Everyone has seen pictures and video’s of Tiananmen Square, they have heard of all the horrific things that happened there but behind this square there is a place for sightseeing, The Forbidden City or Gùgōng (故宫). The Forbidden City is a palace complex based in Central Beijing. It houses the palace museum and used to be the former Chinese Imperial Palace from 1420 until 1912. In 1987 it was listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world and this a World Heritage Site.
The complex’ construction started in 1406 and it took 14 years to finish all 980 buildings, housing Emperors and their household and ceremonial and political centers of the Chinese government for 5 centuries. The original name of the Forbidden City was Zǐjìnchéng ( 紫禁城 ) translated to Purple Forbidden City. The name Zi refers to the North Star, which was the heavenly abode of the celestial emperor, this is why the name is translated as forbidden, ordinary people were not allowed to enter, these days however it’s called the former palace HongWu Emperor’s son Zhu Di became the Yongle Emperor and made the decision to change the Capital of China from Nanjing to Beijing when the construction of the palace started. Using mostly whole logs of Phoebe Zhennan wood, only found int he jungles in the south west of China and marble from quarries around Beijing and they used special bricks from Suzhou. It since than saw many different emperors in different dynasties. The museum was opened in 1925, many artifacts and national treasures were kept there until the Japanese invaded China and at the end of WWII only a part of the treasures returned, others were shipped to Taiwan and kept in storage until 1965 in the National Palace Museum in Taipei.
The structure of the city is formed in a rectangle, it consists of 980 buildings and 8886 rooms, rumoured to have 9999 rooms but that’s still considered a myth. The forbidden City is the inner most part in Beijing, outside of this is The Imperial City, walled in by the Inner City which in turn is east of the Outer City.
The city is surrounded by a wall of almost 8 meters high and a moat of six meters deep and 8.62 meters wide. These walls served as defense as to keep people inside of it each corner of the wall having a wall tower.
Reasons to visit the Forbidden city are it’s architectural and historic properties, as all the important gates and halls of the Forbidden City were arranged symmetrically on the north-south central axis of old Beijing, the Forbidden City’s layout points its visitors straight at “Heaven”, the North Star. All walls are build in such a way that the tenons join and interlock seamlessly and harmoniously, ending in needing no nails in it’s entire property. Painted in red which means good fortune and happiness and with yellow glazed roofs which represent supreme power and was only reserved for the imperial family. Each hall has a row of mythical animals on it’s roof, the number of animals were determined by the importance of the building and a set of bronze lions guard many of the complexes, female lion on the left and a male on the right.
In the Palace Museum you can see the following exhibitions
- The Clocks Gallery in the Hall of Ancestral Offerings
- The Treasures Gallery in the Palace of Tranquil Longevity
- The Paintings and Calligraphy Gallery in the Hall of Military Eminence
- The Porcelain and Ceramics Gallery in the Hall of Literary Glory
- The Bronzeware Gallery in the Palace of Celestial Favor
To visit the Museum and palaces you will need at least 2–3 hours to see everything and I do recommend you try to go on a weekday as it can get very busy. The gates open at 8:30 am and close 5:30 pm but in off season 8:30 am 5 pm however it’s closed on Mondays. Entry is 60 yuan (roughly €6,-) from April to October; 40 yuan (roughly €4,-) from November to March
I, myself visited the Forbidden City right before coming home from living in China and I was impressed with how large and beautiful the complex is. I remember not going into the museum however because it was really busy around the time and I remember spending half a day walking around and looking at the architecture of the buildings. When I went however there wasn’t much to do, theres some vendors here and there but in general it’s just to look at scenery. Around the complex there are enough parks and other things to do so if just looking at buildings isn’t for you, don’t spend too much time here.
One day I hope to go back and see it all again because I thought it was absolutely beautiful.
Credit: Wikipedia and Chinahighlights
All Photo’s are Marjoleine’s/Saetori Media Property