Located at the very center of Beijing, the Forbidden City (gu gong - 故宫) was for centuries also the center of power in imperial China. Built in the early 15th century by the third Ming emperor, Yongle, this palace complex covers an area of 720,000 square meters. In 1987 it was officially named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, having the world's largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures.
The Forbidden City is rectangular in shape and is surrounded by a moat and high walls, behind which 980 surviving buildings are situated. It is divided into two parts: the northern half (Inner Court) was where the royal family lived, while the southern half (Outer Court) was where all political activity and ceremonies took place. A total of 24 Ming and Qing emperors and empresses lived inside the Forbidden City's walls over a period of roughly 500 years. In 1924 China's last emperor, Puyi, was driven from power.
Numerology and other types of symbolism play an important role at the Forbidden City. The buildings are arranged according to the customs named in the ancient work Classic of Rites, and the main halls and courts are in situated groups of three or six, representing Heaven and Earth, respectively. Because yellow was considered to be the color of the royal family, all but two roofs of the buildings housed within the Forbidden City's walls are covered with yellow tiles.
Today, the Forbidden City, also called the Palace Museum, is visited every year by a great number of tourists from all over the world. Collections of paintings, ceramics, palace artifacts, and other remnants of imperial Chinese society can be viewed here. The entrance fee is 40 RMB in the winter season and 60 RMB from April to October. Audio guides are available in over 10 languages for 40 RMB.
The Palace Museum can be reached by taking the subway (line 1) to Tian'anmen East or Tian'anmen West or one of the following buses: 1, 4, 20, 52, 57, 101, 103, 109, 111.
8:30 am - 4:30 pm (Oct. 16 to Apr. 15)
8:30 am - 5:00 pm (Apr. 16 to Oct. 15)