The Forbidden City, Beijing, China
The Forbidden City is located right at the center of busy Beijing, China. It is the core of the city. The forbidden city used to be the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty (1420 – 1912). It used to served as the home of emperors and as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government. Currently, the sight houses the Palace Museum.
|Picture: Forbidden city||Picture: Forbidden city|
History of the palace
Construction on the giant complex began in 1406 and took just 14 years to complete. How did they finish it so quickly in those days? Well, they simply enlisted over a million workers (!) to do the job.
From 1420 to 1912 the Forbidden City was the home of 24 emperors (14 of the Ming dynasty and 10 of the Qing dynasty). The last emperor of China, Puyi, was allowed to stay in the complex after his abdication, but he was eventually evicted after a coup in 1924. The palace was turned into a museum the next year.
|Picture: Stairs||Picture: Coper pot|
Features of the complex
The Forbidden City was traditionally divided into two parts: the Outer and Inner Courts. The Outer Court consists of the southern part of the complex and was mostly used for ceremonial purposes. The Inner Court, on the northern side, was the home of the emperor and was also used for regular state affairs.
There’s a tower on each of the palace’s four corners, as well as a gate in each of the four walls. The Inner Golden Water River meanders through the Outer Court and is crossed by five bridges. The most important buildings within the complex are located on the central axis, between the southern and northern gate.
|Picture: Forbidden city||Picture: Golden lion|
The entire complex consists of 980 buildings within a walled area measuring 961 by 753 meters, twice the size of the Vatican. A common myth is that there are 9,999 rooms in the Forbidden City, research puts the actual number of rooms at 8,886, which is obviously still a lot.
To say that the emperor was well-protected is quite an understatement. Not only are the walls surrounding the palace 8 meters high with a 52 meters wide and 6 meters deep moat behind it, the Forbidden City lies within the formerly-walled Imperial City, which in turn lies within Beijing’s historic Inner City, which, you guessed it, used to be surrounded by a giant wall.
|Picture: Inside||Picture: Forbidden city|
About the museum
The Palace Museum is China’s most popular single site tourist attraction, with over 16 million yearly visitors. Those visitors can’t just go wherever they like within the walls of the palace, however, as about 30 percent of the complex is currently closed off. There’s been a lot of speculation about the restricted areas of the Forbidden City, and some people even believe that certain buildings are closed because they are haunted. Despite this, more and more of the complex is opened up to the public, with plans to make at least 85 percent of the Forbidden City accessible for all visitors in the coming years.
The permanent collection of the Palace Museum consists of over a million works of art, including 340 thousand pieces of ceramics and 50 thousand paintings. Jade, which plays an important part in Chinese culture, is also well-represented in the museum, with over 30 thousand pieces.
|Picture: Side view||Picture: Detail stairs|
Practical information for your visit
Because the Forbidden City is the most visited tourist site in China, it should come as no surprise that the place can get crowded, really crowded. It is therefore advised to plan your visit in the morning. Only 80 thousand people are allowed inside every day, which may seem a lot, but tickets tend to sell out around noon on busy days.
It should also be noted that most of the visitors follow the same route along the central axis, making this pathway incredibly crowded. What a lot of people don’t realise is that you are allowed to take different routes through the Forbidden City. So turn left or right after you’ve entered through the gate and explore the palace with a lot more freedom to move. You’ll probably see some interesting parts of the Forbidden City that you would’ve otherwise missed.
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