If you haven’t visited the Forbidden City, then you haven’t visited Beijing. World renowned for good reason, this magnificent palace complex is just EPIC BIG! Off limits to commoners for 500 years, (hence its name), it is China’s largest and best preserved site of ancient buildings.
The site was home to a palace dating from Kublai Khan and the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, before the Ming Emperor Yongle established the basic layout of the Forbidden City between 1406 and 1420. The massive wall enclosing the palace is the last intact surviving wall in Beijing. It was home to the Ming and Qing Dynasty Emperors, along with court officials, eunuchs, concubines, guards and others.
It took the revolution of 1911 before the huge doors were pulled opened, bringing with it the last orders for the Manchu Qing and dynastic rule in China forever. Over the centuries, many of the original wooden buildings burned down and were rebuilt. Most of the buildings remaining today are post-18th century. And here, the Forbidden City is known as The Palace Museum.
Starting from the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen) with a huge portrait of Chairman Mao, we passed through the Duan Gate before entering the main complex through the Meridian Gate.
Across the huge expanse, with snow still lying about, the Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihe Dian) stands proud, flanked with twin lions. Massive metal water drums are still scattered around, always full of water in olden times in case of fire. In winter a fire would always be burning under the drum to keep it from freezing.
Continuing along the north axis is the Three Great Halls.
From here, there are many halls, rooms, buildings and corridors to explore. Much more than can be done in one day.
We focused on the eastern half, strolling through many empty halls as well as some with museum displays. The Clock Exhibition Hall displays an impressive collection of elaborate timepieces, mostly gifts built from the best clock-makers in the world.
We also stumbled on the impressive glazed Nine Dragon Screen. The attention to detail in everything is eye-opening. Even the terraced balconies and staircases are incredible. The exterior roof eaves are elaborately painted, as well as the interior ceilings. Of course, the paint here is not original, but brings to life how impressive it all is.
So much to see, that the mind cannot boggle just how big the Forbidden City is!
Oh, and yes it’s true. There is a Starbucks in here too.
But more importantly, our fourth Bucket List item was completed!
Visited 9th February 2014.