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FAQs About the Forbidden City

Many thrilling stories are told about former members of the emperors’ households (for example, relating how the shadows of some servants can still be seen walking in line along the wall). Those attracted by such stories are naturally eager to discover palace secrets.

As one of the top 10 most popular tourist attractions in China, the Forbidden City attracts thousands of visitors every day, bringing with them hundreds of questions. And the most asked questions are those below.

Where did the emperor live? How many emperors lived in the city?

Palace of Heavenly Purity

Palace of Heavenly Purity

The Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qian Qing Gong) is the biggest in the Inner Palace. Fourteen emperors of the Ming dynasty lived there, as well as the first two emperors of the Qing dynasty.

From the time of Emperor Yongzheng (who reigned from 1722-1735) of the Qing, the Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yang Xin Dian) became the place, the palace, where the emperors lived and slept.

So the Forbidden City was inhabited by 24 emperors in total.

Why are there no trees in the Outer Court?

the Outer Court

the Outer Court

The Forbidden City is divided into two parts: the Outer Court and the Inner Palace.

The core buildings of the Outer Court are the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Middle Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, which make up about 1/10 of the total area of the Forbidden City, i.e. 18 acres.

In all that great area, however, there are no plants. Is it because the emperor didn’t like trees?
The typical explanation given by tour guides is that lack of trees was to guard against assassins.

In addition, flowers and grass attract many birds, which are disrespectful to the emperor.
In fact, there are many reasons why there are no trees near the three main halls:

  • 1. To avoid the risk of fire -- the buildings in the Forbidden City were mainly made of wood, which catches fire easily.
  • 2. To preserve the aura of majesty of the three buildings -- plants can disrupt the performance of the guard of honor when grand celebrations are being convened.
  • 3. To prevent assassins from hiding in the trees and stabbing the emperor.
  • 4. According to the five elements of Chinese philosophy, the location of the Forbidden City is associated with “metal” and there is mutual conflict between “metal” and “wood”. Thus no trees were planted near the three halls.

Are there any other answers to this question? Maybe you can explore it in your Beijing Discovery Tour.

Why are yellow and red the most common colors in the city?

The tile color of most buildings in the Forbidden City is yellow, the color symbolic of imperial power.

Red symbolizes power, suggesting the emperor’s reign is immortal.

The large-scale application of these two colors laid the foundation for the magnificent and majestic beauty of the ancient Palace.

Where is the best spot from which to photograph the Forbidden City?

the Turret of the Moat

the Turret of the Moat

Two places are highly recommended:

1. The first is Jingshan, the man-made hill opposite the northern gate of the Palace. A panoramic view of the Forbidden City from the highest point of Jingshan is even more eye-catching than views from inside.

2. Another must-try spot for cameras is the turret of the moat. This produces a postcard-worthy scene when the tower throws a shadow on the moat, with the background of the setting sun. Depart through the Spiritual Valor Gate (Shen Wu Men) and go westwards, and you’ll find the recommended turret.

Beijing Boutique Tour with China Travel

Take time out to enjoy a One-Day Beijing Boutique Tour with China Travel:

  • You will walk around the Tian'anmen Square with an insider's eyesight and skip the line at the amazing Forbidden City (Imperial Palace Museum).
  • In the afternoon, you will hike on the Great Wall Hiking at Mutianyu with round-way cable car.
  • As our China Travel customers, you will have free portable Wi-Fi anytime and anywhere. The tour is smartly-timing arrangement and absolutely no shop visiting.

This will solve your problems, like not knowing Chinese, finding the bus or subway station, going to a wrong station, and waiting. Our English-speaking guide and experienced driver will make your trip easy and fun, and serve your party only.