Forbidden City, China (Palace Museum)

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Chinese Names: 故宫 gù gōng / 紫禁城 zǐ jìn chéng
English Names: Forbidden City / Palace Museum
Location: very center Beijing, China
Area: 72 hectares
Construction Time: 1406 to 1420, Ming Dynasty
Initiator: Emperor Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty
Designer: Kuai Xiang
Previous Residents: 14 emperors from the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), 10 emperors from the Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911), and their royal families.

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The Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, lies in the city center of Beijing, and was once the Chinese imperial palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 - 1911). It was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1987 and is the largest, best-preserved ancient timber-built palace complex in the world.

Constructed between 1406 and 1420 during the reign of Emperor Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Forbidden City was home to 24 emperors and their families and acted as the ceremonial and political center of ancient Chinese government throughout 500 years. After the Last Emperor of China left the palace, it later became a museum open to the public in 1925. Since then, the Forbidden City is no longer ‘forbidden’, and now ordinary people are able to take a virtual trip in time to see the secrets and luxury of imperial life.

Rectangular in shape, the Forbidden City is enormous, covering an area of 72 hectares, and boasting more than 9,000 bays of rooms. It is divided into two parts – the Outer Court for national affairs in the south and the Inner Court as living quarters in the north. It is not only an immense architectural masterpiece, but also a treasury housing a unique collection of 1.8 million pieces of art, including ancient calligraphy and painting, imperial artifacts, ancient books and archives. A must-see in Beijing and the world’s most visited museum, it is worth spending half to one day to visit the Forbidden City and appreciate the precious cultural heritage of China.

 

How to Tour the Forbidden City

 
Entry and Exit:
The palace allows a south-to-north unidirectional route. Visitors can only enter through the Meridian Gate (Wumen) in the south and leave from the Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwumen) in the north or the East Prosperity Gate (Donghuamen).
 
Time Plan:
Two to four hours is recommended for touring the major palaces along the central axis; if you have interest in exploring more on the west and east wings, a whole day would be enough for a thorough visit.
 
Classic Touring Route of Central Axis:
Meridian Gate → Gate of Supreme Harmony → Hall of Supreme Harmony → Hall of Central Harmony → Hall of Preserved Harmony → Gate of Heavenly Purity → Palace of Heavenly Purity → Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union → Palace of Earthly Tranquility → Imperial Garden → Gate of Divine Prowess

 Read More:
How to Visit the Forbidden City - An Insider’s Guide
Travel Tips

Layout and Major Palaces

• Length (north-south): 961 meters (1,051 yards)
• Width (west-east): 753 meters (823 yards)
• Total Area: 72 hectares (178 acres)
• Building Area: 15 hectares (37 acres)

Located to the north of the Tiananmen Square, the rectangular Forbidden City is enclosed by a 10 meters (33 feet) high outer wall and surrounded by a 52 meters (57 yards) wide moat. It has four gates: the Meridian Gate (Wumen) in the south, the Gate of Divine Prowess (Shenwumen) in the north, the West Prosperity Gate (Xihuamen) and the East Prosperity Gate (Donghuamen). On each of the four corners of the outer wall, there is a delicately structured corner tower.

Standing on the wall or the towers, or seeking a higher viewpoint from the Jingshan Mountain to the north of the Forbidden City, you can get the feel of the truly massive scale of the palace complex. For comparison, the Forbidden City is four times the size of the Taj Mahal of India (18 hectares), which is mainly composed of gardens. Here the Forbidden City, with a multitude of palaces, has a building area even larger than that of the Palace of Versailles in France (11 hectares).

The high outer walls enclose a labyrinth of more than 90 palaces and courtyards, with over 9,000 bays of rooms! The layout is in perfect symmetry, with the north-south central axis ingeniously designed for not only the forbidden palace complex, but also the whole of today’s Beijing city. The major palaces extend along the axis, while the minor halls stand on the west and east sides, all being well arranged in five north-south lines: Central Axis, West Wing, East Wing, Outer West Route, and Outer East Route.

For different functions, the complex is divided into the Outer Court in the south and the Inner Court in the north.

The Outer Court was used for state ceremonials, with three main halls on the central axis, namely the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian), the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian), and the Hall of Preserved Harmony (Baohedian), and two wing structures – the Hall of Martial Valor (Wuyingdian) in the west, and the Hall of Literary Glory (Wenhuadian) in the east.

The Inner Court was the residential area, including the three central palaces for the emperor and the empress, namely the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqinggong), the Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union (Jiaotaidian), and the Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunninggong), which are flanked by Six Western Palaces and Six Eastern Palaces for concubines and maids of different ranks. There is an Imperial Garden at northernmost part, affording views and entertainments.


 Read More:
Layout of Forbidden City – Outer Court and Inner Court in Perfect Axisymmetry
How big is the Forbidden City?
How Many Rooms are there in the Forbidden City? 9999.5?
 
 See More: Forbidden City Maps
 
 

Follow the Experts to Explore the Essence of Forbidden City

  • Epic of Ancient Chinese Architecture 
  • 600 Years’ History 
  • Imperial Life and Anecdotes 
  • Top-Level Exhibitions 
  • Cultural Souvenirs Frenzy 
 

How to Get to the Forbidden City

Entry is allowed only through the Meridian Gate, the south gate of the museum.

1. Subway:
Take subway line 1, get off at Tiananmen East Station (Exit B) or Tiananmen West Station (Exit B), walk 500 meters (550 yards) to the Tiananmen Tower, and then walk north to the Meridian Gate.
► If you would like to tour the Tiananmen Square first, beside subway line 1, you can also take subway line 2, get off at Qianmen Station (Exit A), walk north through the square to find the Tiananmen Tower, and then go further north to reach the Meridian Gate.

2. Bus:
Take bus line 1, 2, 52, 59, 82, 120, Sightseeing Bus Line 1 or 2, and get off at Tiananmen East Station; or take bus line 1, 5, 52, Sightseeing Bus Line 1 or 2, and get off at Tiananmen West Station.

 Read More:
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How to Leave the Forbidden City

Exit is allowed through the northern Gate of Divine Prowess, and the East Prosperity Gate.

The Gate of Divine Prowess faces Jingshan Park to the north. You can visit the park and climb up the Jingshan Mountain to get a panoramic view of the Forbidden City. If you want to leave directly from here, there are bus lines 58, 101, 103, 109, 124, 128, Sightseeing Bus Lines 1, 2 and 3 available at Gugong (Forbidden City) Station, and bus lines 58, 111, 124 and Sightseeing Bus Line 3 at Jingshan East Gate Station.

From the East Prosperity Gate, you can walk 800 meters (875 yards) east to the Wangfujing Street. If you plan to leave directly, take Sightseeing Bus Line 2 from Gugong East Gate Station or bus line 2 or 82 from Donghuamen Station.
 

How to Buy Forbidden City Tickets

1. A maximum of 80,000 visitors are allowed daily.

2. All visitors need to buy e-tickets online beforehand, through the official website of the museum (no English service) or travel agencies offering English service.

3. The tickets are sold 10 days in advance on the official website, while earlier booking is accepted by some travel agencies. It is recommended to buy as early as possible for the tickets are in demand especially during holidays.

4. Passports of foreigners or ID cards of visitors from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are needed when buying tickets. Each individual is limited to one ticket for one day.

5. Show your passport or ID card at the entrance, and there is no need to get the paper tickets.

6. If you fail to buy a ticket online beforehand, you can scan the official QR code at the entrance square to buy one if there are still tickets left for that day.
 
Entrance Ticket Price April to October: CNY 60
November to March: CNY 40
Treasure Gallery CNY 10 (in the Palace of Tranquil Longevity, including the Opera Museum and Stone Drum Museum)
Clocks and Watches Gallery CNY 10 (in the Hall for Ancestry Worship)

 Notes:
1. Free admission for children 6 years old or younger and children under 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) in height.
2. For minors between 6 and 18 years old, the admission ticket price is CNY 20 and the ticket for Treasure Gallery and Clocks and Watches Gallery each is CNY 5.
3. Seniors older than 60 can enjoy half price for both the entrance tickets and the tickets for the two galleries.
4. The Annual Ticket (CNY 300 for 10 entries a year) only applies to Chinese citizens.
 
 Important Notices:
1. During the epidemic prevention period, the Forbidden City allows 12,000 visitors a day, and some indoor exhibition halls remain closed, including the Treasure Gallery and the Clocks and Watches Gallery.

2. From September 10 to November 15, 2020, there is a grand exhibition inside the Yanchi Tower on the Meridian Gate to celebrate the 600th birthday of the Forbidden City. As many will visit during this period, please buy a ticket in advance to guarantee your entry.
 

Opening Hours

Months Opening Hours Ticketing Time Entry Time
April to October 8:30-17:00 8:30-16:00 8:30-16:10
November to March 8:30-16:30 8:30-15:30 8:30-15:40

 It is closed on Mondays, except the Chinese statutory holidays.

 Read More: Forbidden City Opening Hours
 

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- Last modified on Sep. 17, 2020 -
Questions & Answers on Forbidden City
Asked by Iwan Heryawan from INDONESIAIH | Aug. 12, 2020 16:50Reply
Wangfujing - great wall
how if I go to great wall from wangfujing station by bus ?
Answers (1)
Answered by Ezra from CANADA | Aug. 19, 2020 23:50
00Reply


There are many sections of great wall. Which one do you refer to?
Asked by David from USA | Jan. 11, 2020 14:10Reply
which section of the FORBIDDEN CITY is free?
Answers (1)
Answered by Daniel from UNITED KINGDOM | Jan. 13, 2020 00:51
00Reply


You have to buy the entry ticket to enter the Forbidden City.
Asked by Matteo from ITALY | Jan. 09, 2020 03:02Reply
Procedure for tickets
Dear Team, can you kindly show me the exact steps to purchase the tickets, collect them and entry in the Forbidden City?
I mean, considering that I am foreign visitor:
How can buy the tickets?
Can I pay by Paypal/Credit Card?
How I can collect the tickets?
How can entry in the Forbidden City? (I mean, go with the tickets, only with Passport, go to some reservation to the ticket office and then take tickets.....)
Sorry for many questions but I don't want to take risks!
Have a good day,
Matteo
Answers (1)
Answered by Alex from UNITED KINGDOM | Jan. 09, 2020 19:42
00Reply


You only can book or buy the ticket at official website of The Palace Museum nowadays. Follow the instructions in the website and you can buy it. It doesn't need paper ticket to entry the Forbidden City, so bring your passport is enough.
Asked by Nick from CANADA | Dec. 31, 2019 09:38Reply
Will Beijing Forbidden City be open on Monday, 4-May-2020 as it is Labor holiday?
Answers (1)
Answered by Kate from MALAYSIA | Jan. 01, 2020 19:46
00Reply


It is closed on Mondays, except the Chinese statutory holidays. But don't worry. May 4th is during the labor holiday this year. The scenic area will open.
Asked by David Chee from MALAYSIA | Dec. 11, 2019 05:23Reply
Is there any place for lunch in Forbidden City if we plan to be there from Morning till Evening?
If there is no place for lunch, are we allowed to go out from Forbidden City and then back in after lunch with the same ticket? If not, any suggestion on where to have lunch? Thanks
Answers (1)
Answered by James from UKRAINE | Dec. 11, 2019 18:28
00Reply


Don't worry. You can find several restaurants inside the scenic area. Or you can also prepare some food by yourself. :)
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