Forbidden City

Last updated by peggie at 2014-3-24

The Forbidden City in Beijing

The Forbidden City in Beijing

The Forbidden City, Chinese name, Zijin Cheng (紫禁城), literally means "Purple Forbidden City", though the "purple" [Zi (紫)] here does not refer to the color (the color yellow is more commonly associated with all things imperial) so much as to the name for the North Star, Polaris ("Pole star"), the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor ("Lesser Bear") and the abode of the Celestial Emperor in Chinese astro-mythology. 

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The Forbidden City, aka Imperial City – and sometimes referred to as the Palace Museum, for the museum that it houses (and often referred to by visitors from all over the world in more common parlance as "the imperial palace") – was built during the Ming (CE 1368-1644) Dynasty, beginning in the fourth year of the reign (CE 1402–1424) of Emperor Zhu, aka the Yongle Emperor, or in 1406, and was completed in the 18th year of Emperor Zhu's reign, or in 1420. From its opening in 1420 to the end of China's imperial period, the Forbidden City served as the imperial palace for 24 Ming and Qing emperors.

The Palace's Title Within the Framework of Chinese Astro-Mythology

The Forbidden City

The Forbedden City

The palace's Chinese name, Zijin Cheng (紫禁城), literally means "Purple Forbidden City", though the "purple" [Zi (紫)] here does not refer to the color (the color yellow is more commonly associated with all things imperial) so much as to the name for the North Star, Polaris ("Pole star"), the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor ("Lesser Bear") and the abode of the Celestial Emperor in Chinese astro-mythology. The North Star in Chinese astrology is also sometimes referred to as the Ziwei Star, while the Ursa Minor constellation is correspondingly referred as the Ziwei Enclosure, suggesting a city. The word jin (禁) means "forbidden" , or "prohibited", while the word cheng (城) means "city walls" – and, by extension, "walled in".

Thus these various linguistic references – some literally meaning "forbidden" and others suggesting "forbidden" by implication, since this is a dwelling intended for a Prince of Heaven, or a walled-in heavenly abode within a heavenly city – imply a place that by its very nature excludes ordinary mortals, and hence the palace's enduring title, the Forbidden City.

The Palace's Layout

The palace, grounds included, occupies an area of 720,000 sqm (7,800,000 sq ft), or an area of about 72 hectares. Though the palace, according to folklore, consists of 9,999 rooms – since the number nine is intimately linked to the emperor – in actuality (according to an official statistical survey conducted in 1973), there are only 8,704 rooms within the palace as a whole. The number nine does, however, figure in a couple of other statistics, namely, in the number of palaces (90) and the number of courtyards (980).

Because, according to Chinese mythology, China is the Middle Kingdom (which has two dimensions, one literal and one figurative: figuratively, it is the kingdom situated between Heaven and Earth (and rules over Earth, after Heaven's dictates); and literally, it is the physical kingdom situated in the center of the earth, surrounded by barbarians on all sides), the Forbidden City is laid out in a symmetrical, north-south (polar) rectangular grid pattern. Therefore the palace is constructed along the north-south central axis on which the capital city itself is built.

The palace complex extends from the traditional palatial tower arrangement in the north, the Gou Lou ("Drum Tower") and the Zhong Lou ("Bell Tower"), to, in the south, Yong Ding Men, or the "Gate of Permanent Peace and Stability". Despite its many and complex building structures and courtyards, the Forbidden City is renowned for its sublimely harmonious layout ; it is considered to be the apex of ancient Chinese architectural taste and style.

The Forbidden City falls into two principal parts: the Outer Court and the Inner Palace.

The Outer Court is made up of three main buildings: Tai He Dian, or the "Hall of Supreme Harmony"; Zhong He Dian, or the "Hall of Middle Harmony"; and Bao He Dian, or the "Hall of Preserving Harmony". These three halls, located at the front, or entrance area of the palace complex, serve as the venues for various official ceremonies – each ceremony to be observed in the hall befitting the ceremony's significance, or rank – and with lesser auxiliary halls adjacent to each of these three main halls.

The Inner Palace consists of the rear three main structure s, namely: Qian Qing Gong, or the "Palace of Heavenly Purity", Jiao Tai Dian, or the "Palace of Union and Peace" and Kun Ning Gong, or the "Palace of Earthly Tranquility".  In addition, the Inner Palace is composed of numerous "everyday" buildings where the emperor conducted his daily "business affairs" and where the emperor and his large, extended "family" lived more or less in private, save for the presence of servants. They include 6 east-wing palaces and 6 west-wing palaces, which – besides the rooms that were reserved for work – included rooms that served as the living quarters for the imperial family: the emperor, the empresses and the concubines.

As a matter of security (the safety of the imperial family was paramount!) the rectangular-shaped Forbidden City is enclosed by a 10-meter-high city wall with a total circumference of 3,430 meters. At each corner of this purposefully imposing rectangular structure stands a magnificent watchtower, which, during imperial times, was of course diligently manned by the most trusted guards. Lastly, a moat – encircling the outer perimeter of the city wall, with drawbridges, of course – served as the first line of defense.

As a Museum Over Imperial Chinese Architecture and Cultural & Historical Relics

The Forbidden City in its entirety, as the former abode of 24 Chinese emperors since its construction at the outset of the Ming Dynasty, is of course the primary museum attraction of the imperial palace, if one can put it like that. The Forbidden City is the best preserved imperial palace in China, and in fact the largest ancient palatial structure in the entire world. With its many historical and cultural relics, the Forbidden City is internationally recognized as one of the five most important palace complexes in the world (the other four are: the Palace of Versailles in France, Buckingham Palace in the UK, the White House in the US and the Kremlin in Russia... if I were to be allowed to add a sixth such palace complex, it would have to be the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg – aka Leningrad during the Soviet era).

The official museum inside the palace is a veritable treasures trove of Chinese cultural and historical relics, many of them so unique – and so uniquely exquisite – that their counterparts cannot be found anywhere else on earth. And this despite the pillaging that the palace suffered during the latter part of the Qing Dynasty!

In 1961, the Forbidden City, to also comprise its Palace Museum, was listed by the government of the People's Republic of China as one of the country's most preservation-worthy historical monuments, and in 1987, the Forbidden City was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site.

Solo Adventure Tips:

Location:

No.4 Jingshan Qian Jie, Dongcheng district, Beijing(to the north of the Tiananmen Square)

How to Get There?

1) Take the subway Line one and get off at Tian An Men Xi or Tian An Men Dong
2) Take Tourist Bus No. 1 or No. 5 and get off at Qian Men Station
3) Other Buses that passes by are 1、2、4、5、7、8、9、10、11、17、20、22、31、34、37、44、48、52、53、54、59、110、120、205、、329、509、703、726、728、729、742、744、784、803、808、819、820、821、826、848、859 and 922.

Ticket Price:

1. High season (from Apr. 1 to Oct. 31) 60 Yuan per person (extra fee to the  Clock and Watch Hall and the Treasures Hall  is 10 Yuan each)
 2) Low season (Nov. 1 to Mar. 31) 40 Yuan per person (The Clock and Watch Hall 10 Yuan per person, the Treasures hall 10 Yuan per person) Children below the height of 1. 2 meters are free from charge, students, women on the International Women’s Day (Mar. 8), Army men on the Army Day (Aug. 1) enjoy 50 % discount.

Opening Hours:

1.  From Oct. 16 to Apr. 15: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, (the ticket office closes at 3: 30 pm) 
2.  From Apr. 16 to Oct. 15 to Apr. 15: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm, (the ticket office closes at 4:00 pm)

More Tips:

It is closed on Mondays since 2014.


Nearby Attractions:

Recommended Tours:

Essence of China Tour

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from USD $1,329

There are 16 comments on this topic

posted by "199.185.67.*" at 2014-2-13 12:04:00

can you tell me how tall the forbidden city is?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

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posted by "72.49.25.*" at 2013-2-6 5:12:00

In the Forbidden city, What are the drumm bells used for?

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111.161.9.* replied at 2013-8-29 2:44:00

to save the rain water!

posted by "delbertlobo" at 2011-8-16 0:56:00

It’s a good idea to ensure you have a pair of good walking shoes as the visit can involve plenty of walking. The Forbidden City has many large open spaces.biogetica com

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posted by "nachouen" at 2011-8-3 12:04:00

For me is the best place in Beijing,

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posted by "123.236.17.*" at 2011-7-5 2:29:00

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posted by "Belchi" at 2011-6-3 0:55:00

It's really crowded and have to beware of your purse because there are a lot of pick pockets there

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posted by "baho" at 2011-4-13 11:34:00

A never ending class of history. I never like history classes, but walking through the Forbidden City is really amazing. It's so big and so beautiful. You need at least half a day if you want to see everything and want to read some of the stories....

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posted by "68.55.43.*" at 2011-3-8 16:36:00

it was good for my project

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posted by "hawksley" at 2011-1-13 9:09:00

I spent a month in China in 2008, but only planned a change-over of flights at Beijing International Airport. On way back to UK, my flight was cancelled and I had an afternoon and night stop-over in Beijing - A Chinese friend took me to the Forbidden City - I will be back to see this fantastic Historical site. Days are required, not hours! A Cultural and Heritage delight of mammoth proportions.

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posted by "apolo" at 2010-7-20 2:59:00

This is the must-visit place in Beijing.

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posted by "lavender0108" at 2009-3-30 19:58:00

My tour to the Forbidden City is really an unforgettable experience. I become really curious about Chinese history and I make up my mind to read many books on Chinese history to learn more. Before entering the Forbidden City, I rent an audio tour which can interpret the attractions while I am walking. The main buildings of the Forbidden City are divided into two sections: the outer court and the inner court. The Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony form the outer court of Forbidden City. Walking forward, there are the Gate of Heavenly Purity, the Hall of Heavenly Purity, the Hall of Mental Cultivation, the Hall of Union and Peace, the Palace of Earthly Tranquility and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. Among them, the Hall of Supreme Harmony where the emperors attended court affairs is the most magnificent. Fortunately, we have seen the photographs of Emperor Xuantong and Empress Wanrong. Emperor Xuantong was very thin while Empress Wanrong was really glamorous. It is impossible to cover the numerous attractions in the Forbidden City in a day trip. We leave the Forbidden City reluctantly at 3 p.m.

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posted by "docee" at 2009-2-1 23:37:00

A large palace complex. It is the essence of the art of Chinese traditional architecture.

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posted by "great traveler" at 2009-1-21 20:08:00

It’s a good idea to ensure you have a pair of good walking shoes as the visit can involve plenty of walking. The Forbidden City has many large open spaces.

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posted by "beijingexpat" at 2009-1-14 21:24:00

The exhibitions, both permanent and temporary, are also absolutely fascinating. Expect to spend at least 2-3 hours, wear good walking shoes and protection from the weather.

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posted by "gunnar" at 2008-8-10 23:31:00

The Forbidden City is really one of the greatest sights in Beijing, and it is with no doubt the largest. You could probably walk around here for days (if you find it necessary). The best way to see it for the first time is to enter from Tian’anmen Square, that way you get to see the imposing official southern part of the palace first (as visitors in former days saw it), and after that the living quarters in the northern part. Now if your feet are not sore from walking you can go to the surrounding smaller palaces. A the moment they are under renovation, but within ten years most of them will be open to the public.

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posted by "chinatravel" at 2008-1-22 20:15:00

Forbidden City is a repository of traditional architecture

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