Forbidden City Facts

Forbidden City
Chinese Name: 故宫博物院/ 紫禁城
Chinese Pinyin: Gu Gong Bo Wu Yuan /Zi Jin Cheng
English Name: Palace Museum /Forbidden City
Location: in the center of Beijing
Number of Bays: 8,700
Previous Residents: 14 emperors from the Ming Dynasty, 10 emperors from the Qing Dynasty, and their royal families.

Initiator: Emperor Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty
Designer: Kuai Xiang
Builder: ancient Chinese laborers
Construction Period: 1406 to 1420 in the Ming Dynasty
Main Colors: Red for walls and yellow for roofs

A World Recognized Historical Heritage Site

 World Cultural Heritage Site: On the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987, it is a precious heritage site for all peoples.
 Among the five top buildings in the world: The others are the Versailles Palace in France, the Buckingham Palace in Britain, the White House in America, and the Kremlin Palace in Russia.
 One of the most visited museums in the world: About 15 million visitors every year.
 Among the museums with the greatest variety of exhibitions in the world: It houses nearly 1 million cultural relics, including paintings, calligraphy, jade, embroidery, lacquer wares, pottery, etc.
 Largest and best-preserved palace complex in the world: Measuring 823 yards (753 meters) from east to west, and 1,051 yards (961 meters) from north to south, it covers an area 178 acres (72 hectares) and the living quarters inside are well preserved.

Interesting Facts about Forbidden City

Three Grand Halls of the Outer Court
The Grand Outer Court

 Why is it divided into Outer Court and Inner Court?
The Forbidden City is functionally divided into Outer Court and Inner Court. Thus, they are architectually different. Emperors had absolute godly power and held solemn public ceremonies in the Outer Court. The buildings here look solemn and grand. In contrast with the Outer Court, the Inner Court is where emperors enjoyed domestic bliss and did mundane tasks. The architectural styles are less formal with gardens and courtyards. Apart from the halls and palaces along the central axis, there are buildings on the two sides to accommodate lesser luminaries.

 Does it really have 9,999.5 rooms?
It is said that there are totally 9,999 and a half rooms in the Forbidden City because only the God of Heaven could be entitled to 10,000 rooms. Emperor Chengzu, who built the Forbidden City, declared himself the son of the God of Heaven, thus defining the smaller size of his palace. Therefore, it had half a room less when it was built. However in ancient Chinese architecture, one room refers to a square space among four pillars in a hall and it is impossible to have a half room among four pillars. By the lastest count, there are 8,707 rooms, including big and small palaces, halls, towers, pavilions, belvederes. The 9,999 rooms and a half is just a myth.

 Why are yellow and red the most common colors?
The most prominent colour scheme is represented by the red walls and yellow roof tiles. Yellow symbolizes earth elements at the centre. The emperor assumes that the imperial palace is at the world's centre and his reign radiates out from it. Hence, yellow is associated with the emperors' imperial dictum. Pillars, windows, doors and walls are mostly red which symbolizes auspicious events, happiness and celebrations, popular with the Chinese in daily usage.

 Why are there no trees in the Outer Court?
The Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony, and the Hall of Preserved Harmony in the Outer Court are the prime structures for holding important rites and events. To show the imperial dignity and supreme authority, it was forbidden to plant trees around these halls. In fact, it was not permitted to plant trees along the imperial pavement from the Tiananmen Gate to the Meridian Gate either. All the trees you see today are from a more recent era. None has passed down from the times of monarchy.

Doornails in the Forbidden City
Doornails Counted by 9
 Why are the door-nails in rows of 9?
Many gates inside the imperial city, especially the huge red gates of the major structures, are decorated with gilded door-nails. If you study them carefully, you will find that most of the gates have nine rows of door-nails and each row consists of nine. Why? That's because nine implied supremacy in monarchist China and reserved for the emperor's use.

If you travel with your kids, you may tell them the interesting fact and let them count. It will be a lot of fun!

Top Collections of the Museum

 Calligraphy and Paintings in the Hall of Martial Valor: Emperor Taizong Receiving the Tibetan Envoy of the Song Dynasty; Transcribing A Eulogy by Zhao Mengfu in Regular Script
 Ceramics in the Hall of Literary Glory: Tricolor Pottery Figurine of a Camel in the Tang Dynasty; Black-glazed Vase Carved with Ripple Patterns
 Gold and Silver Wares in the Palace of Great Brilliance: Gold Pagoda For Containing Hair (Jin fatan); Gold Tea Bowl with Characters for Longevity and Happiness (Jinzan tuanshou xizi chawan)
 Jade Articles in the Palace of Accumulated Purity: Great Jade Dragon of Hongshan Culture of the Neolithic Age more than 5000 years ago; Red Sandalwood Three-panel Ruyi Scepter with Jade Inlays of the Qing Dynasty

 Further Reading
History & FAQ of Forbidden City