As one of the China’s 3 ancient palaces, the Forbidden City is one of the country’s most well-preserved and well-revered structures. It is visited every year by countless millions. Continue reading to find out more about this impressive structure – and once royal home – below.
What is the Forbidden City
The question of why is it called the forbidden city is probably the most frequently asked query in relation to it. The reason is that it is called the Forbidden City because the palace was, quite literally, forbidden to anyone who wasn’t royal, a high-ranking official, or a servant.
A couple of other Forbidden City facts include that it is the world’s largest active museum. That’s right, you might think of it as a palace or royal sight, but technically, it’s regarded as a museum. With 9,999 rooms filled with artifacts and relics from China’s history, it’s no wonder it’s the world’s largest. In fact, it’s twice the size of the Vatican and three times the size of the Kremlin. Huge.
History Of Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was originally built between the dates of 1406 to 1420.
More than a million workers were involved in its development and construction, making it one of Ancient China’s largest construction projects (along with the Great Wall).
After it was constructed, the palace was the home of emperors and empresses of the Ming dynasty onwards.
They would stay inside, governing their country with help from advisors and governors who would come to meet with them. Of course, they would sometimes venture outside, which would take months of travel.
Forbidden City Captured
In 1644, the Forbidden City was captured by rebel forces. This marked the first time the palace would fall to rebels.
This time the forces were led by Li Zicheng – self-proclaimed emperor of the Shun dynasty. His victory was short lived and almost as soon as he had arrived, he fled.
Over time, the Forbidden City had gone through numerous emperors and leaders, even being captured and inhabited by Anglo-French forces during the second opium war.
During the Boxer rebellion in 1900, the empress at the time – Empress Dowager Cixi – also fled the site, seeking safety elsewhere.
In 1912, the Forbidden City was no longer the political center of China. Puyi, the last emperor of China, abdicated his throne and became a member of the inner court for the new republic which had formed.
China was no longer the imperial country it had always been.
Forbidden City Today
The Forbidden City you can visit today is not the original, but it is close. After many incidents throughout time, several parts of the existing structure have had to be restored.
However, the essence of the building is still there. If Forbidden City Architecture were a thing, the palace remains faithful to the original.
One of the largest restorations in recent memory took place after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
The revolution caused damage to several sections of the structure. Luckily, it wasn’t too extensive, and much of the restoration work was cosmetic.
In 1987 the Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site. Tourists began to flock to the site in droves from all over the world. Now, there is even a Starbucks located inside for thirsty tourists. Moreover, with Beijing having become a visa-free destination in the last few years, it’s now easier to access than ever before.
Culture Of The Forbidden City
Having lasted for almost 600 years, there is no lack of Culture to be found in The Forbidden City.
The Forbidden City is divided into two sections. There is the Outer Court and the Inner Court. To enter the Palace itself though, you’ll need to start at the Meridian Gate. The Meridian Gate is the largest Gate in the Forbidden City and truly incredible. For centuries, it has stood as the guardianof the Forbidden City and a true masterpiece of Architecture.
When you first enter the Forbidden City from Tiananmen Square, you’ll be entering the Outer Court. This section of the Forbidden City was usually used for ceremonies and meeting with officials. It was the more ‘public’ section of the Forbidden City. However, it was still forbidden for the average person.
Inside the Outer Court, you’ll find the Meridian Gate, the Gate of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony, and the Hall of Preserving Harmony. Each of these areas has its own history and culture, and you can visit them all to read more.
The Inner Court is the more private section of the Forbidden City. This is where the emperor, his family, and his wives and escorts would live. You can visit these quarters by stepping off the main throughway and into one of the side courtyards. It’s an interesting look at how Chinese royalty used to live.
You’ll also find several temples back here, which would have been where the emperor would have come to pray and conduct more private ceremonies.
Tips For Visiting The Forbidden City
-Forbidden City tickets can be found at ticket offices to the left, after entering from Tiananmen Square. Guidelines and prices are posted in English, so it’s easy to follow. You will only be given one ticket, no matter how big your group is.
-Throughout the grounds, you’ll find several stands with a forbidden city map stuck to it. They are relatively easy to follow. Just makes sure to note that usually, they will only cover either the Inner Court or the Outer Court. Not both.
How To Visit The Forbidden City
-The Forbidden City’s location in Beijing makes it perfect for any tour which will explore Beijing. If you’re going to visit the Great Wall or head towards any of Beijing other great sights, you will almost definitely be visiting it.
-If you’re planning on just staying in Beijing for 1 day, why not try the Best of Beijing Group Tour. Alternatively, there is the more detailed 4-day Private Tour of Beijing With a Travel Guide. It really depends on how much you want to see, and in how much detail.