Forbidden to outsiders no longer, enter the Forbidden City, the most famous attraction in the heart of Beijing, China, and see the former imperial palace, which now houses the Palace Museum. For almost five hundred years, from the mid-Ming Dynasty until the end of the Qing Dynasty, the Forbidden City was the Emperor's home and the Emperor's household. It was the political and ceremonial center of the Chinese government. 


Some roof architecture in the Forbidden City.
Some roof architecture in the Forbidden City. [Report image]

The Forbidden City of China took 15 years to build and was constructed between 1406 and 1420. Surviving within the ancient complex are 980 buildings and a total of 8,707 rooms. The entire complex covers 720,000 meters or 2,362,204.80 square feet of land. It was built in the traditional style, with the architecture reminiscent of other traditional palace architecture in China. 

These ancient wooden structures are incredibly well preserved and have led in part to the Forbidden City having been named a World Heritage Site in 1987. This incredible collection of buildings, now home to the Palace Museum, is filled with an extensive collection of artifacts and artwork from the Ming and Qing Dynasties as they have been since they were entrusted to the Palace Museum in 1924. A part of the museum's former collection can be viewed at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, which split off from the main Palace Museum after the Chinese Civil War. For this collection of art and artifacts alone, the Forbidden City is worthy of a visit by tourists from all over the world. The extensive art collection is amazing to view and fascinating to study and can provide days of entertainment for those willing to wander the galleries and take their time in exploration. 

The historical significance and age of the buildings themselves add to the site's splendor, making it a must-see location for anyone touring through Asia and worthy of consideration for those unsure of where to take their next vacation. Believed to be the celestial emperor's home, the Forbidden City means the 'North Star' in Chinese. As the terrestrial emperor's home, the place was considered the Earthly counterpart to this terrestrial wonder. It was named 'Forbidden' because of the emperor's requirement for permission for anyone to enter or leave the city. Today the Chinese refer to the site as Gugong, which translates to mean the 'former palace'. 

The Forbidden City today remains an important architectural mark in Beijing's civic scheme, providing a north-south axis. The architecture of the Forbidden City itself is a fascinating and beautiful example of traditional Chinese palace architecture. It is worthy of the exploration of the area all on its own. 

Short history

The history of the construction of this fantastic complex is of great interest. The entire Forbidden City was said to require more than a million workers, and the Phoebe Shennan wood used in the construction of the buildings was transported from the jungles of southwestern China all the way up to Beijing for the palace. The marble blocks used in parts of the Forbidden City came from a quarry near Beijing itself, and the 'golden bricks' used in paving the floors of the major halls were specially baked in Suzhou for the imperial palace. 

Though war and arson have touched the Forbidden City over the centuries, it has largely survived intact and became the Qing Dynasty's seat until the last Emperor of China, Puyi, abdicated in 1912. Puyi retained use of the inner courts of the Forbidden City. In contrast, the outer courts were opened to the public in an agreement with the new Republic of China government until he was evicted after a coup in 1924. At that time, the Palace Museum was established in the no longer Forbidden City. 

The Forbidden City is currently undergoing a massive renovation project to renew it and restore it to a state much like that in which it was before 1912. Hopefully, this project will add much to the palace complex, which is the largest surviving palace complex in the world, covering .72 square kilometers, or .28 square miles. 

A walled city within a walled city...

A watchtower in a corner of the Forbidden City.
A watchtower in a corner of the Forbidden City. [CC] credit.

This incredible palace complex was designed to be the center of Beijing's ancient, walled city and is enclosed in a still larger walled area known as the Imperial City. The Inner City encloses the Imperial City, with the Outer City falling to the south of the area. 

The Forbidden City is composed of two traditional sections known as the outer court and the inner court. The outer court was used for ceremonial purposes and is situated in the southern section of the city. The inner court was the traditional home of the Emperor and his family and was located in the City's northern section. It was also used for the day-to-day affairs of the state. 

Part of the courtyard of the Forbidden City in Beijing.
Part of the courtyard of the Forbidden City in Beijing. [CC] credit.

If you are more interested in art than in architecture, you will not be disappointed. Although some of the artwork was taken away to Taipei, much remains of the original art and artifacts have been kept by the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City. There were over a million artifacts stored in the Forbidden City. It is also the home of the largest collection of ancient books and documents in the country in the imperial libraries. Audits and searches of the Forbidden City coupled with the arrival of artifacts from many other museums all around China and purchases and donations from the public have much replenished the artifacts in the Palace Museum, restoring it nearly to its former glory. 

The Forbidden City is an incredible place to explore and is absolutely worthy of a visit by anyone interested in Chinese art or history, ancient architecture, or royalty. It is an incredible sight to see and filled with many wonders of China.