Forbidden City, Beijing, China travel 2020
Visit Forbidden City Beijing China 2020, Forbidden City Travel Vlog 2020, Forbidden City Tourism & Vacations 2020
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The Forbidden City (故宫 (Gùgōng)), located at the centre of Beijing, was the imperial palace of China for five centuries, until the early 20th century. It today houses the Palace Museum, one of China’s largest national museums, with an extensive collection based on the former imperial collection. This is truly the spot to appreciate the might and grandeur of the Imperial Chinese court during the height of its power in the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Administratively, the Forbidden City precinct is part of Dongcheng district, but it is historically distinct and has many sights of its own, so we cover it in a separate article.
The Forbidden City is a very big place with lots to see: A typical visit covering the main palace buildings and the main museum displays will usually take a full day. If you are pressed for time, consider focusing on only the main halls and just a couple of the museum sections.
See Inside the Forbidden City
Outer Court (外朝). The imposing set of buildings designed to be the ceremonial centre of the palace. Visitors enter through Meridian Gate (A), the imposing main gate with unique protruding side wings, followed by the Gate of Supreme Harmony (F), where the Emperor sometimes held court. There are then three grand halls set on a multi-tiered marble platform, including the Hall of Supreme Harmony (G), which was the ceremonial throne room used for the grandest of state occasions. To preserve the fine paving stones, it is no longer possible to enter the halls, but you can admire the interiors from the front door.
Paintings and Calligraphy Gallery – Hall of Military Eminence (武英殿). Somewhat ironically, this set of buildings (H) built to celebrate military valour now houses the Palace Museum’s paintings and calligraphy gallery. Works from the Palace Museum’s extensive collection are rotated through the gallery and changed every few months. To reach the Hall of Military Eminence, go through the gate on the left after the Meridian Gate but before going through the Gate of Supreme Harmony.
Porcelain and Ceramics – Hall of Literary Glory (文华殿). This mini-palace (J) was variously used as the Crown Prince’s court and an imperial Confucian lecture hall. It now houses the Palace Museum’s porcelain and ceramics gallery. The gallery’s exhibits trace through the development of Chinese porcelain, and includes items from the large imperial collection held by the Palace Museum. To reach the Hall of Literary Glory, go through the gate on the right after the Meridian Gate but before going through the Gate of Supreme Harmony.
Inner Palace (内廷). Form the Outer Court, the central section of the Inner Palace is accessed through the Gate of Heavenly Purity. The Inner Palace, like the Outer Court, is centred on three main buildings. The grandest, the Palace of Heavenly Purity (L) was designed to house the Emperor’s bed chamber, but later became a throne room where the Emperor held court with his ministers. The Palace of Earthly Tranquillity was designed to be the Empress’ bed chamber, but later became a Shamanist shrine. The Emperor and Empress’ marital suite, where they spent their wedding night, is in this building. To the west of this main complex, the much smaller Hall of Mental Cultivation (N) was in later years the Emperor’s actual bedchamber and office. You can even see where the Empress Dowager Cixi ruled China from behind a curtain for 47 years. The remainder of the Inner Palace is made up of a series of small courtyards, the homes of the Emperor’s concubines and household. Look out for the “Crystal Palace”, a cast iron and glass building of which sadly only the skeleton remains. The Palace Museum’s Bronzeware Gallery is also in the Inner Palace. Other permanent and temporary exhibitions are also housed around the Inner Palace.
Treasures Gallery – Palace of Tranquil Longevity (宁寿宫). A palace in itself with its own “Outer Court”, “Inner Palace” and “Imperial Garden”, this complex (O) was designed for the Qianlong Emperor to enjoy his retirement after abdication – but he was too busy giving his son instructions on government to ever use it. Look for the glaze-tiled Nine Dragon Screen in front of the main entrance. These buildings now house the Palace Museum’s Treasures Gallery (珍宝馆), which includes works in precious metals and precious or semi-precious stones. A separate admission charge applies. The Stone Drum Gallery, which houses a set of ancient drum-shaped stone carvings, and the Theatre Gallery, housed in a traditional Chinese-style outdoor theatre, are also in this complex. The mini-Palace Garden, while smaller than the main garden, is more finely decorated with some small but elaborate garden buildings. ¥10.