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16 Forbidden City FAQs

16 Forbidden City FAQs

Written by Chris QuanUpdated Dec. 28, 2021

Here are some FAQs about the Forbidden City that you might be interested in reading answers to.

1. What is the Forbidden City?

Forbidden CityForbidden City

The Forbidden City is a large palace complex that is now a museum and a very popular tourist attraction in Beijing.

It was the political heart of China during the Ming and Qing dynasties. 24 emperors of Ming and Qing dynasties and their family members lived there.

2. Why is it called the Forbidden City?

Forbidden CityForbidden City

The English name "Forbidden City" is a translation of the Chinese name Zijincheng (紫禁城 /dzrr-jin-chng/ ‘Purple Forbidden City’).

In ancient times, the emperor was said to be a son of Heaven, and therefore Heaven's supreme power was bestowed upon him. The emperors' residence was built leading north, as an earthly foil to the heavenly Purple Palace, i.e. the North Star, though to be home to the Celestial Emperor.

Considered a divine place, it was certainly forbidden to ordinary people and that is why the Forbidden City is so named.

See more on Why Is It Called the Forbidden City?

3. Who ordered the Forbidden City built? And when was it built?

Emperor Yongle, the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty. The construction of the Forbidden City began in 1406 when the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty decided to move the capital from Nanjing to Beijing. Its construction lasted for 14 years, ending in 1420.

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4. How old is the Forbidden City? 

The Forbidden City is now 601 years old, counting from 1420 when the Forbidden City was completely constructed. [2021]

5. Who designed the Forbidden City?

Forbidden CityCorner Tower of the Forbidden City

Kuai Xiang, a famous craftsman in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Kuai Xiang's architectural attainments were consummate. He was proficient in large-scale computations. When the Forbidden City was finished, its position, proportions, and its size, were exactly to Kuai Xiang’s plans.

He was not only good at geometric principles and joinery skills, but also had a high level of artistic talent and aesthetic awareness. 

6. Why is the Forbidden City important?

Forbidden CityForbidden City

The Forbidden City has profound historical and cultural significance. The most recent seat of imperial power in China, the Forbidden City is a microcosm of history. Its medieval buildings and relics are important for studying imperial history and culture.

The Forbidden City is the culmination of palace architecture over the dynastic era, stretching back 3,000 years. It is the best and only extant example of a Chinese palace complex. 

It is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of well-preserved pre-industrial-era wooden structures in the world.

7. How big is the Forbidden City?

Forbidden CityForbidden City

The Forbidden City covers an area of 72 hectares (178 acres) or 36 city blocks, 10 times the size of the White House and grounds, or about twice the size of Buckingham Palace and grounds.

Measuring 961 meters in length and 753 meters in width, the Forbidden City consists of more than 90 palaces and courtyards and 980 buildings.

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8. Why was the Forbidden City built with 9999.5 rooms?

Forbidden City

Legend has it that Emperor Chengzu, who built the Forbidden City originally planned 10,000 rooms to be built.

However, the night before issuing the order, he dreamed the God of Heaven was very angry and told him that the number of rooms he had planned for the Forbidden City was the same as the number of palaces in Heaven, i.e. 10,000.

Therefore, the Forbidden City was built with half a room less than planned. The half room is a small room on the west side of the first floor of Wenyuan Pavilion.

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9. How many rooms are there actually in the Forbidden City now?

In ancient Chinese architecture, one room refers to a square space among four pillars in a hall. By the latest count in 1972, there are 8,707 rooms in the Forbidden City.

Someone has made the observation that it would take you 23 years to stay in all the rooms in the Forbidden City if you stayed in a different room each day.

10. What movie was filmed inside the Forbidden City?

1:1 replica of the Forbidden City,Hengdian World Studios1:1 replica of the Forbidden City in Hengdian

The Last Emperor was the first feature film permitted to be filmed on a large scale inside the Forbidden City. After this film, in order to protect its cultural relics, the Forbidden City no longer allows filming.

Before the Last Emperor, there were also some TV dramas and movies shot in the Forbidden City, like the Burning of the Imperial Palace and Reign Behind a Curtain.

Now all the films and TV dramas that need to be set in the Forbidden City are shot in Hengdian World Studios near Hangzhou, where there is an ‘Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties’, which is a 1:1 replica of the Forbidden City in Beijing.

11. Who lives in the Forbidden City now?

No-one: it is no longer accommodation for anyone, royal or otherwise.  

The Forbidden City used to be the residence of emperors. After the last emperor of China left the palace in 1925, it became a museum open to the public. Now it is the most popular tourist attraction in Beijing (not counting the Great Wall).

12. Where is the 'Cold Palace' in the Forbidden City?

The 'Cold Palace' is not a name for a particular palace in the Forbidden City. Concubines or princes who made mistakes and lost the favor were placed in remote and discarded palaces in the Forbidden City. These palaces were called 'Cold Palaces'. See a stroy of one of the Cold Palace in the Forbidden City — Zhen Concubine Well.

13. What should I see in the Forbidden City?

Forbidden CityForbidden City at Sunset

The grand palaces and the precious relics displayed in the Forbidden City are the biggest attractions.

The appearance and furnishings of some palace halls have been restored to what they were like in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368–1912). Precious cultural relics include sculptures, ceramics, clocks, treasures, and furniture.

For more, see The Palace Museum: Palaces, Exhibitions, Visiting Info.

14. How long does it take to visit the Forbidden City?

Forbidden City

It usually takes half a day to visit the Forbidden City. A half-day trip includes the must-see main palaces and some lesser-known ones, built in different styles and serving different functions, priceless displays, and a bird’s eye view from Jingshan Park’s hill.

If you have limited time, a quick 2-hour tour following the central axis would take you to see the six main halls along with some museum displays to the left and right of the axis, and a garden at the end.

If you are very interested in the Forbidden City and want to learn more about the stories behind it, you could spend a day to explore it.

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15. Is the Forbidden City closed on Mondays?

Yes. The Forbidden City is closed every Monday (as are most museums in China). But if the Monday is a public holiday, it will be open as usual.

16. How do I get to the Forbidden City?

The Forbidden City is in the center of Beijing city. Visitors can take subway line 1 and get off at Tian’anmen West (Exit B) or Tian’anmen East Station (Exit B) or take a taxi or private transport to first get to Tian’anmen Square.

Then walk a short distance north to Tian’anmen (‘Heavenly Peace Gate’), gate to the Forbidden City.

See more on How to Visit the Forbidden City.

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