The Forbidden City in Beijing is one of the most renowned landmarks in all of China and a twin symbol of the country’s prestigious heritage and culture. Located at the heart of Beijing, it has been the home of stately emperors and dazzling empresses for approximately 500 years. Its walls are the only surviving outer structures of its kind in the world, and it is one of the most visited tourist attractions in all of China. It was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, and without a doubt, its vastness and perpetual beauty will continue to captivate visitors from all over the world.
The Forbidden City, also known as the Imperial Palace or the Palace Museum, is situated in the center of the ancient city of Beijing. It was built in 1420 by the third Ming Dynasty Emperor Yung-Le during his 18-year reconstruction project of the city. The gigantic area covers over 180 acres and is composed of 980 buildings and eight gates. The city itself is rectangular in shape, and its grounds are divided into two parts – an outer court used for ceremonial purposes, and an inner court where the emperor used to reside.
The construction of the Forbidden City spanned 15 years and involved more than one million workers. It was surrounded with 27-meter high walls and moats to protect the city from outside invasions. It had walls wide enough to accommodate five chariots and one thousand guards. Thirty-seven watchtowers were placed at the four corners of the city walls.
Even after five centuries, the history of the Forbidden City still inspires awe and admiration. It has been the scene of many historical and political events, making it an important landmark. Its gradual decline happened as a result of the political and social turmoil in the 20th century. The Forbidden City finally opened to the public as a museum in 1925, allowing people to explore the ancient city and learn its past.
The Forbidden City is the pride of China, signifying the country’s glorious past and traditional cultural values. Over the ages, emperors, empresses, court officials, scholars and generals have all left their marks in the palace. It has survived for five centuries, making it one of the world’s last examples of ancient Chinese architecture. The city also provides a unique glimpse into the imperial lifestyles of the Chinese nobility.
The immense size of the city itself is overwhelming and the centuries-old architectural grandeur is stunning. Each building contains beautiful treasures of art and antiques that are rarely found elsewhere in the world and each corner of the city exudes a unique aura and mysterious atmosphere. The incorporation of traditional Chinese cultural symbols into its design by the Ming Dynasty artisans in particular implies the significance of ‘harmony between man and nature’ and carries the belief of ‘moderation and respect’, which are values that are still highly respected in the current society of China.
The structure of the Forbidden City is designed in such a way that it encompasses both practical and symbolic elements. The city is divided in two parts – the outer court and the inner court. The outer court, or ‘Tiananmen’ Square, is located at the northern end of the city and symbolizes the emperor’s absolute power. In the court, the emperor would exhibit his supreme authority by holding ceremonies and meetings.
The inner court, in contrast, is where the emperor and his family would live and indulge in all the luxuries of the palace. It is also the most secluded part of the palace and symbolizes the emperor’s inner tranquility and strength. Its layout consists of four quadrangles, with each one being devoted to different functions. The emperor’s throne room, imperial garden, ancestral temple and various other banquet halls and residential compounds are found in the inner court. The imperial throne itself is situated in the center of the palace and is surrounded by many other spectacular and unique architectural pieces.
Cultural Highlights and Activities
Aside from its historical and cultural significance, the Forbidden City offers a plethora of activities for tourists, such as drama performances and exciting exhibitions. During winter, the palace also hosts performances of ‘The Red Palace Orchestra’, a musical and theatrical show that brings the palace’s long and illustrious story to life. For those who are interested in the city’s culture and traditions, there are guided tours and merchants selling traditional Chinese art and artifacts.
The Forbidden City also offers a number of other attractions, including the beautiful Imperial Garden, the Hall of Mental Cultivation, the Hall of Preserved Harmony and the Hall of Clocks and Watches. More importantly, visitors can also explore the underground palace, where the emperors and empresses used to take refuge during times of war.
The Forbidden City is a powerful source of income for the government, since it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in China. It is estimated that almost 14 million tourists visited the city in 2019 and more tourists visit every year. As a result, the Forbidden City brings huge sums of money to the city, boosting its economy.
The money generated by the Forbidden City’s visitors is used to the benefit of Beijing, as the government uses it to fund projects and aid fallen or needy citizens. It is also used to pay for the extensive conservation works carried out by the state to preserve the city’s unique architecture.
Due to its immense importance as a national treasure, the Forbidden City has been the focus of conservation projects for many years. In 2007, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage issued a circular that requires all tourist sites to reduce noise and light pollution and minimize the environmental impacts of tourism.
Since then, the administration has set up countless measures to reduce the environmental costs of tourism. For example, the light pollution is controlled by installing dimmer switches and motion sensors that only turn on lights when it is needed. The noise of tourist activities is reduced by providing signs and educational materials to encourage tourists to respect the cultural values and sacred atmosphere of the city. Furthermore, the Forbidden City is regularly monitored by the relevant authorities to protect it from destructive human activities.
The Forbidden City is a popular destination for media outlets, as footage of the ancient city is often featured in films, documentaries and television programs. Moreover, the Forbidden City is used as the backdrop for the blockbuster hits “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” and “The Last Emperor”, further emphasizing its importance in Chinese culture.
The immense media coverage of the Forbidden City has also managed to create a newfound awareness and appreciation for the city’s culture, history and architecture. This increased level of international recognition has encouraged tourists from all over the world to visit the city and provided an invaluable source of income for Beijing.
The Forbidden City in Beijing is not only an iconic symbol of China’s culture and history, but is also a testament to its powerful influence on the world. Its immense power and grandeur captivates thousands of visitors every year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. In order to preserve and protect its architecture, the Forbidden City is constantly monitored and administered by the relevant authorities, while its media presence ensures that it is constantly in the public eye. All in all, the Forbidden City is one of the most fascinating structures in the world and serves as a reminder of China’s glorious past.