Home> China Travel > Beijing > Forbidden City History

The History of the Forbidden City

Built from 1406 to 1420, it took 14 years to construct the Forbidden City. It served as the home of 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Drawing upon a history of over 600 years, this royal palace complex has become a silent witness to history. Down through the decades, whether during the best or worst of times, the palace has stood solemnly in Beijing, hosting visitors from all over the world.

Ming Dynasty (276 Years)

The Forbidden City
  • In 1406, Emperor Chengzu of the Ming dynasty ordered the Imperial Palace and city walls to be built in Beijing.
  • In 1409, Chengzu built his mausoleum close to Beijing rather than in Nanjing, indicating he had decided to move the capital to Beijing.
  • In 1416, the matter of moving the capital to Beijing was officially put on the agenda.
  • In 1417, the construction of the Forbidden City started.
  • In 1420, the construction was completed.
  • Three great fires and reconstructions of the Forbidden City occurred in the years 1421, 1557 and 1597, respectively.

Qing Dynasty (268 Years)

Towards the end of the Qing dynasty (from 1900 to 1912), various foreign countries tried to open China’s gates by force of arms. Gugong, the Ancient Palace, suffered pillaging from forces home and abroad.

An Eight-Nation Alliance (Britain, the US, France, Germany, Russia, Japan, Italy and Austria-Hungary) invaded and ransacked the Forbidden City, forcing the emperor to flee from Beijing. After that, many Chinese treasures from the palace found their way to Europe.

Republic of China (37 Years)

The Forbidden City

The Palace Museum was built in 1925 in the Forbidden City.

On the eve of the unrestrained outbreak of the War of Resistance Against Japan, the Palace Museum moved some cultural relics to the south and established the Nanjing Branch of the Palace Museum, to protect those treasures from being destroyed by war or plundered by Japanese imperialists.

From 1933 onwards, however, the Japanese invasion led to the loss of numerous treasures. After the end of World War II, some important items from the Palace’s collection were returned. After the Chinese Civil War, however, the Nationalist Palace Museum in Taipei hosted many treasures from the Forbidden City.

Modern Times

The Forbidden City

After the founding of the PRC in 1949, a large-scale renovation of the Forbidden City was carried out and vast numbers of artifacts were sorted out. There are more than 1.8 million pieces or sets of cultural relics in the Palace Museum at present.

All articles in the Forbidden City were made by the most skilled craftsmen, using the best-quality materials from hundreds of years ago. Tax tributes to the emperors were also of the highest quality.

Now visitors can see some of these royal articles, including ceramics, paintings, brassware, timepieces, and jade, used or collected by the emperors.

In-depth Forbidden City Tour with China Travel

Take your time to enjoy the 4-Day Beijing Essence and In-depth Forbidden City Tour with China Travel:

  • Our English-speaking expert guide will lead you to explore this largest imperial palace in the world and give you comprehensive explanations with pictures.
  • You will see all highlights and discover the hidden history of Chinese imperial life.
  • This in-depth Forbidden City tour takes about 3 hours while common Forbidden City tour only lasts about 2 hours.
  • In the afternoon, you’ll visit corner watchtower to have a bird's eye view of the Forbidden City.