Top 10 China tours 2024/2025 for first visits and returns: embark on a lifetime experience. Learn more

Why Is It Called the Forbidden City?

The Forbidden City is the English translation of the Chinese name Zijincheng (紫禁城 'Purple Forbidden City'). The Forbidden City got its name because it was forbidden to ordinary people.

The Origin of the Name of Purple Forbidden City

The name 'Purple Forbidden City' is related to ancient Chinese philosophy and astronomy.

Why 'Purple'?

There are two reasons.

Reason One:

In traditional Chinese culture, purple is a noble color. It is a symbol of high status, and is considered to be the color of auspice, representing the emergence of sages, emperors, and treasures.

An ancient saying goes "the Purple Air comes from the east — a propitious omen".

Reason Two:

In ancient China, the philosophical concept of "the unity of man and nature" was emphasized, and the location of stars in the sky were used to correspond to the planning of the palace. The aim is to highlight the legitimacy of the regime and the supremacy of the imperial power.

In traditional Chinese astrology, the Ziwei Star ('Purple Forbidden' Star, i.e. the North Star, Polaris) in the middle of the northern sky is considered the abode of the Celestial Emperor.

The emperor regarded himself as the "Son of Heaven", and his residence should correspond with the Heavenly Emperor.  

Thus, the Zigong ('Purple Palace') became the name of the emperor's residence.

Why Was the Forbidden City Forbidden?

Forbidden City

The feudal emperors of China paid much attention to hierarchical order. They considered themselves the sons of Heaven.

Imperial bodyguards were stationed outside the gates of the palace, keeping out ordinary people, both to protect the safety of the emperor and his royal family and to demonstrate the power of the emperor.

Therefore, it was called 'Forbidden City'.

Gugong — Used by Chinese People

Instead of Zijincheng, the Chinese translation of the Forbidden City, Gugong (故宫Gùgōng /goo-gong/) is what Chinese people call the palace complex nowadays, which means 'Former Palace(s)'.

The Forbidden City is more widely used among English users.

The Forbidden City Is Not Forbidden Now

In 1925, the Forbidden City was no longer the home of the emperor and it became the Palace Museum, which was open to the public.

Now it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Beijing, even in China, or the world.

More Forbidden City Related Articles

Tour the Forbidden City with Us

Tour Forbidden City

All our tours can be customized. We can create the ideal China trip for you based on your group size, time, budget, interests, preferences, and other requirements. Contact us.

See more Beijing tours.

Start planning your tailor-made tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors. Create Your Trip

Sign up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to receive exciting updates, exclusive promotions, and valuable travel tips from our team of experts.

Click to Sign up

Why China Highlights

Customize Your Tour

Customize Your Tour

  • Travel Advisors Rooted in China
  • Instant Response, No More Waits!
  • Direct Connections, Supreme Values
Maximize Your Flexibility

Maximize Your Flexibility

  • Your own personal guide and ride.
  • Explore at your own pace.
  • Unparalleled flexibility, impossible on a group tour.
Ensure Your Satisfaction

Ensure Your Satisfaction

  • The Top 20% nationwide guides at your service.
  • 20% more space on your group's transportation.
  • 24/7 emergency support.
Live Your China Story

Live Your China Story

  • Authentic local culture and lifestyles.
  • Understand the culture by living it.
  • Uncover fascinating histories and witness New China.
Rated 5 out of 5 | 98.8% Excellence
China Highlights International
Travel Service Co., LTD
Featured on
China Highlights was featured on these medias.

Address: Building 6, Chuangyi Business Park, 70 Qilidian Road, Guilin, Guangxi, 541004, China