Forbidden City (Palace Museum)

Gate of Supreme Harmony, Forbidden City, Beijing

The Forbidden City, dominating the heart of the city, is a range of well-preserved palace architecture of the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is the largest of its kind in the country. The original palaces were constructed during the Ming period (1368 - 1644) over 560 years ago and the present complex was the result of several extensions in the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911).

The rectangular 'city' is 960 meters (3,149 feet) long from north to south and 750 meters (2,460 feet) wide from east to west with four gates on each cardinal point, among which the southern gate, Wumen (Meridian Gate) is the main entrance for most visitors to the Forbidden City.

The whole complex was built on an axial symmetry layout with the main palaces arranged on the middle axes from south to north, flanked by associated structures. The complex is divided into two parts by the Gate of Celestial Purity (Qian Qing Men). The first part (south part) is called 'Outer Court' including Hall of Supreme Harmony (Tai He Dian), Hall of Central Harmony (Zhong He Dian) and Hall of Preserved Harmony (Bao He Dian). In this section the emperors exerted their supreme power over the people and the imperial ceremonial events were held. For example, it was on the three-tier marble terrace of the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Tai He Dian) that an emperor ascended to the throne.

The section north of the Gate of Celestial Purity is known as 'Inner Court' including Palace of Celestial Purity (Qian Qing Gong), Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union (Jiao Tai Dian) and Palace of Terrestrial Tranquility (Kun Ning Gong). These halls form the residential area of the emperors and their concubines.

Hall of Supreme Harmony, Forbidden City, Beijing

Associated structures to each side of the middle axis include Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yang Xin Dian), Six Western Palaces (Xi Liu Gong), Hall for Ancestral Worship (Feng Xian Dian), Six Eastern Palaces (Dong Liu Gong), Palace of Tranquil Longevity (Ning Shou Gong) and Hall of Joyful Longevity (Le Shou Tang). The Hall of Mental Cultivation is where emperors dealt with daily routines and royal religious sacrificial activities were held in its counterpart on the eastern side - Hall for Ancestral Worship.

At the northern end of the north-south axis is the elegant Imperial Garden (Yu Hua Yuan), a typical classical Chinese garden with pavilions, rock formations, Hall structures and other courtyard buildings.

Note: Forbidden City can only be visitied one way from south, Wumen (Meridian Gate), to north, Shenwumen (Gate of Divine Prowess).

Admission Fee: CNY 40 (Nov. 1 to Mar. 31)
CNY 60 (Apr. 1 to Oct. 31)
Opening Hours: 08:30 to 16:30 (Nov. 1 to Mar. 31)
08:30 to 17:00 (Apr. 1 to Oct. 31)
closed at 12:00 on Mondays from January 1 to March 31, 2013
Recommended Time for a Visit: Three hours
Bus Route: 1, 4, 20, 52, 57, 101, 103, 109, 111