Virtual Guide of Forbidden City

Beijing Palace Museum Map
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go for more Maps of Forbidden City
As you know, the Forbidden City contains thousands of buildings, so it is easy to get lost unless one is familiar with the Chinese architectural layout, although it is definitely symmetrical. Now I will take you for a virtual tour around the mysterious palace complex. Follow me and don't get yourself lost!!!

The Axis:

Meridian Gate - Gate of Divine Prowess (one hour)
(Meridian Gate → Inner Golden water Bridge → Gate of Harmony, Gate of Prosperous Harmony → Hall of Literary Glory → Hall of Martial Valor → Gate of Supreme Harmony → Pavilion of Embodying Benevolence, Hall of Spreading Righteousness → Hall of Supreme Harmony → Hall of Central Harmony → Hall of Preserved Barmony → Gate of Heavenly purity – Palace of Heavenly Purity → Hall of Celestial and terrestrial Union → Palace of Earthly Tranquility → Imperial Garden → Gate of Divine Prowess)
 Tour Along the Central Axis

This is the most ideal visiting itinerary to tour it basically, which assemble the most magnificent imperial buildings. Now start your tour from Meridian Gate. It is also named Five-Phoenix Tower, for it looks like a phoenix with five pavilion buildings up there. It's the main gate and south gate of the imperial city. Inside the Meridian Gate, there appear the Inner Golden Water Bridges. Water flows beneath these white marble bridges. The Golden Water River of this section is very gorgeous, well decorated. The riverbed and the bank were paved with white stones. Decorative marble columns and banisters were established along the river. Standing on the bridges, one can see a grand structure called Gate of Supreme Harmony, which is the most impressive gate with two bronze lions guarding the front. On the square between the Gate of Supreme Harmony and Meridian Gate, imperial honor guards paraded before grand ceremonies.

The three main halls of the outer court, Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Central Harmony and Hall of Preserved Harmony form a line inside the gate. These halls are all situated on three-tier marble terraces, with ornate marble balustrades. A stone ramp carved with coiled dragons and clouds is located between the steps leading up to each hall. The ramp of Hall of Preserved Harmony is the largest.

The Hall of Supreme Harmony comes first and is the grandest. It is the place where the emperor ascended his throne and granted audience to visiting officials and other important events were celebrated. The hall is flanked by the Hall of Literary Glory and Hall of Martial Velour. The former, on the right side, used to be the study of the crown princes, where banquets and some rites were held. On its north lies Pavilion of Literary Source, the imperial library where the world largest encyclopedia Sikuquanshu (Complete Library of the Four Treasures of Knowledge) was housed. The latter, on the left side, is the imperial press where many books were compiled and published and where Li Zicheng, leader of the famous peasant revolt, ascended his throne after overthrowing the Ming Dynasty. The nearby South Fragrance Hall is where portraits of emperors of dynasties are kept.
Inside Hall of Central Harmony
Inside Hall of Central Harmony
Gate of Heavenly Purity, Forbidden City
Gate of Heavenly Purity
The Hall of Central Harmony is a much smaller square building. It was the place where the emperor rested on his way to the Hall of Supreme Harmony and interviewed his ministers or officials from the Ministry of Rites and rehearsals for ceremonies were also held here. The Hall of Preserved Harmony, the second largest architecture in the palace, is the rear hall of the Outer Court. Imperial banquets were often held here to entertain high officials. Emperors presided the final stage of national examinations to select officials from intellectuals all over the country in this hall.

Then, visitors will see the Gate of Heavenly Purity, which is the boundary of the Outer Court and the Inner Court. Inside the gate is the residence of the royal family. In the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Kangxi often heard reports from high officials and issued his orders under the gate. The Inner Court is divided into three parts. The three halls on the center axis are the main structures and they are smaller in size than the three halls in the Outer Court, although they look the same in style. Six Western Palaces and Six Eastern Palaces are also important complexes for the concubines to reside.

The first hall inside the gate is Palace of Heavenly Purity, which was originally the bedroom and office of emperors. They also gave banquets here. Behind it is a smaller hall named Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union, where empresses received greetings from other concubines. It was used to store the emperor and empress's imperial seals. The third hall on the central axis is the Palace of Earthly Tranquility, which was the empress' bedroom.
Gate of Divine Prowess
Gate of Divine Prowess
Chengguang Gate in Forbidden City
Chengguang Gate
North of the Inner Court is Imperial Garden. Though small in size, it is exquisitely laid out with towers, pavilions, artificial hills, springs, rocks, old trees, flowers and lawns - a replica of the gardens of southern China.

Just behind the garden is Gate of Divine Prowess, the rear (North) gate. On the gate there was a drum and a bell. The bell used to toll 108 times to announce a new day while the drum rataplaned the time in the night. If you do not want to finish your tour shortly, continue to see more buildings on west and east wings of the palace back from the Imperial Garden. 

West Wing:

Palace for Gathering Elegance – The Office of Grand Council of State (half an hour)
(Palace for Gathering Elegance → Tihe Hall → Palace of Queen Consort → Palace of Universal Happiness → Palace of Eternal Spring → Tiyuan Hall → Hall of Supreme Pole → Palace of Eternal Longevity → Tishun Hall → Hall of Mental Cultivation → The Office of Grand Council of State)
 Tour Along the Western Route

Forbidden City, Beijing
Forbidden City
Hike from the southwest side-door of the Imperial Garden to the left side of the Inner Court, Hall of Mental Cultivation and Six Western Palaces stand from north to south. The Hall of Mental Cultivation was important since emperors after Emperor Yongzheng lived and attended to state affairs here. To its north is located the Six Western Palaces which consists of the Palace of Eternal Longevity, Palace of the Queen Consort, Palace for Gathering Elegance, Hall of the Supreme Pole, Palace of Eternal Spring and Palace of Universal Happiness. The first three are on the right and the second three on the left along a north-south alley.

Outer West Wing:

Palace of Compassion and Tranquility → Palace of Longevity and Good Health
After visiting the Hall of Mental Cultivation, tourists can start to tour along the outer west wing. The outer west route mainly consists of the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility, the Palace of Longevity and Good Health, the Palace of Longevity and Peace, the Belvedere of Raining Flowers, the Hall of Rightness, the Garden of Building Happiness, and the Hall of Braveness and Splendor. The first two palaces are opened, while the rest ones remain mysterious. The Palace of Longevity and Good Health is located to the northwest of the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility. Both are former residences of empress dowagers, like Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang and Empress Dowager Cixi.

East Wing:

Palace of Gathering Essence – Hall for Ancestry Worship (half an hour)
(Palace of Gathering Essence → Palace of Great Brilliance → Palace of Celestial Favor → Palace of Eternal Harmony → Palace of Great Benevolence → Palace of Lasting Happiness → Palace of Abstinence - Hall for Ancestry Worship)
 Tour Along the Eastern Route

The southeast side-door of the Imperial Garden is the start to visit the right side of the Inner Court, viz. east side. This is the Six Eastern Palaces area, containing the Hall for Ancestry Worship, Palace of Abstinence where emperors practiced abstinence a few days before going to offer sacrifices at the Temple of Heaven or the Temple of Earth, and Six Eastern Palaces which consists of Palace of Great Benevolence, Palace of Celestial Favor, Palace of Eternal Harmony, Palace of Great Brilliance, Palace of Purity and Palace of Lasting Happiness.

Outer East Wing:

Nine Dragon Screen – Well of Concubine Zhen (one hour)
(Nice Dragon Screen → Gate of Tranquil Longevity → Hall of Imperial Supremacy → Palace of Tranquil Longevity → Qianlong Garden → Pavilion of Pleasant Sounds → Hall for Viewing Opera → Hall of Temper Cultivation → Hall of Joyful Longevity → Belvedere of Well-Nourished Harmony → Well of Concubine Zhen)

Imperial Garden, Forbidden City
Imperial Garden
After touring the Office of Grand Council of State of the West Ring, walk further east through the Gate of Great Fortune, an open stretch of pavement and Xiqing Gate to the Palace of Tranquil Longevity area built for Emperor Qianlong's retirement. It can also be reached from back of Hall for Ancestry Worship when you finish visiting the East Wing. The complex can be divided into three parts: the central part with the Hall of Imperial Supremacy, the Palace of Tranquil Longevity, Treasure Gallery (the Hall of Mental Cultivation, Hall of Joyful Longevity, Belvedere of Well-Nourished Harmony) and Jingqi Chamber, the west part Qianlong Garden including the Pavilion of Expecting Good Omen and the Well of Concubine Zhen, and the east part including the Pavilion of Pleasant Sounds, The Hall for Viewing Opera, the Palace of Scenery and Happiness. This part ends in the Well of Concubine Zhen, which is bearby to the east of the Gate of Divine Prowess, the north exit.

Can you find the way? And are you impressed by the grandness and magnificence of the world's largest palace structure?Choose proper itinerary in terms of your timetable.With the help of Forbidden City map, you will have an easier tour. Now start your tour in it from Meridian Gate!

 Recommended Itineraries:
Best Beijing Tours: 4 days to the Palace Museum, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square…
Hutong Experience: to visit the most popular attractions
More Beijing Tours

- Last modified on May. 31, 2017 -
Questions & Answers on Virtual Guide of Forbidden City
Asked by ria from BRUNEI | Oct. 26, 2016 21:40Reply
Hi. We are planning to spend 2 days in Beijing. One day for Great Wall Trip.
Another to visit Forbidden City and Olympic Stadium. Time is quite tight. Pls advise how long will Imperial City tour will take?

Thanks. Cheers
Answers (3)
Answered by Victoria from FINLAND | Oct. 27, 2016 21:35

Generally speaking, you need to spend 5 to 6 hours to tour around there.
Answered by ria from BRUNEI | Oct. 27, 2016 22:04

Thanks Victoria. How about visit to 'bird nest' stadium afterwards? i believe the distance is not that much. Do advise.
Answered by Victoria | Nov. 03, 2016 01:32

It takes one or two hours to visit the stadium. It is about 7 miles (11km) to the north of the imperial palace. You can take sightseeing bus line 3 from the palace to East Beichen Road (Bird's Nest) Station. :)
Asked by Natalie from MALAYSIA | Oct. 11, 2016 03:40Reply
We are family of 5 with 2 elderly, how do we get to Forbidden City from Renaissance Beijing Capital?
Answers (1)
Answered by Lena from ITALY | Oct. 11, 2016 22:00

The distance between these two places is not fare. For your convenience, just take a taxi from your hotel. Besides, you need to get to cabs. For one cab, it would cost around CNY 30 in the day time.
Asked by George Antony from INDIA | Apr. 02, 2016 11:44Reply
Shuttle from Beijing Airport to hotel
We are a family of three adults visiting on 9th April (till 12th) and staying at a hotel at Nanchizi Street, Dongcheng. Can we get a shuttle from airport or is it better to hire a cab.
Answers (1)
Answered by Elina from USA | Apr. 05, 2016 01:43

Hi, shuttle bus can be your option. Take line 3 to International Hotel with CNY24 and then take a taxi to your hotel with CNY13. If taking a taxi directly to ur hotel, the cost can be CNY80-90.
Asked by Sarah from SOUTH AFRICA | Mar. 15, 2016 05:50Reply
Can I walk alone in Beijing?
Hi there
I am a single female staying at hotel in Dongzhim and wanting to walk from here to forbidden city.

is this safe to do .. and what other sites are within walking distance? please advise ..

Answers (1)
Answered by Abbey from UNITED KINGDOM | Mar. 16, 2016 20:03

Yes, the city is quite safe for you. But it is about 4 miles (7km) away from Dongzhimen. It may take around 1.5 hours to walk there. You may consider taking metro line 2 from Dongzhimen to Jianguomen. Change to metro line 1 to Tiananmen East Station, Exit A, and walk north to the attraction. Sites within walking distance include Altar of Earth, Yonghe Lamasery, and Shichahai. :)
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