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The Forbidden City

A roof in the Forbidden City, Beijing

The Forbidden City (Zījĭn Chéng – 紫禁城 or Gùgōng – 故宫) is one of the sights that every Beijing visitor must see. It was the residence of the Chinese Emperors for more than 400 years and two dynasties. The complex covers an area of more than 720,000msq, and more than one million labourers were involved in its construction. It is a popular belief among Beijingers that the palace has 9999.5 rooms, because only heaven was grand enough to have 10,000.

This is the place where the most powerful rulers in Asia met foreign diplomats, and the place from where they dictated the imperial laws which effected the lives of millions. Here the emperors lived in surroundings of ultimate opulence and luxury, surrounded by hundreds of concubines and the eunuchs who acted as the emperors’ attendants.

The entire Forbidden City is surrounded by a moat and a 10m high red wall. Its main halls run along a North-South axis which can be traced through the whole city, all the way to the traditional city gates at Yongdingmen in the South and Zhonggulou in the North.

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Forbidden City Tour: see many human wonders like Forbidden City, Great Wall of China, Temple of Heaven, etc. >> more Beijing Tours.

For one of the best views over the Palace, climb the Coal Hill in Jingshan Park (Jĭngshān Gōngyuán – 景山公园) just to the North of the Palace. This affords a splendid view over the entire Forbidden City, and on a good day you can see sprawling Beijing stretching miles into the distance.

The palace is known as the Forbidden City, because back in the days of empire unauthorised entry would be punishable death. Now you can get in to look around for a mere 60RMB. The Chinese more commonly refer to it as Gùgōng, meaning the Ancient Palace, perhaps in contrast to the home of Chinas new Communist Rulers who occupy the Zhongnanhai compound right next door.

Forbidden City Practical Information

Forbidden City Entry:

60 RMB April 1 – October 31, 40 RMB November 1 – March 31

Forbidden CityOpening Hours:

April 16-Oct 15, 8.30am-5.30pm, last entry 4pm
Oct 16-April 15, 8.30am-4.30pm, last entry 3.30pm.

Getting to the Forbidden City:

The Forbidden City is just North of Tiananmen Square. Walk under the Mao portrait and keep going for another 200m and you’ll find yourself at the ticket booths.

The best way is to get the underground to either Tiananmen East (Tiānānmén Dōng – 天安门东) or Tiananmen West (Tiānānmén Xī – 天安门西), from where the Forbidden City will be difficult to miss.

Alternatively, bus routes 1, 4, 20, 52, 57, 101, 103, 109, and 111 all stop near the Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City can get extremely busy – the best time to go, if possible, is in the morning as soon as it opens.

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Beijing Attractions: The Great Wall of China

Wonder at the Great Wall, be awed by the magnificent Forbidden City, drink in the scenery from a boat on the Summer Palace’s Kunming Lake.

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