Lying at the center of Beijing, the Forbidden City is once forbidden for any entry during the ancient China times as special permission from the emperor is needed to enter the imperial palace. It served as the imperial palace for twenty-four emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Rectangular in shape, it is the world’s largest complex that covers 74 hectares and displays ancient Chinese skills in engineering building and collection of treasures and imperial living. But today, thousands of tourists worldwide has visited and enjoy the Forbidden City as it is now one of China’s popular attractions.
After a visit to Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City is just right after the square with the south gate entrance named Meridian Gate as the point of entry. From the outside, the palace’s bordering walls surrounding it were astounding in height and engineer. Surrounded by a 52 meter wide moat and a 10 meter high wall, its appearance seems to discourages any robbers or forbidden entry to the palace. When I enter from one gate to the next, it seems to be an endless entrance to the court’s complex of palace. But the visitors adjoined with me in the entrance seem never getting tired for a day’s exploration of the palace. So, I ready myself for a long walk of journey - a 960 meter walk to be exact in reaching the north gate end of the palace.
Entering inside Forbidden City is a trip down to the history, richness and grandiose royalty life of imperial periods of China. For me, it was an instant crash course in learning China History 101 mainly because I get learn more about the imperial days of China and the life of the royalties inside the palace and not just about the names of the famous emperors or empress who did this or that to China. Forbidden City is a huge palace complex. I couldn’t imagine walking a whole day exploring this huge complex as it will literally take a whole day need to spend here just to see and explore every corner of Forbidden City. But exploring the essential parts of the palace is enough to have a rediscovery of China’s rich history of imperial period.
|Meridian Gate or the entrance to Forbidden City.|
|The architectural wall of the palace is designed to discourage robbers from climbing it.|
|Ticket is 120 Yuan as of March 2012.|
Forbidden City is divided into two parts. The southern section or the Outer Court was where the emperor exercised his supreme power over the nation. The northern section, or the Inner Court, was where he lived with his royal family. The Outer Court displays the throne area of the emperors where he meets his officials and constituents. I noticed the dominance of yellow color in every throne room and its decorations. Later I learned that that yellow is the symbol of the royal family. There are information markers explaining about the sections of the place especially its significance inside the palace where visitors would find useful in learning about the imperial history of China. If you prefer a guided tour of the palace, visitors can rent an audio guide at the information booth which is available in many languages.
Beyond Meridian Gate, a large square is ended with the elegant and grandiose designed Gate of Supreme Harmony. Behind it is the Hall of Supreme Harmony Square. A three-tiered white marble terrace rises from this square. Three halls stand on top of this terrace and it is the focus of the palace complex - these are the Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Central Harmony and Hall of Preserving Harmony. The Hall of Supreme Harmony is the largest, and rises some 30 metres (98 ft) above the level of the surrounding square. It is the ceremonial centre of imperial power, and the largest surviving wooden structure in China. The Hall of Central Peace is a smaller, square hall and used by the Emperor to prepare and rest before and during ceremonies. Behind it, the Hall of Preserving Harmony, was used for rehearsing ceremonies, and was also the site of the final stage of the Imperial examination. All three halls feature imperial thrones, the largest and most elaborate one being that in the Hall of Supreme Harmony.
Also in the Outer Court, I saw colorful and beautifully designed roofs and ceilings of each throne rooms and gates. There is a statue of guarding-like gilded lions that are on each side stair entrance of each court. I saw also white marble plates carved with intricate art design of a dragon that truly exhibits Chinese art ingenuity at its finest. And there’s also a lot rooms inside Forbidden Palace despite of large squares and narrow spaces for walkthroughs. Later, I learned that this largest palace complex in the world contains 999 buildings and 9,999 rooms as 9 is the lucky number for Chinese.
|Gate of Supreme Harmony.|
|Meridian Gate - a view from Gate of Supreme Harmony.|
|Intricate and colorful designs on the ceiling of Gate of Supreme Harmony.|
|Enter the Dragon!|
|The biggest palace complex in the world! Truly breathtaking!|
|The throne of the Emperor.|
|I conquer China!|
|What the royalties in China used during the imperial era of the kingdom.|
|Dragons on a slab of marble.|
|The beautifully designed roofs of halls and courtyards at Inner Court.|
|One of Inner Court's halls where the Empress and the imperial concubines lived.|
|A guarding gilded lion at the front of the gate. Note the ball under the paws symbolizing the emperor's power.|
|The grandest throne of the emperor at the Hall of Preserving Harmony.|
|Spring time at the Imperial Garden.|
|Interlinked branched of two cypress trees that says to symbolize love.|
|Rockeries and pavilions at the Imperial Garden.|
|Rock formations near the Gate of Divine Might.|
|Flowers starting to bloom at the Imperial Garden.|
|One of the marvelous Imperial Garden sceneries...|
Forbidden City displays unique Chinese palatial architecture and imperial treasures that has captivated the world for its engineering, richness and grandiose. So no wonder that Forbidden City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It also displays the grand royalty life, culture and tradition of the royal family that lived during the imperial period of China. A visit to Forbidden Palace is a trip down the history of China’s history of dynasties, emperors, politics and traditional way of life. So, it’s hard to imagine if Forbidden Palace remains forbidden until now. I wouldn’t see its beauty, witness its magnificence and discover its hidden treasures behind its tall walls and hundred rooms. But today, the gates of this palace are wide open for the world to see. It is forbidden no more.
Forbidden City: Forbidden No More is part of my Beguiling Beijing.Captivating China series where I share my birthday trip adventures, travel stories and first-time experiences in Beijing, China last March 20-24, 2012. You might also like the other parts of the series:
+Beijing - A Beguiling City
+Winter Sonata in China
+Roaming through Beijing
+One Spring Day in Beijing
+Forbidden City: Forbidden No More
+A Dragon Hike to the Great Wall of China
+Beijing's Architectural Wonders
+Peking Duck: An Authentic Chinese Cuisine
+Wangfujing's Lively Street Life
+The Imperial Gardens of Beijing