Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Forbidden City: Forbidden No More

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.
A grand welcome to China's imperial days - Forbidden City!
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.

Rub the gold for goodluck!
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!
In Inner Court, I was submerged to a lot courtyards and halls of the emperors and his family. The most notable halls that I saw and explored in the Inner Court where of Empress Dowager Cixi’s courtyard (one of the most notable empress of imperial China, a powerful and charismatic woman who unofficially but effectively controlled the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China for 47 years) and other the emperor’s notable concubines. Inside these halls were the preserved antique furniture and accessories belonging to the royal family. Visitors will see silver plates, combs, candle holders, vases, beds and even pillows still intact as if it has not been through thousands years before. All of the artifacts and furniture belongings can be seen through the glass cover that replaced the wall covering the halls and rooms of each court. Now I’m not puzzled why Forbidden City is also called as Palace Museum. The complex contains hundreds and thousands of museum artifacts, historical pieces and treasured artworks of importance that displays and exhibits China’s rich history.  
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.
At the center of the Inner Court is another set of three halls. From the south, these are the Palace of Heavenly Court, Hall of Union, and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. Smaller than the Outer Court halls, the three halls of the Inner Court were the official residences of the Emperor and the Empress. The Emperor, representing Yang and the Heavens, would occupy the Palace of Heavenly Purity. The Empress, representing Yin and the Earth, would occupy the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. In between them was the Hall of Union, where the Yin and Yang mixed to produce harmony. The north-eastern section of the Inner Court is taken up by the Palace of Tranquil Longevity, a complex built by the Qianlong Emperor in anticipation of his retirement. It mirrors the set-up of the Forbidden City proper and features an "outer court", an "inner court", and gardens and temples. The entrance to the Palace of Tranquil Longevity is marked by a glazed-tile Nine Dragons Screen. I also get see a mini-museum hall about Puyi at the Inner Court. I saw his toys, crib, clothes, books and other things he used when he lived inside the palace. There were also information about his life and how he is popularly figured in the history of imperial China. Puyi is best remembered as the last emperor of imperial China.  

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...
At the end of the Inner Court, I reach the Imperial Garden with my travel-mates. Relatively small, and compact in design, the garden nevertheless contains several elaborate landscaping features like beautiful rock formations and colorful Chinese pavilions and towers. It is also here I saw flowers starting to bloom in time for the Spring season which makes the garden more exciting for roaming, exploration and strolling. There are also hundred year old Cypress trees here but two Cypress trees draws much of the crowd because of its intertwined branch that is said to be symbolize love. Many visitors like to take photos under it to wish that their love and life are happy and sweet. To the north of the garden is the Gate of Divine Might. This is the exit to Forbidden Palace and across it is the imperial park called Jingshan Park.

Forbidden City from the viewtop of Jingshan Park.
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 


  1. thanks for visiting my blog.

    this is a dream destination for me.

  2. nahiya nmn ako sa blog ko nung nakita ko ang blog mo,... hehe... you got a good blog here =)

  3. @Photo Cache: Thanks for visiting here too. Try to visit Beijing, you'll enjoy photographing everything there.

    @Jherson: It's ok. You have nice blog too plus exciting travel stories. 'Hope you visit often.

  4. one of the places i wish to visit..nice sharing and photos again Ian..keep up the good work! sorry for the late visit..just got back from some trips...still tired until now..lolz!

  5. I would love to visit the forbidden city one day, it looks so interesting and beautiful. Stunning photos.

  6. the city is so big. does it have a neighborhood other than the imperial place?

  7. @Ruby: Thanks for visiting!

    @Freya: Thank you for the comments.

    @Phioxee: Yes. But Beijing itself is a large city that is hard to fully explore in short span of time. There are so many things to see in Beijing.

  8. My friends and I visited Beijing early March. But it was so cold when we toured the Forbidden City, I didn't get to enjoy it that much. Thanks to your blog, I get to appreciate the sites, structures and architecture that I didn't notice while I was there.

    1. It must have been really cold by that time since its just the end of winter season. 'Hope you come back again to check the rest of the series of this post.

  9. pangarap ko tong beijing kaso wala pakong malaking amount show money para sa visa. lovely caotures btw, picture palang ang lamig lamig na! :)

    forgive me for not visiting your blog that often, pero namangha ako nagbago ka ba ng template ganda :D

    1. Yup, just recently lang ang change of template. What can you say? =)
      Thank you for visiting again. More updates now, since I have lots of travel story backlogs. I have a lot to share because of it. 'Hope you visit often. Pag-ipunan mo na ang China - super worth ang trip dyan!

  10. Reminds me of The Last Emperor by Bertolucci

  11. It makes me more excited to travel around China in March 2015. Keep it up! :)


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