How Many Rooms Does The Forbidden City Have

The Forbidden City, also called ‘The Palace Museum’, is an imperial palace complex in central Beijing, China. Situated in the heart of Beijing, this iconic architectural site served as the home of the Chinese imperial family for five centuries. Nowadays, the Forbidden City serves as one of the most visited historical sites in the world, drawing in millions of visitors each year. But how many rooms does the Forbidden City have?

As one of the world’s largest palace complexes, the Forbidden City has a staggering amount of spaces. In total, it is estimated that the structure is comprised of more than 9,000 rooms spread over 180 acres of land. Of these, more than 800 rooms are authentic palaces and chambers, with a further 8,800 other courtyards, open spaces and enclosures.

The Forbidden City was originally constructed in the 15th century during the Ming dynasty. It was originally laid out as an exact square, and is served by four gates. From north-east to south-west, the gates are respectively known as the Meridian, Heavenly, Earthly and Wisdom Gates. Each yard was also given its own name, such as the Outer Court, East Wing, Hall of Supreme Harmony or Central Court.

In order to understand why the Forbidden City contains so many rooms, we must look back in time to understand the significance of the architecture and symbolism behind it. Paraphrasing the words of Nanjing-based architect Christian K. N. Lee, for the Chinese culture, the Forbidden City was traditionally regarded as ‘the Centre of the World.’ This belief was reflected in the layout and design of the palace and its many rooms.

Today, many of the top palaces, halls and pavilions that make up the Forbidden City are open to the public. These places of cultural and historic importance include the Gate of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Preserving Harmony and Palace of Heavenly Purity. Like many museums, the majority of the smaller chambers are not open to the public, however the experience of visiting the grand palace is still breathtaking and unforgettable.

History of the Forbidden City

To fully appreciate the vast size of the Forbidden City, it is important to learn about its history first. The Forbidden City was originally constructed by the third Ming Emperor Yongle in the early 15th century; before then, palaces and halls had been built as residences of Chinese emperors since the 11th century. Yongle’s grandfather, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, relocated the royal family from their original palace, in Nanjing, to what would eventually become the Forbidden City in 1402.

The Forbidden City was designed and created to reflect the Chinese nation’s dominant place in the world for more than 500 years. Although Yongle’s palace was designed to be similar to palaces built in the Yuan Dynasty, it was much larger in scale, and developed over a period of 14 years. Upon completion, it became the largest palace ever created.

Since then, the Forbidden City has had both happy and sad stories. It was a home to 16 emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, who lived in either incredible glory or deep sadness. It was a witness to some of China’s most hostile political environment, major expansion activities and the rise and fall of the dynasties. For centuries, the Forbidden City was a place of secrets: secrets about culture, politics, the rise and fall of empires, victories, battles and countless stories of the people who lived there. Therefore, it is not surprising to learn that a place of this historic and cultural importance contains such a great number of rooms and spaces.

Symbolism of The Forbidden City

One of the main factors contributing to the size of today’s Forbidden City was its symbolism as a potent representation of Chinese culture. For example, its basic layout reflects the cosmic order of the Chinese universe. It is believed that the outer walls represent the heavens, and the inner walls represent the earth. Correspondingly, the emperors and their palaces represented the emperor as the ‘Son of Heaven’ – or the link between the two realms. Moreover, the Forbidden City was even deliberately built in the centre of Beijing, to symbolise Beijing as the Centre of the World.

Symbolism and significance aside, the sheer size and amount of luxury furnishings and artwork make the Forbidden City a most impressive structure. Intricate wooden carvings, vibrant gold accents and imperial, ancestral portraits are all standout features of the palace. It is little wonder then why the Forbidden City is considered one of the world’s greatest masterpieces of architecture, and why millions of visitors travel from far and wide each year.

Government Status of the Forbidden City

Since its creation, the Forbidden City has functioned as a palace and a political centre, as well as a cultural hub and national museum. In 1925, the Forbidden City was converted into a museum and opened to the public. It has since been recognised as a world heritage site by both UNESCO and the Chinese government, who protect the palace with strict regulations and exclusions.

In order to ensure the preservation and regeneration of the palace, the government apply a Conservation Management Plan to the site. This plan includes a wide range of measures, such as monitoring and surveying the structure, improving accessibility and restricting traffic in the Forbidden City. In addition, an annual budget is also allocated for the sympathetic and careful conservation of the palace.

For many Chinese people, the Forbidden City represents the spirit and strength of Chinese culture. To further protect and enhance this spirit, the government enforces a number of rules for visitors. Without a strict code of conduct, the aesthetics and features of the Forbidden City would soon be ruined. As a consequence of this, only the main parts of the palace are open to the public, and photographs are not allowed in certain areas.


To conclude, the Forbidden City is an iconic structure of immense size and great significance. It has been incredibly well preserved and protected throughout its 500 year history, and is now recognised as one of the world’s most visited historical sites. Its staggering 9,000 rooms, 180 acres of land and incredible masterpieces of architecture are testimony to the immense importance of the Forbidden City and make it one of the most fascinating places to visit in the world.

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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