The Imperial Palace and the Forbidden City
The Imperial Palace, also known as the Forbidden City, is China’s most significant attraction and can trace its origins back to the Yuan Dynasty of the 13th century. Its immense size is the result of enlargements made during the Ming Dynasty between 1406 and 1420 after the capital was transferred here from Nanking. All told, this beautiful palace has been home to 24 Ming and Qing Emperors, earning its nickname of the Forbidden City due to the fact ordinary citizens weren’t allowed access. The complex covers 720,000 square meters, all of it surrounded by a 10-meter-high wall with towers in the four corners and a 50-meter-wide moat, and is divided into an area used for ceremonial and administrative purposes, as well as the private quarters used by the Emperor and his concubines.
Highlights include the Meridian Gate, built-in 1420; the Golden River Bridges, a network of five richly decorated white marble bridges; the Hall of Preserving Harmony, which functioned as the Emperor’s banquet hall; the Palace of Heavenly Purity, the largest hall in the Inner Court; and the Hall of Military Courage, a permanent residence and private audience hall for the emperors. Also of interest is the nearby Imperial College, founded in 1287 by Kublai Khan and only closed in 1900, and the impressive 35-meter-high Hall of Supreme Harmony, notable as the country’s largest surviving wooden building and for its splendidly decorated gilded imperial throne.