A chronology of Vajrapani statues from 100 CE to 800 CE

When the Mongol Yuan Dynasty collapsed the Founders of the Ming Dynasty took power and pushed the Mongols back behind the Great Wall. The Palace was build at 1407 and stands till this day. The Imperial Palace Museum sheer size and striking decorations do not seize to impress. The palace was home to many intrigues from its early start up to the present day. Discover where the emperors, concubines and eunuchs lived and get the best out of your visit to the palace.



Forbidden city's attractions:
Open:
Entrance fee:        Surcharge on exhibition spaces inside the palace:
Access:

Fastest access is the subway to:

Getting a taxi to the forbidden city is possible although there are limited drop-off spots around the forbidden city. Getting a taxi out of this area is difficult.

Buses tend to be very crowded and are stuck in traffic jams more often then not. The subway is still the best way to go.



Around the Palace I recommend to see:

Entrance:

The main entrance to the palace is at Tian’anmen square. Walk under Mao's picture and walk on to the second gate, so far all free. After the second gate you will see the actual entrance, the 'Meridian Gate'. Buy your tickets on left or right side.

The North gate (Gate of Define Might) is closed as an entrance since July 2, 2011 and now only functions as an exit.

There are X-ray checks at the entrance, but after more then 20 visits I never had my bags checked. Just keep walking unless they ask you for a check.


Tickets:

You can purchase entrance tickets at the main gate (on your left and right hand) and rent a guide or an audio guide if you want. There are also many apps. with audio guides for smart phones and tablets online !

To see the 'Palace of Tranquil Longevity' with the 'Nine Dragon Wall' and the 'Treasure Gallery' you need to purchase an extra ticket (inside the Forbidden City!). It is worth the extra 10 rmb to see it.

They also charge you 10 rmb for entering the clock gallery. You won't miss much on the architecture of this building. Visit only if you are interested in clocks.



Routing:

An average forbidden city visit will take about 3 hours and that is only walking around and admire the buildings.

My favourite route is to enter by the 'Meridian Gate' and head to the left and visit the mostly quiet 'Hall of military eminence' a photogenic building. Don't bother with the "student" exhibition here you can get better souvenirs in the city.

Walk back to the main axis and cross one of the bridges, you will feel lost on this immense square. From this point I mostly leave the crowded middle axis and walk along the side.

Do visit the 'Hall of Supreme Harmony' specially at the back of this complex. You will be treated to a stunning view over the back part of the Forbidden city with the Pavilions on Coal Hill and the White Stupa of BeiHai in the background.

From this point the palace gets a more human scale. The north area used to be the living and working quarters for the royalty and servants. It is a maze of high walled passages with many richly decorated gates and buildings.

You will eventually end up in the 'Imperial Garden' have a look around. It is often very crowded since it is a bottle neck for all tour groups that want to take a break and buy a souvenir before they exit.


suggested route map forbidden city beijing
Suggested route for the Forbidden City Beijing.

Exit through the gates at the back of the 'Imperial Garden' but turn right before the "Gate Of Divine Might" (that is the actual exit of the Palace, but don't go there yet). Keep walking past the public toilets. A long impressive "road" lined with high red walls will turn up at your right hand side.

Enter and walk till the end to buy a ticket to the 'Palace of Tranquil Longevity'. Here you can see the 'Nine Dragon Wall' and the 'Treasure Gallery'. This is my favourite part of the Forbidden City. Don't miss the metal Imperial guardian lions in front of the main building, they have nice details. Exit the forbidden city at the back.


imperial guardian lion forbidden city beijing china
Imperial guardian lion Forbidden City Beijing China.


Exhibitions:

If you want to visit all exhibitions, you have to ad several hours to your normal 3 hour visit.

Keep in mind that all top treasures of the 'Forbidden City' are in Taipei (Taiwan) on display in the "national palace museum" over there.

Exhibitions in the palace museum in Beijing are rather poorly displayed and preserving the pieces that survived still needs to improve a lot. This incident seems not to be exceptional.



Tip:

If you are looking for a less crowded visit try the route parallel on the left or right side of the axis. In that case you are also able to visit exhibition spaces located there.

Large areas of the forbidden city are not open to the public and mainly used by the government or used only for special events / exhibitions.

Always crowded, the forbidden city is the number one must visit for all Chinese tour groups that make out 95% of all visitors. All tour groups choose the central axis to view the palace. That is the most impressive and quickest route. It is also popular with foreign businessman for a lightning visit running from start to end in 30 minutes.

Try to avoid Chinese holidays if you can.


After leaving the Forbidden City:

After exiting the Forbidden City at the North gate you can cross the road by a underground passage and visit 'Coal Hill'. You have to buy a ticket and climb up the hill (big effort during a hot summer), you will be rewarded with a stunning view over the palace. I suggest to do this only when the sky is clear though.


imperial guardian lion forbidden city beijing china
Click image for original Google map.

Alternatively visit Beihai, located North-West of the Forbidden City's exit. Beihai is a park around a large lake. Beihai used to be the Palace-grounds of Kublai Khan before the Forbidden City was ever build. This is the actual area where Marco Polo would have been.

No buildings from that time remain, they where all destroyed by the following Ming-dynasty that build the current Forbidden city. The park was used by Kublai Khan to collect trees from all over the Empire. Beihai also has a beautiful Nine Dragon wall. and a large white stupa build on a hill in the lake.

There are ticket-booths both at the North and South entrance. The South (main) entrance is closest to the Forbidden City.

Controversies :

The forbidden city generates a lot of income for the government and houses some important historical art.

Combined with a bit of nationalistic patriotism it can lead to some remarkable situations. Here are some controversies that surrounded the forbidden city in the past years.

Starbucks expelled from the Forbidden City...

Private Club a VIP resort within the Forbidden City Walls...

Broken Song Dynasty plate Curators are not professionally trained..

Theft When a moat and high walls are no real deterrent...

 

Historical background:

The Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty demoted Nanjing city to a secondary capital and in 1403 announced the new capital of China was to be at his power base in Beijing. Construction of a new city there lasted from 1407 to 1420, employing hundreds of thousands of workers daily. At the centre was the political node of the Imperial City, and at the centre of this was the Forbidden City, the palatial residence of the emperor and his family. By 1553, the Outer City was added to the south for the common people.

 




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