It was on Saturday, 17 October 2009, when Nena and I and the 68 other members of our tour group visited the Forbidden City. This was on the last day of our three-day stay in Beijing ... the very first city of 9 cities that we visited during our recent 15-day tour of China. The following data and information is what I gathered about the Forbidden City ...

It was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty and was home for 24 Chinese emperors for as long as 500 years from 1406 when Emperor Chengzu of Ming started its construction to 1911 when Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, abdicated. Starting in the fourth year of Emperor Yongle's reign (1406), the construction lasted 15 years, involving around 100,000 skilled technicians and millions of labor force. Its large scale and imposing effect is rarely seen in China's architectural history.

The Forbidden City is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum. For almost five centuries, it served as the home of the Emperor and his household, as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government. It was built from 1406 to 1420 and the palace complex exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture, and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. Since 1925, the Forbidden City has been under the charge of the Palace Museum, whose extensive collection of artwork and artifacts were built upon the imperial collections of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Part of the museum's former collection is now located in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Both museums descend from the same institution, but were split after the Chinese Civil War.

The Forbidden City is the world's largest surviving palace complex and covers 72 hectares. It's shape is rectangle and covers a total area of 720,000 square meters, with halls spreading out in an orderly manner alongside the central axis line which goes throughfrom south to north. It measures 961 metres (3,150 ft) from north to south and 753 metres (2,470 ft) from east to west and consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms. The Forbidden City was designed to be the center of the ancient, walled city of Beijing. It is enclosed in a larger, walled area called the Imperial City. The Imperial City is, in turn, enclosed by the Inner City; to its south lies the Outer City.

The palace, splendid and sumptuous, had tight security, and the access of ordinary people was completely forbidden, so it was also called the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City remains important in the civic scheme of Beijing. The central north-south axis remains the central axis of Beijing. This axis extends to the south through Tiananmen gate to Tiananmen Square, the ceremonial center of the People's Republic of China. To the north, it extends through the Bell and Drum Towers to Yongdingmen. The Forbidden City is surrounded by a 7.9 metres (26 ft) high city wall and a six-metre deep, 52 metres (170 ft) wide moat. The walls are 8.62 metres (28.3 ft) wide at the base, tapering to 6.66 metres (21.9 ft) at the top.

These walls served as both defensive walls and retaining walls for the palace. They were constructed with a rammed earth core, and surfaced with three layers of specially baked bricks on both sides, with the interstices filled with mortar. Traditionally, the Forbidden City is divided into two parts. The Outer Court or Front Court includes the southern sections, and was used for ceremonial purposes. The Inner Court or Back Palace includes the northern sections, and was the residence of the Emperor and his family, and was used for day-to-day affairs of state. Generally, the Forbidden City has three vertical axes. The most important buildings are situated on the central north-south axis.

To view the photographs I took during our tour of the Forbidden City, click on the link shown below:

The Forbidden City

Since the People's Republic of China was founded, the halls and palaces have been well protected and preserved. In 1961 the Forbidden City became one of the key units for preservation of cultural relics and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987. It is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.