidden City. On the way, visit the Pavilion of Happy His Melodies, his three-story wooden opera house, which was the largest theater in the palace. Note the trapdoor that allowed the actors to stage dramatic stage performances. West and East Palace
To the west and east of the three small central halls are twelve small palace courtyards. In these closed dwellings, most emperors and empresses actually lived in these closed dwellings. Many of the buildings, especially the western ones, are decorated with imperial furniture.
Parts of the palace that were previously locked are constantly being opened. Immediately west of the Gate of Heavenly Purity are clustered halls and gardens where the Late Emperor’s Empress and her concubines lived. Known as the Palace of Mercy and Tranquility, the palace served as a shop for decades after 1925 and is now home to a sculpture gallery that includes Warring States Buddha, terracotta warriors and intricate stone carvings. I’m here.
To the south is the Garden of Compassion and Tranquility, where the Empress Dowager and her imperial consort worshiped, conversed with, and rested with the Buddha. To the west is the Palace of Longevity and Health, built for Emperor Qianlong’s mother.