Imperial Palace / Forbidden City, Beijing Gugong
The Imperial Palace, also known as the Forbidden City is China's largest and most significant building. Its origins date from the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). Emperor Yongle of the Ming dynasty had the palace enlarged to its present day size between 1406 and 1420, after he had transferred the capital from Nanking to Beijing. The palace was the residence of 24 Ming and Qing emperors.
Opening hours: 8:30am-4:20pm
Entrance fee in CNY: Adult ¥60.00
Useful tips: Admission fee is reduced in winter. Closing times are earlier in winter.
Imperial Palace (Forbidden City) Highlights
The Meridian Gate is also known as the Five-Phoenix-Gate, after its five pavilions. It was built in 1420 and has been restored several times. Every year the emperor would announce the New Year here, and decide on the fate of prisoners.
Golden River Bridges
Passing through the Wumen, the visitor will see five white marble bridges richly decorated with sculptures, also known as the Golden River Bridges.
Gate of Supreme Harmony
Three gates stand in the background of the Golden River Bridges. The middle gate (Gate of Supreme Harmony) is flanked by two bronze lions, symbols of imperial might.In the enormous adjacent inner-courtyard up to several thousand people assemble at great ceremonies. The necessary equipment - ceremonial fan, banner of honor, weapons - as well as robes and musical instruments were kept in the side galleries.The next three halls stand on a three-tiered marble terrace, which is surrounded by a marble balustrade. The middle hall was reserved exclusively for the emperor, where he would be carried in a sedan chair.
Hall of Supreme Harmony / Throne Hall
The 35m/114ft high Hall of Supreme Harmony is also known as the Throne Hall (Jinluan Dian), as it contains the splendidly decorated gilded imperial throne. Important ceremonies took place here, such as the coronation, the imperial weddings, and the New Year celebrations. Here the emperor also announced the names of the successful candidates of the palace examinations. The hall's total area; more than 2000sq.m/2392sq.yd make it without doubt China's largest wooden structure.Many of the furnishings are of symbolic significance. The eighteen bronze incense burners either side of the stairs symbolize the eighteen provinces of the empire. The bronze tortoises and cranes represent long life; the pile of grain on the left of the hall, and the sundial on the right symbolize imperial justice. Inside are 24 pillars which correspond with the 24 hours of the day. These support a richly decorated coffered ceiling. The six pillars supporting the 2m/6ft high throne platform, are decorated with the gilded imperial dragon emblem.
Hall of Middle Harmony
The Hall of Middle Harmony (Zhonghe Dian) is situated behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony. This was where the emperor rested, and received homage from the officials and masters of ceremony before passing into the Hall of Supreme Harmony. Sometimes he came here to read his ministers' reports and speeches. Once a year in this hall the emperor inspected the seed in order to guarantee a good harvest.
Hall of Preserving Harmony
The Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohe Dian) is situated behind the Hall of Complete Harmony. It functioned as the emperor's banquet hall. From the late 18th C the imperial examinations were held here. The lower end of the ramp at the back of the hall is formed by the largest dragon relief stone in the palace, a 250 tonne marble plate over which the emperor was carried in his chair.
Hall of Literary Glory
The Hall of Literary Glory (Wenhua Dian), to the southeast of the three main halls, was reserved for the prince who was heir to the throne during the Ming dynasty. From 1644 to 1911 it was used as a study for the emperors. The Imperial Library (Wenyuan Ge) is situated next to this hall.
Hall of Military Courage
To the southwest of the main halls stands the Hall of Military Courage (Wuying Dian), which served as a permanent residence and private audience hall for the emperors.The three main halls together with the side buildings form the so-called outer courtyard, behind which are concealed the inner chambers consisting of three palaces and twelve courtyards (six to the left and six to the right). The private apartments of the imperial family were situated here.
Palace of Heavenly Purity
The Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing Gong) is situated behind the gate of the same name (Qianqing Men); it separates the outer courtyard from the inner chambers. During the Ming period (1368-1644) this palace was the living quarters of the emperors, but after the 1730s it was used by them for studying.
Hall of Union between Heaven and Earth
The Hall of Union between Heaven and Earth (Jiaotai Dian) stands between the Palace of Heavenly Purity and the Palace of Earthly Tranquillity. During the Qing period, (1644-1911) the coronations and birthday celebrations of the empress took place here. In the building today are 25 imperial seals of China, a glockenspiel, and a bronze water clock.
Palace of Earthly Tranquillity
The Palace of Earthly Tranquillity (Kunning Gong) was the living and sleeping quarters of the empresses during the Ming period (1368-1644). Sacrificial rites were performed here under Qing rule (1644-1911). The emperor and empress spent their wedding night in the bridal chamber.
Behind the Gate of Earthly Tranquillity lies the Imperial garden (Yuhuayuan) which provides an excellent example of Chinese landscape architecture. Old pines, artificial slopes, lush bamboo plants, rare flowers, and charming pavilions dating from the Ming period, together form a harmonious garden landscape.
Hall of Imperial Peace
The Hall of Imperial Peace (Qin'an Dian) is situated in the center of the Imperial Garden, the entrance is being guarded by two unicorns.
Around the six western courtyards are six palaces where the empresses, concubines, and princes resided. Officially the emperor was allowed three wives, six female favorites, and 72 concubines, although some kept up to 3000 women. These women mostly led a wretched existence.
Eastern Palaces (Dongliu Gong)The six palaces in the six eastern courtyards today function as museums. They house collections of great historical, archaeological, and cultural importance: paintings, ceramics, bronze vessels, handcrafted objets d'art, period clocks, and valuable gifts.
Palace of Ageing Peacefully
The northeastern part of the Imperial Palace is completely taken over by the Palace of Ageing Peacefully (Ningshou Gong). Here the Qianlong emperor spent the last years of his life in retirement. The complex with several courtyards, its own gardens and theater, today houses part of the art collections (including ink drawings) and, in the main building, the emperor's treasure chamber.This eastern section can be reached through the Xiping Men Gate, alongside which runs the 30m/33yd Nine Dragon Wall.
More Imperial Palace (Forbidden City) Pictures