10 Facts About the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City, a majestic imperial palace nestled at the heart of Beijing, China, stands as a profound embodiment of the country’s history and culture.

Constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, this sprawling complex spans 180 acres and comprises 980 buildings with approximately 9,000 rooms.

Its architectural grandeur, vibrant colors, and meticulous layout reflect both traditional Chinese design principles and the significance of imperial authority.

Once accessible only to royalty and select dignitaries due to its exclusivity, the Forbidden City is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a sought-after tourist destination that offers a captivating glimpse into China’s regal past.

Forbidden City Facts

1. Imperial palace in Beijing, China

The Forbidden City, also known as the Palace Museum, is an iconic imperial palace complex located in the heart of Beijing, the capital city of China.

It stands as a remarkable testament to the grandeur of Chinese architecture, history, and culture. With its distinctive architecture, historical significance, and cultural heritage, the Forbidden City has become a symbol of China’s imperial past.

2. Built from 1406 to 1420 during the Ming Dynasty

The construction of the Forbidden City began in 1406, during the early years of the Ming Dynasty under the rule of Emperor Yongle.

The Ming Dynasty rulers moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing and undertook the ambitious project of building this grand palace complex to establish their authority.

The construction took around 14 years to complete, involving an enormous workforce of skilled craftsmen, laborers, and architects.

View of the Forbidden City

3. Covers 180 acres with 980 buildings and 9,000 rooms

The sheer scale of the Forbidden City is awe-inspiring. It spans approximately 180 acres (72 hectares) of land, making it one of the largest palace complexes in the world.

Within its walls, there are an astounding 980 surviving buildings, which collectively comprise nearly 9,000 rooms. These buildings encompass a wide range of functions, including ceremonial halls, residential quarters, administrative offices, gardens, courtyards, and more.

The complex’s size and layout reflect the hierarchical structure of the imperial court, with the most important halls located along the central axis.

4. Known as “Forbidden” because it was off-limits to commoners

The Forbidden City derived its name from the fact that it was off-limits to the general public and only accessible to the imperial family, court officials, and selected personnel.

Commoners were prohibited from entering its premises without special permission. This exclusivity emphasized the separation between the ruling class and the ordinary citizens, symbolizing the emperor’s supreme authority and mystique.

5. Traditional Chinese architectural style with vibrant colors

The architectural style of the Forbidden City is a quintessential representation of traditional Chinese imperial architecture. It features intricate detailing, symmetrical layouts, and a blend of various architectural elements from different regions of China.

The buildings are adorned with vibrant colors, including red, yellow, and green, with intricate designs that incorporate dragons, phoenixes, and other symbolic motifs.

The architecture not only served functional purposes but also conveyed the emperor’s authority and the cosmological harmony believed to govern the universe.

Forbidden city in Beijing

6. Houses five main halls along the central axis

The Forbidden City’s layout is meticulously organized along a central axis that runs from south to north. Five main halls, each with its unique purpose, are situated along this axis:

  • Gate of Supreme Harmony: The entrance to the Forbidden City and the largest gate, used for grand ceremonies.
  • Hall of Supreme Harmony: The most important ceremonial hall, where major events like coronations and imperial weddings took place.
  • Hall of Central Harmony: An intermediary hall used for preparation and resting before ceremonies.
  • Hall of Preserving Harmony: Another ceremonial hall, where banquets and other events occurred.
  • Imperial Palace: The residence of the emperor and the heart of the Forbidden City, consisting of numerous halls, courtyards, and chambers.

The central axis and the arrangement of these halls reflect the hierarchical structure of the imperial court and emphasize the emperor’s paramount position within the complex.

7. Divided into Outer Court for state affairs and Inner Court for the emperor’s family

The Forbidden City’s layout is divided into two main sections: the Outer Court and the Inner Court. The Outer Court, located closer to the southern entrance, was the area where state affairs and official ceremonies took place.

It includes grand halls like the Hall of Supreme Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, where significant events were conducted to display imperial power.

The Inner Court, situated to the north, was the private domain of the emperor, his family, and concubines. It includes the Imperial Palace, where the emperor resided, and halls such as the Hall of Mental Cultivation, where emperors conducted daily administrative tasks and made important decisions.

The division of the Forbidden City into these two sections underscored the separation between public duties and private life.

8. Contains a vast collection of imperial artifacts

The Forbidden City houses an extensive collection of cultural artifacts that provide insights into China’s imperial history.

The Palace Museum within the complex displays a portion of this collection, which includes imperial furnishings, ceramics, paintings, calligraphy, jade, and other treasures.

These artifacts offer a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the emperors and the artistic achievements of various dynasties.

9. Design follows feng shui principles and symbolism

The design and layout of the Forbidden City are infused with symbolism and adhere to feng shui principles, which seek to harmonize humans with their environment.

Elements like the central axis, the arrangement of buildings, the use of colors, and the placement of statues were all chosen with careful consideration of these principles.

The Forbidden City’s design aimed to create a balance between the natural and built environments, reflecting the interconnectedness of the cosmos.

10. UNESCO World Heritage Site, popular tourist destination

In 1987, the Forbidden City was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognizing its cultural and historical significance on a global scale. Today, it remains a popular tourist destination, drawing millions of visitors annually from around the world.

Visitors are not only captivated by the architectural magnificence but also gain insights into China’s imperial past, its artistic achievements, and the complex social dynamics that shaped the nation’s history.

The Forbidden City’s architectural prowess, intricate symbolism, and historical depth make it a living testament to China’s past. As a UNESCO site and a cultural treasure, it continues to be a source of fascination, education, and inspiration for people seeking to understand China’s rich heritage.