Forbidden City- Beijing

Ni Hao Readers!

I was visiting Beijing in May this year & since it was my first trip to China, the excitement levels were pretty high.

I am usually a well researched traveler so I had my must do list with enough free time for anything local that I might experience & like while I’m there. One of the things that topped my list was paying a visit to the much spoke about Forbidden City.

Forbidden City Beijing China
Forbidden City Entrace view from the Tianmen Square right across

I was not sure what to expect from the name. I had various thoughts running in my head but was very curious to visit the Forbidden City. On arrival, I got an English speaking guide for 250 Yuan (You need to bargain & don’t stick to the first one who asks you) who then started giving in the juicy tidbits & history of the palace to me, her name was Fami.

Forbidden City Beijing China
Forbidden City Beijing China Entrance

The Forbidden city was an imperial palace of the Ming Dynasty till the end of Qing dynasty. It served as both the home & official political centre of the emperors. It was first built in the 14th century during the reign of Emperor Cheng Zu (Notice how I repeteadly address them as Emperor & not King? Fami told me Chineese called them emperors as there could be multiple kings but only 1 emperor meaning Emperor > King).

The interesting name “Forbidden City”  is a little translation to English & comes from the fact that no one was allowed to enter or leave the palace without the emperors permission and hence Forbidden City.

The palace is humongous & took me almost 3 hours to walk through & cover all parts with Fami. The Palace is divided into 2 parts- The Outer Court & the Inner Court. The Outer court was more like an office used for Business purposes, ceremonies, executions, etc. It was more a place for the Emperor to exercise his power. The Inner Court was the residential for the royal family and all the other servers to the family lived here (Eunuchs, Cancubins, etc).

The stories that followed from Fami were nothing short of a soap opera in itself. She mentioned that besides the emperor, any man that was to enter the Inner Court of the palace where the Queen & Cancubins resided, had to undergo castration & live as Eunuchs. Insecurity much?

Also, the first born child from the Emperor would take over the throne and it could/ could not be from the Empress. Hence, the Empress would plot murders of any beautiful/ pregnant Cancubins along with the Eunuchs. The Emperor had more than 3000 Cancubins (Say what!).

Forbidden City Beijing China
The Inner Court where the the Royal family & their helps resided

Other interesting parts of the Palace were the room where the Emperor would change, rest, eat, etc. a true King sized life in that palace.

Forbidden City Beijing China
Emperors chair in the room where he would sign all official documents. the adjacent room was his changing room

The Forbidden City will change your perspective of what Lavish can look like & how the Chinese royalty lived. Although the way women were treated in ancient Chinese history is definitely something that irked me. From the concept of Cancubins, the Empress having limited powers, the tigers depicted across the palace had male female differentiation and many many such stories that I heard. Having said that, it was great to hear from the Guide that the Chineese culture has come a long way in empowering women & she gave me some interesting current times examples.

Forbidden City Beijing China
The beautiful sight of the Palace when you enter
Forbidden City Beijing China
The Guardian Lion at the Outer court entrance. Basically, the lion with a ball in its paw depicts male & a baby in its paw depicts female. This one’s a male.
Forbidden City Beijing China
The Guardian Lion at the Inner Court entrance. Basically, the lion with a ball in its pawe depicts male & a baby in its paw depicts female. This one’s a female.
Forbidden City Beijing China
There are 3 bridges to enter the palace & the centre bridge was only for the Emperor. Even the Empress just used it once in her lifetime when she entered the palace first time after her marriage.
Forbidden City Beijing China
All buildings have guardian animals carves like this one. What is interesting to note is they are always in odd number
Forbidden City Beijing China
This is the stone carving  path that centrally divides the city of Beijing & runs through the Forbidden City


In ancient times, uninvited entry to the Forbidden city would cost you your life, nowadays it costs Yuan 40- 60.

Getting There: Subway Tian’men East or Tian’men West station

Other Suggestions: Carry a bottle of water, wear comfortable shoes & make sure to note the things on your phone.

Forbidden City Beijing China
Happy me after that 3 hour long Forbidden city tour 🙂

Xie Xie until next time 🙂


Quick Video of the Forbidden City Visit.

22 thoughts on “Forbidden City- Beijing

  1. This must have been a great experience. There was a lot I read in this post that I did not previously know about the Forbidden City. Do you know why the animal carvings are in odd number?

  2. This is fascinating – I love how you put in little details like how to tell the statues from male/female. It looks beautiful and a side of Beijing that I’ve yet to see online (and in person ;))

  3. Cool photos and description. I love the details in all of the carvings! Makes sense that Emperor is better than King, since so many other countries only have Kings.

  4. The Forbidden City has always remained etched in my mind, ever since I watched “The Last Emperor”, an epic movie by Bertolucci, which was shot there. Loved to read about your visit, it was like I was there walking iniside the forbidden city. Hope to get there in person some day.

  5. forbidden city, the name sounds different from the rich culture it posses but all in all i enjoyed this post for it shows a different side of beijing.. thanks for sharing as always..

  6. China is a big item on our bucket list. It’s such a huge country that it’s hard to narrow our focus on what we want to see, but the Forbidden city is right near the top

  7. What i like most about the place are the beautiful sculptures. their craftsmanship is amazing. I currently live in Manchester near the Town hall where they create and sell such amazing sculptures in small scale for tourists. If this can be so popular in Manchester Then I cant even imagine how beautiful the original sculptures in Beijing might be.

  8. Wow sounds like you had such an interesting visit! I agree that sometimes it’s strange to hear about how differently women were treated centuries ago but it definitely makes me grateful for how things are today!

  9. What a fascinating place full of rich history! I especially liked learning about the details on the lion statues and which was female and which was male. I don’t think that position looks comfortable for the baby lion, though!

  10. It really don’t know much about Beijing, so this post was very useful for me! There’s so much history about China and Beijing in particular to discover 🙂

  11. I have a fantasy of taking my OOTD photos wearing a traditional Chinese dress here 😀 Thank you for publishing this guide 😀

  12. The forbidden city has always been a place mysterious and incredible for me. I’ve heard a lot about it, and I know it’s quite an amazing place. It must have been a great experience and it has to put completely everything in another perspective! Loved this guide!

  13. The name “Forbidden city” itself gives the place a mysterious feel. Good that you got to know about the history of the place and documented it really nicely here

  14. What an amazing experience this must have been! Wow! I have been to exhibits about the Forbidden City in the US and I have always wanted to see it.

  15. What an interesting read. I didn’t quite fathom just how large the Forbidden City was. I agree with you regarding how women were treated during that time period. I think it’s a testament to the culture and forward thinking regarding the methods put in place to empower women – the same can be said about many cultures and it’s actually so fascinating and liberating to see!

  16. Beijing and other cities in this part of the world are filled with so much history and rich culture. I didn’t know a lot of these things about The Forbidden City, like the translation. It looks amazing. I’m sure you had lots of fun.

  17. Ni Hao, Aditi!

    The main square looks enormous. Sometimes I really want to be able to travel in time to be able to see countries and places as they were. So many places start losing their identity nowadays, however it doesn’t seem to be the case with Beijing.

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