Today the Forbidden City (or Palace Museum), a World Heritage site since 1987, still abounds with the sense of grandeur and wealth, an aura of pomp and majesty that has passed down through the ages. This secret city was closed off from the world for about 500 years but now 720,000 sq m of courtyards, pavilions, great halls, flourishing gardens and nearly 10,000 rooms combine to form one of the best-preserved historical sites in China. Built by tens of thousands of people, it took over 14 years and 32 million bricks to complete.
Owing its origins to the 24 Ming and Qing dynasty emperors who worked and lived here, few of the original buildings remain. The last emperor Puyi (known in the West for the movie The last Emperor) moved out of this complex in 1925. Today only 1/3 of this palace complex is open to the public. The latest renovations, started in 2002, will soon make it possible to display almost half of the palace by the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The entire complex sits on a north-south axis, or meridian line, with halls and houses symmetrically arranged on the side. It consists of three parts: the outer court where the emperor received high officials and administered state affairs; the inner court where the emperor, empress and concubines lived; and the private Imperial Garden for the imperial family to entertain and relax.
The northwest corner tower
The view of the Forbidden City from Jingshan Park
1. At Meridian Gate, visitors can rent a walkman guide in different languages that introduces the history and architecture of the palace. The tape and player should be returned at the north gate of the Palace Museum upon exiting.
2. Don't forget to visit the Jingshan (Coal Hill) Park, opposite to the palace's north gate. From this location can see the splendid layout of the palace.
Ticket sale: 8:00-16:00 (May-September); 8:30-15:30 (October-April);
Entry ticket: 60 yuan/person (busy season), 40 yuan/person (slow season);Some of the museums have additional charges.
How to get there: Subways: Line 1: get down at Tian'anmen East, Loop Line: get down at Qianmen; Bus No. 1, 4, 5, 10, 20, 22, 52, 57, 802; It is within walking distance from Wangfujing, Xidan or Qianmen.
(China.org.cn May 15, 2008)