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A Postcard from Beijing: Forbidden City

Picture of Anastasiia Ilina
Updated: 9 June 2017
The Forbidden City holds its name for a reason. The large complex housed the Chinese Imperial family for over 500 years and was off-limits for the common folk. The extensive number of rooms and buildings earned it the title ‘city’. One of the most popular tourist attractions in Beijing, in all of China in fact, the Forbidden City attracts an estimated 14 million visitors annually.

A brief history

Starting from the 15th century, the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasty emperors, along with their families and servants, were the official residents of the Forbidden City. When Zhu Di became emperor, he moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing to solidify his power, establishing the Forbidden City as the centre of Chinese governance. Thus the dominant colour of the Palace is yellow, as it symbolises the power of the royal family. It would take 14 years and a million workers to complete the Palace and construction was carried out using wood and large blocks of marble. The Forbidden City is surrounded by a tall wall and a 52 meter deep moat. Inside it is divided into two parts: the Outer and Inner Courts. The Inner Court was traditionally used by the emperor and his family. Overall, the Forbidden City has an impressive 9000 rooms within 980 buildings.The Palace was the Imperial home until the last emperor, Puyi, was expelled from the Palace a few years following his abdication in 1912. A museum was later established in 1925. Following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China some damage was done to the Palace, but it was protected during the Cultural Revolution on the orders of Premier Zhou Enlai. The Forbidden City has now been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The yellow roofs of the Palace Building
The yellow roofs of the Palace Building | © 3dman_eu/Pixabay

Why go?

The Forbidden City is one of the three royal Chinese palaces still remaining and is the largest ancient palace in the world. It is now the location of the Palace Museum. During the turbulent events of the 20th Century part of the museum’s collection was transferred to Taiwan, it can now be seen at the National Palace Museum in Taipei. The last place to witness the imperial life of China, the Forbidden City still houses a number of ancient relics and artefacts.

4 Jingshan Front St, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100006

Inside the Forbidden City
Inside the Forbidden City | © 3dman_eu/Pixabay

In the area

The Forbidden City is located in the centre of the city and therefore many other places of interest are within easy reach. The Palace itself is located on Tiananmen Square, the location of Chairman Mao Zedong’s Mausoleum. On the east-side of the Forbidden City is the National Museum of China, housing artefacts and art from ancient times to the modern age. If you walk south, you will reach Qianmen, an old business street, now turned tourist attraction with a wide range of restaurants and shops.

National Museum of China, 16 E Chang’an Ave, Dongcheng Qu, China

When you go

Take the subway line 1 to Tiananmen East station and walk out of exit A. Be prepared for a security check as you walk onto Tiananmen Square. The museum handles a high inflow of visitors, so ticket sales per day are limited to 80 000. Arriving early during weekends and public holidays is recommended. Both locals and foreigners are required to show their ID or passport at the entrance.

Entrance fee: 50 RMB. Extra costs may apply for exhibitions and galleries.