Forbidden City Beijing China

Forbidden City in BeijingThe Forbidden City, or Palace Museum as it is also known, occupies a pride of place in the centre of Beijing, China.

This imposing structure, which is a city within a city, was home to 24 Emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties.  Although it is now open to the public, it was once a difficult place to enter.  One had to be either a eunuch, who worked for the Emperor, or a concubine whose relationship with the Emperor was a little more intimate.

Although the Emperor ruled over China from the Imperial Palace, it was, in fact, his chief eunuchs that administered his wishes.  Even though they made a great personal sacrifice to enter the Emperor’s service, it also paid off as many indulged in graft and corruption and built up quite large personal fortunes.

The Forbidden City is absolutely huge

You do need a couple of hours in which to see it properly.

The palace covers an area of 720,000 square metres, inside which are many buildings that had a multitude of purposes.

The whole structure is surrounded by eight metre-high walls, which, in turn, are surrounded by a wide moat.

Inside, the main grand buildings are comprised of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Central Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, which comprise the outer palace.  Then there is the Hall of Heavenly Purity, the Hall of Union and the Hall of Earthly Tranquillity, which form the inner palace.  These buildings stand in a line from south to north on the central axis.

The Palace Museum has a huge collection of objects, which number 1.8 million in all, although only a fraction of these are on display.

More a museum than palace

Although the main buildings are very ornate inside, the whole complex does seem to lack a personality, and it can feel quite soulless when you wander around the complex.  Perhaps this is because the whole edifice is now a museum, rather than a living city.

It is still impressive to walk through the complex, especially to admire the effort that went into both building and preserving the palace.  At any one time there are thousands of visitors wandering around the many courtyards and squares, but the Forbidden City is so big, that it is possible to find a little place to yourself and reflect on the history of the place.

Much pomp and ceremony took place there.  Because the Emperors lived so secretly, when you visit now you still get the feeling that much of what did occur in the palace remains hidden and you get just a small glimpse of what the Forbidden City must have been like in its heyday.

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