How Long Has The Forbidden City Been Around

The Forbidden City: Its Long Lasting History

The Forbidden City of Beijing is one of the most famous tourist attractions all around the world. Its majestic, carefully preserved structure and surroundings have been occupying the minds of thousands and have been inspiring them for many centuries. But, just how long has the Forbidden City been around?
The Forbidden City has an impressive history that dates back to the early quarter of the 15th century. Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty had it built in 1406, as his new capital, taking it upon himself to mobilize the largest workforce they had encounter to that date, unprecedentedly consisting of more than a million workers from all around the kingdom. The area served as the Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties for almost 500 years between 1420 and 1912.
During this time, the emperor and family were the only people permitted to reside within the Forbidden City’s walls. While commoners could not access the palace at all, as it was strictly and carefully guarded throughout the centuries, tributes and gifts coming from and traveling to other lands did make a stop at the gates, getting an overall impression and giving the structure an air of mystery and mysticality while bringing it fame.
While the ruling class rarely left the Forbidden City, it served as a shelter for them when the city of Beijing was under siege. For example, during the Manchu’s war of succession, known as the Jingzhou Campaign, the imperial family took refuge at the palace and kept the Ming Dynasty alive until the last minute.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the Forbidden City was also used to host political and cultural activities. Despite this, and even when the structure lost its function of government centre and slowly decayed away, the Forbidden City was largely preserved throughout the decades and it’s still available for visitors and admirers today.
However, the construction wasn’t completed without its struggles. It took all the 15 years of hard working labourers and high budgets in materials to build the Forbidden City, that includes a complex system of palaces, offering shelter to over 9,000 people, totaling almost a million people inside the walls during the evening peak hours.

The City’s Beautiful Disposition

The Forbidden City is beautiful in every sense and captivates the observers with its curious disposition. This architectural wonder is inclined in a unique way that is called the “Central Axis – Forbidden City System”, which is specially designed for a special purpose.
This system guides the visitors consciously and unconsciously, allowing them to admire the design and the beauty of the Forbidden City. Every section is located in a particular part of the palace, according to its importance and relation to certain aspects of the Chinese culture, that can be perceived by simply walking through the structure and noticing landmarks along the way.
This structure was given a certain shape to represent the power and authority of the emperor. The Central Axis composition follows a north-south orientation, making sure of the perfect alignment with the capital. After that, several rows of different-sized courtyards are laid out in orderly fashion that blended harmoniously in the background.

The Building’s Purpose

The Forbidden City was constructed following a certain purpose; the imperial palaces and courtyards served many functions in those times, including political, economic and religious ones.
The political function of the Forbidden City can be considered the most important one among them. It was the royal governmental centre, a considerable landmark due to its variety of halls, pavilions and offices covering a vast of topics and events held by the emperor and heads of the bureaucracy.
On the other hand, the majority of palaces exemplified the economic power of the empire and its imperial family. These structures are usually noted for their extravagance and are filled with extremely valuable antique pieces from all around the world, culminating into a show of wealth and luxury that remains firmly established along the years.
Finally, there are additional religious functions of the Forbidden City, thanks to its gardens, hidden inner temples and associated deities, being devoted to the worship of traditional Chinese beliefs and gods.

The Jade Seal of Emperor Lichen

Lying deep within the grounds of the Forbidden City there is an artifact considered to be the proudest inheritance is received from their ancestors – The Jade Seal of Emperor Lichen.
The Jade Seal was once the symbol of power, representing the emperor’s authority throughout the lands. It served as a proof of identification and approval of any Imprerial decrees and documents, as any important orders set by the top hierarchy in the Middle Principality could not be fulfilled if the Jade Seal was not applied.
The Seal was originally made of bronze and was completely customized with intricate patterns and symbols, while the paper imprinted display of the Seal was presented to trusted financial officals and diplomats from the government. During the 1950s the Seal was miraculously recovered, showing a good preserved version of the sacred object.

The Well Preservation

Despite the passing of hundreds of years, the Forbidden City is still kept in an intact form and most of its original features have been kept for admirers for observe and explore.
Numerous efforts have been done by CCTV in order to preserve and restore the Forbidden City in its original form, being a five decades process that has improved the quality of maintenance yet failed to restore all destroyed aspects of the palace.
The preservation efforts have focused on the rooftops, furnishing and other wooden works featuring the original architecture. During the process the old wooden parts were replaced and polished, while the whole building was given careful cleaning, restoring the imperial grandeur of the Forbidden City.

The Forbidden City’s Historical Impact

The Forbidden City continues to be a source of fascination the world over, even though the rules and regulations of its times are no longer in place. Through its walls, people can explore and appreciate the mixture of cultures that were involved in creating this incredible palace.
It’s not just the physical structure that has remained intact, as many records still exist, in written or architectural form, that help us to understand day-to-day life in a way that’s simply not possible with other historical landmarks.
The Forbidden City has influenced architecture, artefacts, clothing and the art of Imperial China. It’s the most elegant of all royal palaces, and its sanctuary effect has inspired many other rulers and Palaces.
The Forbidden City can be found in many famous works of literature, art, movies and plays, that have featured the Forbidden city as a virtual or symbolic representation of influence and power.

Modern Times

Today, it continues to be a popular tourist site for both domestic and international travellers and a place of education for people all around the world. It’s become an incredibly popular way for people to learn about ancient culture and Chinese history, as well as providing insights into the life of Chinese royalty.
The Forbidden City is open to the public and remained a University for many years, despite suffering extensive damage during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. After extensive restoration and repairs the Forbidden City remains one of the most recognized attractions in Beijing.
Its popularity to people of all ages continues to grow and the Forbidden City still remains an important historical and cultural landmark, fascinating and captivating the world with its majestic views, despite the centuries it has lived through.

The Forbidden City’s Cultural Meaning

The Forbidden City has come to become a major symbol of Chinese culture and power. It’s a representation of magnificence and the grandeur of imperial rule in the Middle Kingdom.
The architecture of the palace still stands tall, despite centuries of age and the influences of foreign powers. It’s a living, breathing embodiment of the Chinese civilisation, acting as a bridge between generations and a reminder of the importance of Chinese history.
The Forbidden City has been the source of inspiration for Chinese and other Asian cultures for centuries. Its impressive architecture and intricate design refer back to the Middle Kingdom with its rulers, embodying the greatness of its legacy and the importance of its culture.
It is a symbol of Chinese identity and a reminder of the strength of their civilisation, with its impressive structures that continue to be an inspiration both for Chinese and foreign admirers.

The Forbidden City’s Significance

The Forbidden City still stands as a famous landmark, symbolizing the various aspects of China’s culture and history. It’s a reminder of the empires and dynasties that ruled the land, acting as a witness to some of the most important historical events of the world.
The Forbidden City remains a living reminder of imperial China and its long lasting heritage, having survived hundreds of years until present time and continuing to stand strong as a source of admiration and inspiration.
It stands as a testament to the ingenuity of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty, the millions of labour workers, architects, painters and cultural researchers that created this marvel and left an everlasting mark in the history of the world.

The Wall of the Forbidden City

The wall of the Forbidden City is an impressive structure, measuring about 10 meters tall and 1,550 metres in circumference. It was designed to safeguard the emperor and his court from any potential threat that might rise from outside the palace, creating a powerful psychological effect on visitors and enemies.
The wall is made out of stone and bricks, adorned with powerful symbols and characters. This specially designed wall was creacted to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing, featuring 24 watchtowers and four castles in order to guard the city.
The wall also underwent through some modifications during the Qing Dynasty in order to add new towers and a moat filled with water in order to take guerrilla warfare tactics into consideration.

The Gate of the Forbidden City

The Gate of the Forbidden City is one of the most impressive and symbolic features of this historic structure. Its size and design make it intimidating, towering over 20 meters high, but despite its harsh look, the Gate was made out of wood, decorative yellow glaze and special symbols.
The Gate of the Forbidden City is divided into two sections; the southern section is known as the Shenwu Men (lit. Gate of Divine Military) and its northern counterpart is known as the Cheng Tian Men (lit. Gate of Heaven), where many ceremonies were held, like coronations and marriages.
Inside the Gate of the Forbidden City there is an array of iconic landmarks and artefacts, such as a huge bronze incense burner and a number of stone tablets featuring ancient Chinese poetry.


The Forbidden City has a significant impact on Chinese culture and history. Despite its age, it remains a remarkable structure and it continues to captivate the world with its grand structures and majestic walls.
Today, its importance is evident, and it’s a testament to both the Chinese people and their ancestors, the generations that worked hard to build this incredible palace and bequeth it with its legacy.
The Forbidden City serves as a reminder of China’s long lasting history, having maintained this majestic structure for more than 500 years and counting, emblematic of the country’s power and unyielding strength.

Herman Shaw is a passionate traveler and avid photographer who has seen many of the world's most awe-inspiring monuments. He has developed expertise in various aspects of world architecture and culture which he enjoys sharing with his readers. With deep historical knowledge and insight, Herman's writing brings life to these remarkable artifacts and highlights their importance in the grand scheme of human history.

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