A visit to the Forbidden City can be overwhelming.
It allows you to explore the former heart of the Middle Kingdom and a glimpse to its rich history.
A visit to the Forbidden City is the top must-do for anyone traveling in Beijing.
Located in the heart of Beijing city. This is China’s largest and best-preserved cluster of ancient buildings and is very easy to access. I advise you spent a full day to visit, or perhaps several separate trips if you are enthusiastic about Chinese history.
Chinese people prefer to call it “Gu Gong” (??), which refers to the former palaces. It has been home to Ming and Qing Dynasties of emperors for over 500 years, since the 3rd emperor of Ming Dynasty moved the capital to Beijing in 1421.
The complex is not one stately building but rather like a city within city, like the Vatican in Rome. There are over 9,000 rooms in 800 buildings in the city separated by passages.
There are 4 gates located on each side of the place, north, south, east and west of the Forbidden City. Each stands for a special meaning and can only be accessible by particular people in ancient time.
Audio guides are available here to help those who have no guide. However, I still recommend you to have a local guide as you can ask any questions you are interested in but not just simply listen.
Now the entrance for travelers is located in the south of this city, just on the opposite of the famous Tiananmen Square. Before entering the Forbidden City, you need to walk through the Gate of Heavenly Peace, where you will see the famous portrait of Mao Zedong that has hung here for years.
Behind it is the huge port-red walls that thrust out from either side of the Meridian Gate (Wumen). This is where you obtain your ticket.
As you walk through the Palace you will encounter some of these key sights.
The highlights are the Three Great Halls, which lie along a line bisecting the complex, running south to north. The first you can see and also the largest is the imposing Hall of Supreme Harmony.
Raised on a 3-tiered platform, the hall was recently the tallest building in Beijing for many years. During the ancient time, it represented the supreme power of the emperor and no one could look down upon this most sacred of imperial buildings.
Behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony is the smaller Hall of Middle Harmony (Zhonghedian), where ministers from the ministry of Rites were received. The rectangular Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohedian) was used to be the place where the emperor oversaw the final stages of the civil service examinations.
As you reach the north, you will see the Gate of Heavenly Purity (Qiangqingmen), where you can see a carving on the huge marble slab showing a dragon flying through the clouds.
The courtyards behind the Gate of Heavenly Purity is called the Inner City. It used to be the place for the imperial courts live. Here offers a great photography chance as you will find well designed gardens, elaborate pavilions, ponds and stone bridges.
Like the nearby Temple of Heaven, almost all of the palaces structures are built of wood, and mainly adorned with red walls and imperial yellow tiles. You will be astonished by the wisdom and skills of ancient Chinese people as most of these wooden structures were constructed without any nails.
However, fire has always been a constant hazard to the Forbidden City. Many buildings were regularly destroyed and rebuilt. To prevent the fires, large cauldrons were placed throughout the city to supply water in the case of a fire. In the winter small fires were maintained under each to prevent the water from freezing.
The Forbidden City in the weekends or holidays will be crowded with people. I recommend you to have a travel agency to book and ticket and arrange the itinerary for you. Waiting in an endless line to buy the ticket might be the last thing you want to experience during your trip.
There is no denying that the Forbidden City is China’s most popular travel destination.
Do not miss it when you travel to Beijing!
Travel tip shared by Helen